With the new Solterra, Subaru brings some off-road credit to the popular electric vehicle segment.
The 2023 Subaru Solterra does not have 500 horsepower or a range of 300 km. It can’t be recharged for 15 minutes or power your home like a backup generator. It’s not hard, and it won’t disappoint you with weird specs or designs. We consider it a late filing homework if it’s not because of the acumen on the terrain, which makes it unique among popular electric vehicles. Sure, you can marinate shrimp ice in a Ford Mustang Mach-E, and you can power the refrigerator with the Kia EV6. But you wouldn’t want to take either of those crossovers too far off the path of being defeated. Solterra, on the other hand, is like most Subarus: the game is for some trail work.
It’s only a matter of time before we start seeing them used the official Crosstrek Starter Kit, equipped with a two-inch suspension lifter and a BFGoodrich KO2 set.
As well as its BRZ coupe, Subaru has partnered to develop the Solterra with Toyota, which has a partner named bZ4X. But the Solterra and bZ4X are much more different than the BRZ and its Toyota GR86 twin brother, most notably the Solterra is offered only with all-wheel drive, in line with Subaru’s characteristics; bZ4X offers a less front-wheel drive variant. With an 8.3-inch undercarriage, a good access angle and departure angle, and a 19.7-inch wading capability, Solterra will be fun enough to carry your mountain bikes to the top of the trail. Either take your kayak to where the car is located, or drop off your big goofy dog to a dog park that can only be accessed via a trenched forest road.
You wouldn’t want to get overdoed, but we shot it on some Arizona ORV trails and it handled itself surprisingly well on its own, climbing steep enough ramps that you have to use your camera looking forward to see through the blind crests.
Like Subaru’s rugged Wilderness models, the Solterra has a dual-function X-Mode system to adjust its power supply to suit the situation — such as allowing some rotation in the sand. It also offers brake-based torque vectors to transmit force through its shafts, mimicking the action of differential locks, so you can take the two corners of the car into the air while maintaining forward progress. Subaru has shown that talent on a series of artfully arranged ramps, declaring that it wants to bring some competing vehicles to illustrate solterra’s advantage, but — humble warning! None of them had enough light under the car to climb the ramps.
Solterra’s two engines produce a total of 215 horsepower and 249 pound-feet of torque, which is good for a 60 mph time of 6.5 seconds. That’s reliable, as the acceleration feel is similar to that of the Outback XT, which reaches 60 mph in 6.3 seconds. This car clearly belongs to the Outback/Crosstrek branches of the Subaru family tree rather than the WRX series, although it will be easy enough to mount larger engines and push it in a more sporty direction. Despite its complete lack of muscle, the Solterra can transfer 60% of its torque to the rear of the car, making it sometimes feel playful. You can also completely turn off the stability control system, opening up the possibility for racing car antics to follow each other on gravel or snow. We confirm that Solterra is happy to tear up a doughnut.
With a 65.4 kWh battery pack, solterra gets an EPA-rated 228 km range in the Premium version and 222 km for the Limited and Touring versions, which is heavier and carries 20-inch wheels instead of 18s. Charging isn’t particularly fast, with a built-in 6.6 kW charger that will add a battery for nine hours on a Level 2 charger and a 100 kW DC fast charging setup that delivers an 80% charge in 56 minutes that is confirmed ownership. Subaru envisions owners charging overnight fees at home rather than making federal road trips. If your camping location is more than 100 miles away, you can go to Forester.
As you can see by looking at it, Subaru and Toyota didn’t prioritize cargo pragmatism. Solterra’s decorative front of the car has no ribbed lines and the hood contour means that the rear cargo area is better suited to grocery stores, such as bicycles. In the name of an airy interior, there is not even a glove case. But the roof rack — a static capacity of 700 pounds — is designed for all kinds of accessories, including tents, and an “active pylon” under the rear bumper can accept vehicle mounts and cargo. However, its drag rating is “No.”
We imagine Subaru has researched the market identifying Solterra’s client as a retired North Face executive who lives in Boulder, Colorado and owns 1.7 kayaks. A decade from now, that 2023 Solterra will be acquired by its fifth owner, a ski instructor named Xander.
It’s a very specific object, which is why they only built 6500 Solterras for 2023.
Subaru won’t have any problems selling this year’s product, but whether it can increase in volume later will depend heavily on the price, which has yet to be announced. With an estimated price of about US$40,000 and qualifying for a $7,500 tax credit, Solterra makes a strong case for himself. At a higher price, it hits opponents with significantly stronger power and range, attributes that for most people are perhaps more important than nominal off-road capabilities. But the goal here is not to dominate the electric vehicle market. This is the time Subaru has tested the waters to see if its crossover objects are willing to swap four-wheelers for flat floors. It’s about selling gas power to that particular crowd. And maybe, as much as that, to itself.