by Ian Wright
The Subaru Solterra is the automaker's first electric vehicle and a crossover. It features love-it or hate-it styling, a quirky interior, and only comes with all-wheel drive so it can deal with slippery road conditions and venture off-road. As a toe in the water for an all-electric powertrain, the Solterra is totally on-brand for Subaru. It enters what's already a competitive market with excellent electric crossovers already available like the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Hyundai Ioniq 5. However, all the current direct competition models are focused for the road - including Solterra's almost-twin, the Toyota bZ4X. Like the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 sports car, the Solterra and strangely named bZ4X are the result of a joint project between the Japanese automakers. Unlike the Toyota model that is offered in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, the Solterra sticks with what Subaru knows its customers want and need - a symmetrical all-wheel-drive system.
On paper, the Solterra doesn't hold up to its rivals with only 222 or 228 miles of range, depending on trim level. Its 215 horsepower and 249 lb-ft of torque are on the tamer side of crossover EVs, and its 72.8 kWh battery with a 100 kWh charge time isn't class-leading. However, nobody else in the class is compromising on-road range with off-road ability.
The 2023 Subaru Solterra EV is an all-new arrival and is the first electric SUV from the Japanese automaker. It's also Subaru's first global all-electric vehicle, but many more are expected in the future. The Solterra has much in common with the Toyota bZ4X - the two vehicles even have similar bold styling. As standard, the Solterra gets the brand's symmetrical all-wheel-drive system and a total of 215 horsepower from its dual electric motors. The Subaru Solterra's range is claimed to be at least 222 miles and it has an acceptable ground clearance of 8.3 inches. The 2023 Subaru Solterra's release date is scheduled for midway through 2022.
See trim levels and configurations:
Subaru's first electric SUV is all about sharp edges and bulging fenders. Although it is undoubtedly modern, it doesn't have the premium veneer of a Volkswagen ID.4 or the sportiness of the Ford Mustang Mach-E. Substantial black cladding hints at the Solterra's off-road capabilities, and there is a smoothed-over front section in place of a traditional grille. The headlights are sleekly styled and the taillights have an elaborate design, but these are stuck on a rather blunt rear aspect. An interesting styling feature from the mid-level trim is the twin liftgate spoilers that Subaru claims help manage airflow.
As standard, the Subaru Solterra SUV comes with LED headlights, black mirror housings, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Upper trims add larger 20-inch alloys, fog lights, roof rails, a power rear liftgate, and a glass roof.
The Subaru Solterra's size and length are typical of a compact crossover. It's not a small car but it's compact enough for use in the city. Although taller than the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Subaru Solterra has a shorter and narrower body. The 2023 Subaru Solterra's dimensions include a length of 184.6 inches, a width of 73.2 inches, a height of 65 inches, and a 112.2-inch wheelbase. As usual for an EV, the Subaru Solterra's weight is a bit of an issue. The Solterra starts at 4,365 pounds and this goes up to 4,455 lbs for the Limited and 4,505 lbs for the Touring.
Although not a hardcore off-roader, the Solterra's 8.3 inches of ground clearance is decent for an EV and makes this vehicle more suited for mild off-roading than most vehicles of its kind.
The Subaru Solterra's exterior colors were not revealed at the time of writing. However, the SUV has been pictured in several shades like grey, blue, red, and white. On the Touring, two-tone paint is available as an option with one of these choices being Harbor Mist Pearl. This particular trim also comes with a gloss black hood accent.
The Subaru Solterra's specs and performance are not amazing but neither are they disappointing. It comes with front and rear AC synchronous permanent-magnet electric motors that produce a combined 215 hp and 249 lb-ft of torque. That goes to all four wheels via the symmetrical AWD system. Despite its weight, the Subaru Solterra's 0-60 time is about 6.5 seconds. That means it has no problem merging onto freeways or getting from one traffic to the next quickly when you're in a hurry. It's not as quick as some other EVs in this class such as the Ford Mustang Mach-E, but its not slow either.
In Power mode, up to 60 percent of the torque can be sent to the rear wheels which makes the car feel livelier, but it can't be called exciting. Then again, that's not the purpose of the Solterra and for what it is, performance is fine. The X-Mode system with Grip Control also makes this a surprisingly effective off-roader along less demanding trails, especially for an electric car. No towing capacity for the 2023 Subaru Solterra electric SUV is indicated by the automaker.
Subaru's StarDrive all-electric drivetrain pairs front and rear AC synchronous permanent-magnetic electric motors with integral transaxles and power inverters. The system makes a total of 215 hp and 249 lb-ft, enough for zesty acceleration around town. The instant torque is welcome but the Solterra will feel slow if you're coming from a Ford Mustang Mach-E or Tesla Model Y. However, it's easily comparable with gas engine crossovers, just with torque immediately available all the time - meaning pulling out to overtake doesn't need the wind-up to speed that an Outback or Forester requires.
Power is delivered smoothly via the single-ratio reduction transaxles, however. It is certainly a more refined experience than you'd get behind the wheel of, say, a Forester with its four-cylinder gas engine and CVT. There are three selectable driving modes and four settings for the regenerative braking force selection system. The dual-function X-Mode system makes light work of slippery conditions with Snow/Dirt or Deep Snow/Mud modes.
Despite the numbers on paper, the Solterra is peppy off the line and doesn't let up on the way to freeway speed. To be fair, that's all anyone needs and is on-brand for Subaru crossovers. The ride is softer than most electric crossovers we've driven but without being bouncy. While there's extra weight from the batteries, it's central and low, and you can feel that in the center of gravity. The steering is light and the Solterra is reasonably composed in the corners, but nothing to write home about. Behind the wheels are paddles to give the driver control of the regenerative braking level. The difference between each level is not drastic, and one-pedal driving doesn't bring you to a full halt. Overall, the Subaru Solterra is a perfectly and consistently pleasant compact crossover to drive in all situations. Then, you take it off-road, and it's just as relentlessly consistent.
We found ourselves on the island of Catalina off the coast of Southern California with Subaru to explore the dirt tracks, scrabble up some bumpy hills, and see how it deals with low-grip surfaces on all-weather tires. The ride takes the edges off of dirt tracks and big bumps to the point that you have to actively try to jostle a passenger around. Scrabbling up steep, bumpy hills using the X Mode setting for dirt and snow is where our passenger got bounced around a little, but the ground clearance, considered approach and departure angles, and the symmetrical all-wheel-drive system did its job and got us to the top without breaking a sweat. For a more challenging climb, we used the Grip Control setting which acts like a crawl control feature, and works brilliantly. Using Hill Descent and going manual for going back downhill, the Solterra was just as composed and accomplished. On-road, the Solterra is middle-of-the-road and feels like a blend of a Subaru and Toyota vehicle - but off-road, it's all Subaru.
The automaker's claims with regards to efficiency are not class-leading. Limited and Touring trims have an estimated gas mileage equivalent rating of 93/111/102 MPGe city/highway/combined and a 222-mile range on a single charge, whereas the Premium is claimed to manage 94/114/104 MPGe and a 228-mile range. While the latter figure is more efficient than that of the Mustang Mach-E RWD, the Ford can go up to 314 miles on a single charge. However, the Mach-E RWD isn't going to get you to the more adventurous places the Solterra will.
The Subaru Solterra's battery size is 72.8 kWh and it can be replenished to 80 percent in around 56 minutes with DC fast charging. Naturally, the Subaru Solterra's charge time increases markedly without access to DC fast charging. With a Level 2, 240V charger at 32 amps, the battery can be fully recharged in about nine hours. Level 1, 240V charging at 8 amps will take about 35 hours, and the longest charging time is via a 120V outlet at 8 amps which requires 77 hours. The Level 2 240V charger will need to be installed by a professional, whereas a Level 1 120V charger is included as standard. Subaru has partnered with EVgo which provides access to over 46,000 charging stations across the USA.
The Subaru Solterra's interior design is quite imaginative for the Japanese marque. There is a high-mounted digital gauge cluster ahead of the driver and an expansive infotainment screen in the center. With the available glass roof and the generous glasshouse, it feels pleasantly airy. As standard, the Solterra comes with automatic climate control, heated front seats, blind-spot monitoring, and lane departure prevention. The top trim boasts a power driver's seat with memory and a digital key. There are a few annoyances like the fussy capacitive controls for the ventilation system and the unusually high knee position when sitting at the back.
The dealbreaker for some, though, will be the mixture of a high-mounted digital cluster and lack of vertical adjustment on the steering wheel. It didn't take long to start realizing the digital cluster needs some refinement to make it work as intended. As we see it, the idea is that the gauges sit visibly over the steering wheel, negating any desire or need for a heads-up display. It's a good idea on paper, but it won't work in this configuration for everyone as intended and didn't work well for us tall folk. The steering wheel runs out of height adjustment before it's in the ideal position and still blocks the trip reading part of the odometer from view. Ideally, the gauge cluster would move with the steering wheel to do what it aims to do perfectly. Before buying, that's something we would suggest checking out this feature yourself. It's something we hope Subaru revises before the next batch goes into production.
The Solterra is a five-seater if the fifth person doesn't mind being a little squeezed on the back seat. Fortunately, they don't have to deal with a transmission tunnel where they want to put their feet. However, the floor is high due to the batteries being underneath and knees will sit higher than usual and long-legged people might find that uncomfortable over long periods. Legroom in terms of length is fine back there for adults, and kids will have to reach further to kick a parent's seat. Up at the front, visibility is great and, with no glovebox, the front passenger area feels particularly spacious.
The base Solterra Premium comes with cloth seating upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. This is replaced by StarTex upholstery for the top two trims which also receive satin chrome-plated interior trim. Elsewhere, there is an abundance of shiny black plastic on the center console, while the dashboard is unusual in that it is covered in a textured cloth. It remains to be seen how this material ages over time.
Subaru hasn't yet revealed the full color palette for the Solterra's cabin but there are some breezy combinations like light seat centers with darker bolsters that looks good.
We'll cover one of the downsides to the Solterra first: unlike some other EVs, this one doesn't have a convenient frunk in front. The rear trunk measures 27.7 cubic feet with the deck board up or 29 cubes with the deck board down. It's a fairly generous use of space although the sloping roofline does make it trickier to load taller items There is also some hidden storage space beneath the trunk floor. The Subaru Solterra's cargo space can be expanded by folding down the 60/40 split-folding rear seats. Only the top trim has a standard retractable cargo cover.
Within the cabin, the Solterra curiously lacks a traditional glovebox to stash consecutive years' worth of registration and insurance documents, an unread handbook, and at least two pens that don't work. It shouldn't be missed as there is plenty of other places to stash everything, though. There's center console storage space, door pockets, and pockets attached to the backs of the front seats. There is a large, open storage area beneath the front center console that can accommodate a small handbag. A fold-down armrest with an integrated storage space or cupholder is another plus. The top two trims have a wireless phone charging dock in the center console which is sited just ahead of dual cupholders.
The base Premium model starts things off at a fairly decent level. It comes with comforts like automatic climate control, four-mode heated front seats, a three-mode heated steering wheel, and dual charging ports both front and rear. It has a combination meter with a seven-inch LCD screen, and the exterior mirrors are heated for frostier mornings. Subaru's safety specification is high with a rearview camera, dynamic radar cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, safe exit assist, and road sign assist all coming as standard.
The mid-range Limited adds a 10-way power driver's seat with two-way power lumbar support and a memory system. It also gets driver parking assistance, power-folding exterior mirrors, a digital key, an automatic anti-glare interior rearview mirror, heated rear outboard seats, a panoramic-view monitor, wireless charging, and a power rear door.
Finally, there's the range-topping Touring. In this guise, the Solterra has ventilated front seats. Its cabin is given a substantial lift with LED footwell lighting, ambient interior lighting, and boosted natural lighting by way of a panoramic moonroof with a power sunshade.
Standard, as in for the Premium trim at launch, the Solterra comes with an eight-inch touchscreen featuring Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard. Cloud-based navigation is available for a subscription but seems irrelevant for anyone using a smartphone. A system called Subaru Solterra Connect that features an intelligent assistant is also available via a subscription. A USB A input port is standard at the front, along with two USB C front charging ports and two more in the rear. Moving up to Limited and Touring trim grows the touchscreen to 12.3 inches and an upgrade to a Harman Kardon sound system.
As with any all-new vehicle, it will take some time for the Solterra to establish a reliability record. At the time of writing, no recalls had affected Subaru's new EV.
Subaru's limited warranty runs for three years or 36,000 miles, while the powertrain warranty covers the first five years or 60,000 miles. Once the Subaru Solterra's mileage exceeds 100,000 miles, or ownership runs for beyond eight years, the warranty for the electrical components will lapse.
As of February 2022, Subaru had attained more Top Safety Pick Plus awards from the IIHS than any other brand since 2013. This is a company that takes safety seriously. However, the still-new Solterra has not yet been crash-tested by either the NHTSA or IIHS. We expect it to match or even surpass other Subaru models for overall safety.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
The Subaru Solterra's safety specifications are exemplary. All Solterra models benefit from Subaru's EyeSight suite of driver-assist technologies. The list includes emergency steering assist, intersection collision avoidance support, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision acceleration suppression at low speeds, proactive driving assist for pedestrian and cyclist avoidance, lane departure prevention, lead vehicle start alert, dynamic radar cruise control with lane tracing assist, emergency driving stop assist, and road sign assist with vehicle speed limit warning. Several of these features make use of a front radar sensor. In addition, blind-spot monitoring, a rearview camera with pedestrian warning, safe exit assist, and automatic high beams are standard.
Traditional safety items include four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, active cornering assist, hill-start assist, and a total of eight airbags. The airbag count includes side curtain airbags and knee airbags for both front occupants.
Subaru's X-Mode AWD system comes into play when navigating harsher terrain. This system features downhill assist control and grip control, too. The Limited trim adds driver parking assistance, a panoramic-view monitor, rain-sensing wipers, LED fog lights, and a parking support brake system with pedestrian detection and rear cross-traffic alert.
Ultimately, the Solterra is everything a Subaru crossover owner or someone contemplating becoming a Subaru crossover owner will be looking for. The interior is spacious, comfortable, and well thought out if the steering wheel adjustment and placement of the gauge cluster work for you. There's plenty of storage and much thought has gone into how families will use their Solterra. On-road, it's not exciting, but off-road, it's more than capable for what its owners will need. The range is going to be a sticking point for some, but the reality is that for daily commutes with a garage prepped for charging, the range is more than enough for the vast majority of Americans. For day trips to trailheads or lakes and weekends away camping, a full charge will get you a long way and back. If you're venturing more than a hundred miles for your outdoor excursions, then Subaru won't stop making the Outback anytime soon. However, if you're looking for a rugged Subaru for off-road use and electric power will suit your lifestyle, the Solterra is not going to disappoint.
The 2023 Subaru Solterra's USA price starts at $44,995 for the Premium, going up to $48,995 for the Limited. The Touring will cost $51,995. The Subaru Solterra's MSRP excludes the destination charge of $1,225.
There are three trims that make up the Subaru Solterra lineup: Premium, Limited, and Touring. All are powered by two electric motors producing a combined 215 hp and 249 lb-ft of torque. Power is directed to all four wheels via Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. Premium models have the best range of up to 228 miles.
The most affordable Solterra, the Premium, starts things off with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and daytime running lights, automatic high beams, and a front active grille shutter. The cabin comes with cloth upholstery on this base model, but heated front seats and a heated steering wheel are both standard. At this level, there is an eight-inch touchscreen interface wireless Apple CarPlay, and wireless Android Auto. Like other models, the Premium's safety roster is packed with technologies like dynamic radar cruise control, emergency steering assist, and lane departure prevention.
Next in line is the Limited and it's quite a big step up from the Premium. It wears larger 20-inch alloy wheels, the exterior mirrors can fold inward electrically, and there is a roof-mounted dual spoiler with aerodynamic fins. The Limited additionally boasts a 10-way power driver's seat, a Harman Kardon sound system, StarTex upholstery, a 12.3-inch touchscreen, heated rear outboard seats, and a panoramic view monitor.
Last but not least is the top-spec Touring. It has a snazzier-feeling interior thanks to its glass roof and ambient lighting. Other welcome touches here include ventilated front seats, a retractable luggage cover, and a digital rearview mirror.
Subaru hasn't yet specified the complete list of packages or optional accessories that are available for the Solterra. However, we do know that raised roof rails are available for transporting larger items like bikes, or you can go for a Thule roof box. We expect other accessories that will suit the outdoor enthusiast to be made available.
You could easily go for the Premium trim model and be more than happy with the features and technology included - in all likelihood; there will be a real base model further down the road. However, depending on federal and state rebates available, it would be easy to talk yourself into going for the Limited trim level to take advantage of the added adjustment in the front seats, the larger infotainment display, and the 20-inch wheels. For those feeling flush and living in warmer climates, we wouldn't begrudge them splashing out for the top trim for the ventilated seats and panoramic roof, as well as extra ambient illumination and two-tone paint.
A comparison between these corporate siblings was always going to be inevitable. They share a platform and even look quite similar. Perhaps one of the biggest differences is that Toyota sells a less powerful but more efficient front-wheel-drive variant of the bZ4X. With a range of over 250 miles, it's a smart choice if you don't absolutely need all-wheel drive. This model exceeds the Solterra's maximum range by over 30 miles. In the Toyota, even the base model comes with features like a glass roof and a 12.3-inch touchscreen - these are only standard on upper trim levels of the Solterra. The Subaru has 0.2 inches of added ground clearance, a figure that aptly puts into perspective the marginal differences between these two crossovers. One big plus is that Toyota provides two years or 25,000 miles of complimentary scheduled maintenance. This, together with the Toyota's better range, makes it our pick.
The Outback looks positively ancient alongside the Solterra. With its wagon body style and even more rugged finishes, it's more of an old-school Subaru, whereas the Solterra is a new-age crossover with a hint of off-road capability. You'll need to go for the turbocharged, 260-hp Outback to compete with the Solterra's acceleration. The Outback proves that ICE cars still have their place. Not only can it tow up to 3,500 lbs, but it can travel over 500 miles on a tank and has up to 9.5 inches of ground clearance. That all makes it a much more capable vehicle. Then again, the Solterra has a more modern cabin with more advanced technologies such as a surround-view monitor. The Outback is more of a known quantity and is still better for traversing the great outdoors, but the Solterra is a more refined city slicker with enough practicality to appease most. However, it doesn't do anything significantly better than other EVs. As things stand now, we believe the Outback will answer the needs of the typical Subaru customer more effectively.
The most popular competitors of 2023 Subaru Solterra: