2023 Subaru Solterra First Drive Evaluate: Proficient, However Not Wonderful


As the electrical revolution sweeps dealerships throughout the States, some producers have been keen to impress their fleets with battery-electric automobiles, whereas others have most well-liked to work with hybridization or extra environment friendly ICE drivetrains, selecting to eschew pure EVs altogether. Till lately, Subaru fell strongly into the latter class, so the 2023 Subaru Solterra marks its first entry into the BEV market. Often, a conventional automaker’s first EV is a splashy affair. However as a result of Subaru took its time launching its first EV, the Solterra simply feels lackluster in a market now full of stronger opponents.

Beneath the pores and skin of the Solterra is one other Toyota/Subaru joint mission meant to mix the economies of scale supplied by Toyota’s would possibly and engineering prowess with the smaller Subaru’s off-road character. Whereas Toyota and Subaru’s final mixed effort, the BRZ/GR86 platform, is a very completely different car in ethos—I am fairly positive Merriam-Webster has “electrical crossover” and “sports activities coupe” listed as antonyms—the teamwork right here is analogous. Toyota’s model of the Solterra, the BZ4X, is the extra city-oriented of the brand new electrical twins, with barely much less floor clearance and a base mannequin that provides front-wheel drive (and a steering yoke, if you happen to’re into that type of factor). In any other case, although, the pair are principally the identical.

2023 Subaru Solterra Specs

  • Base value (as examined): $46,220 ($49,720)
  • Powertrain: twin 80-kW AC-synchronous electrical motors | 1-speed transmission | all-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 215
  • Torque: 249 ft-lb
  • Seating capability: 5
  • Cargo quantity: 27.7 cubic ft
  • Curb weight: 4,365 kilos
  • Off-road angles: 17.7° strategy, 25.4° departure, 18.2° breakover
  • Floor clearance: 8.3 inches
  • Vary: 228 miles (Premium trim) or 222 miles (Restricted/Touring trims)
  • Cost time: 9 hours @ L2 240V
  • EPA gasoline economic system: 94 mpge metropolis | 114 freeway | 104 mixed
  • Fast take: Not dangerous; simply not nice, both.
  • Rating: 6.5/10

The Solterra’s largest differentiating characteristic from its Toyota sibling is that it does provide a Subaru standby proper from its base trim, which is commonplace all-wheel-drive. And it carries by means of in conventional Subaru style, with a full-time 50:50 entrance/rear motor torque cut up, similar to its ICE automobiles provide. Subaru additionally has leaned into the off-roading life-style it is famend for, providing an ordinary traction-control program referred to as X-Mode, which permits the crossover’s silicon brains to divert energy as intensely as 40:60 (for onerous launches or steep hills) or 70:30 (for added traction in slippery terrain). As a part of X-Mode, Subaru homeowners who take their Solterras to more difficult terrain can get pleasure from a implausible hill-country cruise management that governs ascent and descent speeds on free, rocky trails.

The dual AC synchronous motors within the entrance and rear collectively put out 215 horsepower and 249 pounds-feet of torque, all propelled by a 72.8-kWh battery unit built-in into the skateboard-style chassis. The Solterra scoots itself to 60 in six and a half seconds. If stoplight pulls in a crossover occur to be your kink, the Solterra’s on the spot torque is enough in conventional EV style. There are three completely different trims (Premium, Restricted, and Touring), however irrespective of which Solterra you purchase, there’s no likelihood for extra energy or capability. Which means patrons will discover themselves with a most of 228 miles of vary (however the two larger trims shave six miles off that, to 222). 

This all works out to a mixed metropolis/freeway effectivity of 104 mpge, which is in step with different battery-electric crossovers available on the market (however does path among the stronger choices obtainable proper now, such because the Tesla Mannequin Y). The vary—which, regardless of that comparatively giant 72.8-kWh battery pack and the 4,365 kilos the Solterra carries round due to it—is total fairly common. Within the $45,000 to $50,000 AWD EV market, there are choices—such because the Polestar 2—with dozens extra miles of vary (or almost 100 extra if AWD is not vital, within the case of the Ford Mustang Mach-E). Subaru’s EV additionally solely permits for a most charging velocity of 100 kW per hour, which is best for battery longevity however falls behind opponents that supply 180-kW-per-hour charging such because the Kia EV6. So do not anticipate to go from E to cruising once more as rapidly as different EVs available on the market can.

Sharp-eyed readers might have seen I’ve not talked about the Solterra’s exterior styling up to now in my evaluation, and that’s as a result of I’ve nothing type to say about it; after seven hours of taking pictures photographs of it in among the most stunning vistas of Southern California, I by no means discovered a single angle I actually appreciated. It’s cladding-bedecked similar to the remainder of Subaru’s lineup is; sadly, it wears it worse than its ICE brethren do. True, its entrance and rear fascias are sharply angled, however they’re additionally total fairly nameless and forgettable. And essentially the most main stylistic distinction the Solterra bears from the BZ4X—the hexagonal suggestion of a grille tacked onto the entrance finish—makes it even uglier than the already-unlovable Toyota.

Fortunately for me, the inside is way milder and quite a bit lighter on the cladding (though sadly nonetheless heavy on the piano black), and it feels way more familiarly Subaru because of this. A 12.3-inch heart touchscreen with commonplace wi-fi Apple CarPlay and Android Auto greets drivers; local weather management and stereo performance are managed with a mix of bodily buttons and capacitive-touch ones.

The one distinction from ICE-powered Subarus is the driving force gauge pod; it is a display screen that’s meant to be seen above the (very small) steering wheel, though given the comparatively unusual nature of my height-to-arm-ratio, I by no means fairly discovered a place the place I might learn the speedo cleanly with out the wheel blocking it. By the tip of my day behind the wheel of the Solterra, I lastly discovered a snug setup, but it surely undoubtedly took some adaptation. Shifting rearward, the cargo quantity is a stable 27.7 cubic ft with the second-row seats up, however the steeply raked fastback profile of the rear hatch makes it really feel quite a bit smaller than opponents with flatter rear profiles, such because the Volkswagen ID.4, when truly loading the Solterra full of substances.

With my familiarity established with the Solterra’s innards, Subaru tossed me the keys and pointed me on the clean blacktop of Santa Barbara. The standout characteristic for me instantly was how snug the experience felt. Regardless of Subaru’s concentrate on proving its first BEV can off-road like the remainder of its lineup (extra on that later), the Solterra is remarkably well-sprung for pavement, with its 112.2-inch wheelbase and delicate shock valving making it really feel way more placid than many competing crossovers, such because the extra swift-footed Kia EV6. Subaru’s Eyesight suite of driving assists—which incorporates lane-keep help, adaptive cruise management for each site visitors and cornering, and pre-collision braking—made brief work of the 101, though on among the curvier, 55-mph roads by means of the mountains of the Los Padres Nationwide Forest, I discovered it a bit harsh on deceleration into corners and the lane-keep help a bit much less assured than some opponents.

The Solterra does provide one concession to sport-inspired driving regardless of this relaxed nature: Its regenerative braking power is managed by a set of paddle shifters behind the steering wheel (additionally a characteristic distinctive to the Subaru; Toyota’s BZ4X would not characteristic paddles). At minimal power, it coasts; at full power, it gives a type of gentle one-pedal driving, however not the aggressive regeneration of most electrical automobiles that permit user-configurable deceleration. It’s probably sufficient for first-time EV patrons who must get used to one-pedal driving, however for long-time electrical automobile patrons, it should probably really feel weak even at its harshest settings.

Again to extra calm driving, the Solterra carried out proficiently. As soon as I lastly acclimated to the Little Tykes Cozy-Coupe-sized steering wheel, the steering really feel was nice; cabin noise is low because of the all-season tires and better-than-Subaru-average sound insulation. The Solterra’s ethos leans way more in the direction of being a stable crossover than counting on any shock-and-awe, new-tech tips that EV producers are so eager to play up, so excluding the shortage of boxer rumble, it might be mistakable for a conventional ICE crossover. For the proper purchaser, it is a welcome bonus and never a draw back.

After exploring the Solterra on the paved paradise of Santa Barbara, Subaru jetted us to Catalina Island, an unpaved (and principally off-limits to automobiles) rural island 29 miles off the coasts of Lengthy Seaside. Right here, on the grime stretches and steep hills, the electrical crossover supplied the identical taste of unpaved competency that you could anticipate from the remainder of the Subaru lineup. With a powerful 8.3 inches of floor clearance, 18.2 levels of breakover, and an strategy angle of 17.7 levels, it is not fairly an Outback Wilderness, however these stats are extra spectacular and provide extra functionality than any BEV I can discover information on, too—save for pickup vans just like the GMC Hummer EV and Rivian R1T. The X Mode offroad package deal was good about allocating energy to the wheels that also had traction, and allowed the Solterra to climb uneven terrain in a most Subaru-like method. A lot of the trails had been comparatively easy, hard-packed grime paths that will be typical campsite fare; if you happen to’re purchasing to silently rock-crawl, you may wish to have a look at a extra rugged—and costly—EV, such because the R1T. And even then, on the dry, dusty fireplace roads of Catalina Island, the shortage of a spare tire and 20-inch wheels (commonplace on trims above the bottom) saved the Solterra from feeling utterly oriented in the direction of conventional Subaru-esque off-roading.

The bottom Premium mannequin begins at $46,220, however Subaru gave me a Restricted-trim Solterra, the mid-grade variant, to check. It sells for $49,720 after vacation spot charges and will get you 20-inch wheels, fog lights, commonplace roof rails, heated seats, a 360-degree view backup digital camera paired with the nicer 12.3-inch infotainment display screen, and a greater Harman Kardon audio system. I’d argue it is effectively value paying additional for the Restricted for these heated seats alone, particularly in climates colder than Santa Barbara. No matter pricing, nonetheless, even if you happen to did desire a true jack-of-all-trades just like the Solterra, you are out of luck. Subaru has already offered all 6,500 examples for the approaching mannequin yr, and orders are closed. Availability for 2024 continues to be hazy.

Total, the Solterra was a reliable offroader. And, actually, that exemplifies my expertise with the automobile total: It’s competent. It is a stable all-rounder that traverses highways in consolation, gives acceptable vary, and may drive trails in a approach that gave me confidence. But it surely does all of this on the expense of feeling really excellent in any facet.

For any off-roading in an electrified crossover, I would nonetheless favor Subaru’s Crosstrek PHEV, regardless of its gas-sipping proclivities, as a result of it eliminates my vary issues within the huge wilds of my regular stomping grounds of the Toiyabe Nationwide Forest. For on-road cruising, I favor the upper vary, higher driver assists, and extra future-forward (and cozy!) inside of Kia’s EV6. If I wished to expertise the gut-wrenching pleasure of electrified torque, I’d head to Ford’s Mach-E Mustang, which accelerates almost a second and a half faster to 60 in its AWD trim. Within the styling division… effectively, that cladding hasn’t grown on me, let’s put it like that. The Solterra does have a stable power over its twin-brother BZ4X, nonetheless, as a result of Subaru nonetheless has loads of federal $7,500 EV tax credit left and Toyota is sort of plum out. Simply ensure you learn the high quality print earlier than you let it issue into your decision-making.

All instructed, as an EV, the Solterra is inoffensive. It isn’t egregiously missing in any division (besides probably styling); it performs its duties with sufficient proficiency to justify its existence. It is simply not noteworthy in an ever-expanding EV market packed filled with superlatives on the similar value level. And Subaru’s personal baseline for off-roading duties is so excessive that the Solterra’s capabilities really feel lackluster compared. Briefly, In the event you’re going tenting and need the Pleiades in your automobile, I would follow the gasoline pumps for a short while longer.

Bought a tip or query for the writer? Contact her instantly: victoria.scott@thedrive.com.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *