2023 Subaru Solterra First Look Review: A New Era

First Look / 5 Comments

Subaru's first EV takes electric power into the great outdoors.

The Japanese brands tend to take a more cautious approach to new technologies than their European counterparts, and this explains why the likes of Mazda, Toyota, and Subaru have taken their time to reveal fully electric models. For Subaru, this landmark expansion begins with the fully electric Solterra SUV. With rugged looks for an EV, Subaru's well-known symmetrical all-wheel-drive system, and a platform jointly developed with Toyota, the Solterra must convince Subaru loyalists that the brand's traditional qualities can live on without a Boxer combustion engine under the hood. Let's find out if the Solterra can do just that.

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Exterior: Not Quite Electric

Subaru isn't exactly known for its beautiful exterior designs, and the Solterra isn't going to change that perception. In profile, it does have a noticeably broader, sportier stance than the Forester, but it's the detailing that doesn't quite hit the mark. The plastic cladding around the wheel arches looks rather cheap, but it does at least serve as a visual reminder that this is a Subaru. The face isn't too bad, with smart LED daytime running lamps and a smooth panel where a traditional grille would be. At the back, there are fussy taillight clusters that extend in several directions. The side view is dominated by the abundance of black plastic. Then again, quirky styling hasn't stopped Subaru from selling a lot of vehicles in the past, so perhaps people will look past the rather disjointed exterior.

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Interior: Spacious And Feature-Packed

One of the first things you notice in the cabin is the digital gauge cluster and available 12.3-inch touchscreen interface. The gauge cluster is set high up but appears to be partially obstructed by the top of the steering wheel, although we'll have to see how this pans out on a test drive.

The cabin is spacious with 126 cubic feet of passenger and cargo space, including 30 cubes behind the second row. The materials look to be hard-wearing and durable, although it'll be interesting to see how some of those dashboard materials age over time. Storage space also looks generous, with a large space below the center console.

As Subaru's first EV, the Solterra is well-equipped with an available panoramic roof, safe exit assist, blind-spot monitoring, and an available 360-degree surround-view camera system, the latter being a first for a Subaru model. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are welcome inclusions.

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Performance: Dirt-Ready But Poor Range

Not all performance specifications are known yet, but the Solterra is confirmed to have dual electric motors - one in front and one at the back - producing a combined 215 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. This is linked to Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel-drive system to hopefully offer the sort of dirt-road prowess expected of a Subaru. The Solterra gets X-Mode which improves performance in low-friction, off-road conditions, along with Grip Control with both Hill Ascent and Descent Assist. Together with the instant torque typically delivered by an electric vehicle, the Solterra should be quite capable off-road. It also has 8.3 inches of ground clearance, not too far off the Forester's 8.7.

One disappointment is range. EPA ratings have yet to be revealed but Subaru claims 220 miles, 30 miles less than its corporate sibling, the Toyota bZ4X. Hooked up to a DC fast charger, the battery can be replenished to 80 percent in under an hour.

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Price And Competition

The Subaru Solterra is an important product for the company. As its first EV, this vehicle needs to do well. As with other Subarus, we expect the Solterra to set itself apart from rivals like the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Volkswagen ID.4 by being better equipped for dirt roads. Unfortunately, these rivals are nicer to look at, can be had with a lot more power, and have a superior range. However, a keen price could work in the Subaru's favor. We don't know what it'll cost yet, but if Subaru can comfortably come in at below the $40,000 mark, it could be a decent contender. We'll know more closer to the Solterra's on-sale date in mid-2022.

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