2023 Subaru Solterra: Is the Outdoorsy EV Ready for Its Close-Up?

2023 Subaru Solterra: Is the Outdoorsy EV Ready for Its Close-Up?

An electric spin on rugged crossovers

  • New all-electric SUV and the first EV from Subaru
  • Jointly developed alongside the Toyota bZ4X EV
  • Standard all-wheel drive and 8.3 inches of ground clearance
  • Estimated 220 miles of range per charge

What is the Solterra?

The 2023 Subaru Solterra is an all-new and all-electric SUV. Similar in size to the Subaru Forester, the Solterra has a more car-like appearance than other SUVs while retaining semi-rugged features and capabilities. For instance, it comes with 8.3 inches of ground clearance and two electric motors that give the Solterra standard all-wheel drive — one powers the front wheels and the other powers the rears. However, its estimated 220 miles of range trails what many competitors offer.

The Solterra has been co-developed alongside the upcoming 2022 Toyota bZ4X. That model is roughly the size of a Toyota RAV4 and is one of Toyota's first all-electric models. The Solterra will have plenty of competition when it hits the market, including the Chevrolet Bolt EUV, Ford Mach-E, Nissan Ariya and Volkswagen ID.4.

What's under the Solterra's hood?

Interestingly, not empty space. The Solterra has no "frunk," or front trunk space where the engine would be in a gasoline-powered car. Instead, this area is taken up by the front electric motor and the inverter sitting atop it. That puts the Solterra at a disadvantage compared with the Mach-E, ID.4 and Tesla Model Y, all of which have frunks. Subaru says the space needed to be used for packaging reasons, but extra storage space is part of the expected EV experience for many owners.

Subaru has not released battery capacity figures yet. However, the Solterra produces the equivalent of 215 horsepower and about 250 lb-ft of torque. The company projects 220 miles of range on a single charge, which is on the low end for base-model EVs this size, along with the ability to charge from empty to 80% in about an hour using a DC fast-charging station. Of course, one main advantage of the Solterra is its all-wheel-drive system — a Subaru hallmark — with X-Mode terrain management, which provides extra capability in slippery weather and icy conditions. Both will be included as standard.

How's the Solterra's interior?

Like many electric vehicles, the Solterra makes an instant impression inside. It has interesting textures such as a denim-like cloth dashboard, soft plastic touch points, and a glossy piano black center console and touchscreen area. The combination lends the Solterra a distinctive eco-focused vibe compared with traditional compact SUVs. One issue caused by the EV platform is a high floor — due to the bulky battery underfoot — which creates a tight opening for entering and exiting from all four doors. Once inside, however, seating is spacious for adults up to 6 feet tall.

From the driver's seat, the steering wheel and forward digital display screen are housed in a futuristic-looking design that feels like the cockpit of a fighter jet. There is also a 12.3-inch center touchscreen that Subaru says is an option — no word yet on the size of the base-level screen that comes standard. After a short time with the Solterra, it appears the large screen uses the latest version of the Toyota Audio Multimedia system. Another tech feature that comes with every Solterra is EyeSight, the suite of driver safety aids including adaptive cruise control (maintains a driver-set distance between the Subaru and the car in front), forward collision mitigation (warns you of an impending collision and applies the brakes in certain scenarios) and lane keeping assist (makes minor steering corrections to help keep the vehicle centered in its lane).

How's the Solterra's storage?

Even without a frunk, the Solterra offers plenty of space for a vehicle of its size. Maximum cargo space behind the rear seats is 27.7 cubic feet, just a touch shy of its Forester sibling at 28.9 cubic feet. However, the Solterra has a trick floor that can be slid into a lower setting, opening up additional space. At that level it provides 30.3 cubic feet, besting the Forester. The load floor is also relatively low, which makes heavy items easier to hoist inside. It may not make up for the lost frunk, though, or the lack of underfloor storage due to the battery pack and electric motors underneath. Even with the cargo floor lowered for maximum space, the Solterra only matches the ID.4 and still trails the Mustang Mach-E at 34.4 cubic feet.

If the trunk isn't enough, you can add roof rails to the Solterra as optional equipment. Roof rails are often standard on Subaru SUVs, so it's a bit disheartening that buyers will need to add them to the Solterra if they want to carry bike racks or storage boxes up high. The same goes for the tow hitch, which is optional. Subaru also has not provided maximum towing capacity figures yet.

Edmunds says

Subaru knows crossover SUVS, but the Solterra is entering new ground in the EV space. We'll withhold judgment on the Solterra until we're able to spend more time behind the wheel. Substantial ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive certainly help the cause, but relatively low range and an unknown price point leave this new EV in limbo.

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