2023 Subaru Solterra Enters the Growing EV Crossover Market
Subaru’s first EV is closely related to the Toyota bZ4X and features a similar all-wheel-drive powertrain with electric motors front and rear.
Playing off its reputation for sensible, earth-friendly adventure vehicles, Subaru joins the EV marketplace with a small crossover designed around the outdoorsy activities Subaru owners are known for. The 2023 Solterra—whose name is a combination of the Latin words for “Sun” and “Earth,” is a small, AWD, two-motor electric SUV that’s closely related to Toyota’s bZ4X but is tweaked to appeal to the Subaru customer with a focus on moderate off-road capability and crash safety.
The overall shape of the Subaru and Toyota twins is the same, a long wheelbase broken up by numerous angles and body lines in the sheetmetal ending in short overhangs at nose and tail. Subaru’s current design language of plastic-cladded sides extends beyond the wheel arches up the front fenders to flank a body-color hexagonal grille whose blocked-out design clearly defines the Solterra as an electric vehicle at first look. In the back are jutting awnings of a dual roof wing—those seem to be more for looks than aero, leaving any real air management duties to the slim ducktail at the base of the rear glass. The tailgate is flanked by complicated multi-element taillights with a dark surround that runs along the edge of the back profile. The current styling trend in SUVs seems to be an action-packed design with a lot of changing surfaces, and the Solterra reflects this. Its overall stance is appealing though, with 8.3 inches of ground clearance and the tucked in nose and rear which do make it look ready for at least some camping roads if not all-out rock crawling.
Off-road use was one of the big differences in focus for Toyota and Subaru in designing the bZ4X and Solterra. While Toyota’s team worked on battery and powertrain, Subaru handled chassis, AWD, and crash systems. The resulting cars will have a different ride quality, with the Subaru’s suspension tune and throttle mapping being different than the Toyota’s. The Solterra also comes to the U.S. market only as AWD, and with no yoke option. The Solterra comes with X-mode, which controls each wheel individually to provide better traction on uneven or slippery surfaces, and Subaru’s Grip Control, acts as a cruise control even in off-road situations. Three driving modes are available: Eco, Normal, and Power, and regenerative braking can be adjusted with the steering wheel paddles.
Power comes from two electric motors mounted between the front and rear axles that produce a total of 215 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. The lithium-ion battery pack provides roughly 64.0 kWh of capacity and the Solterra has an estimated range of 220 miles. It can be recharged with Level 1 or Level 2 charging or high-output DC quick charging, and Subaru says the Solterra can be quick-charged to 80% in less than an hour.
Don’t go looking for a frunk under the hood, unless you want to rest your groceries on top of a motor and inverter. The Solterra designers felt that shorter overhangs and more passenger space in the cabin was worth giving up the storage space in the front. The rear seats do fold down for a total of 30.3 cubic inches. With them up you’ll have a roomy second row where even the middle seat is wide enough for an adult and has leg room on a flat floor behind the console. There is some cramping of head room from the dropped roof under the glass panel. Kids won’t mind, tall adults might. The front seats are comfortable, with a broad console separating them and leading up to a 12.3-inch screen with Apple and Android connectivity standard. The driver’s seating position is almost van-like, with a low dash and instrument panel set above the steering wheel. Visibility is good, and we could see the Solterra working well for a small family with an interest in occasional dirt road adventures.