The 2023 Solterra SUV is Subaru’s first global all-electric vehicle, and it enters the crowded small-to-midsize crossover marketplace in America. Sizewise it and its Toyota-badged and less coherently named counterpart, the bZ4X, slot between the smaller Volkswagen ID4 and larger Ford Mustang Mach-E in the growing all-electric slice of the compact SUV landscape.
So, how does the 2023 Solterra plan to stand out in one of the most popular vehicle segments? The Subaru way, of course, with all-wheel drive and plenty of adventure- and surely dog-focused marketing. In a video clip shown at the SUV’s global debut, Subaru showed off its expertise in AWD tuning against competitors from Jaguar and even its Solterra development partner, Toyota, at an off-road course at a Subaru test facility in Japan. The gist: in challenging traction conditions and across terrains that required ground clearance and greater articulation from the suspension, the Solterra was up to the task. Like other compact SUVs, it’s assumed that the Solterra can hold a dog, too, even though that use case hasn’t been covered—yet.
Notably, Subaru says the Solterra we watched crawling over moderately sized obstacles and fording deep muck was outfitted not with all-terrain tires but regular, streetable all-season rubber. Put another way, it was pretty much equipped like the Solterra Touring models positioned in front of us at the vehicle’s debut at the L.A. auto show, right down to its 20-inch wheels shod in 235-width tires. That isn’t exactly typical off-roading gear.
In addition to featuring Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive-branded system standard, the Solterra is also equipped with standard “StarDrive” power delivery control (also found in the Crosstrek Hybrid), X-Mode traction management, and 8.3 inches of ground clearance, which is the same clearance found on the 2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid.
Subaru pegs Solterra’s total power output at 215 horsepower and 248 lb.-ft. of torque between its two motors, one at the front and one at the rear. That’s more than the rear-wheel drive ID4’s 201 hp and 229 lb.-ft. from its single motor but trails the Mustang Mach-E’s 266 hp and 317 lb.-ft. base powertrain.
Power comes from a lithium-ion battery pack that can be replenished via Level 2 AC charging or DC fast charging. The EPA has not yet rated the EV’s range, but Subaru estimates you’ll be able to travel about 220 miles per charge. That trails the VW ID4’s 250-260 miles of range, along with most versions of the Mustang Mach-E except those that are AWD and equipped with the smaller of its two available batteries, which gets an estimated 211 miles of range.
bZ4X vs. Solterra—What’s the Difference?
The Solterra and Toyota’s BZ4X are spitting images of one another—cut from the same body-in-white, as it were. Of Subaru’s existing SUVs, the Solterra falls closest in size to the Forester—sort of a plus-size compact. A few flashes of Subaru styling blink out from between all the Toyota-ness, including the C-shaped running lamps inside the thin and wide headlight housings and the hexagonal grille outline up front. The fog lights on the bumper are also unique to the Subie.
Most will notice first the plastic wheel arch moldings on the front and rear fenders, which are also on the BZ4X but carry strong resemblances to the pieces on Subaru’s popular, smaller Crosstrek. The Solterra’s 20-inch wheels are pushed out to the corners for short front and rear overhangs. Designers also gave it a low hood and thin A pillars, sloped rear glass, and rear spoilers coming off the roof and midway down the liftgate. The Solterra will be available in two-tone exterior coloring with a black roof like the examples shown here.
Sleek Interior, Fresh Tech
Subaru promises up to 30.0 cubic feet of cargo space behind the Solterra’s second row of seats, which is negligibly more than the Mustang Mach-E’s 29.7 cubic feet and a hair less than the ID4’s 30.3. Spaciousness was an emphasis in the design of the Solterra’s cabin, which offers a flat floor in back and forgoes a glovebox in front for space in and under the center console that was further opened up using a rotary shift knob instead of a traditional lever.
In fact, the entire dash doesn’t seem to protrude into the cabin as deeply as it does in other cars, and the un-cowled and set back gauge cluster only adds to the minimized feeling. (Incidentally, while the U.S.-spec Solterras ship with a traditional steering wheel, the Japanese-market version offers a wilder Tesla-style yoke as an option.) Other thoughtful touches sure to please parents with car-seat-age children are rear passenger doors that open to about 80 degrees and a 41.3-inch tailgate opening.
Inside the Solterra you’ll find good material quality and build execution. The infotainment system features standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, as well as a wireless charging phone dock in the center console and available 12.3-in touchscreen. Rear heated seats and a panoramic sunroof are also options.
A smartphone-based digital key is available, too. With it, users can unlock doors, open windows, start the vehicle remotely, and even precondition the crossover’s HVAC. The Solterra’s automatic parking assist function is also accessed via the digital key app.
Every Solterra comes with a bundle of standard driver assist features, like automated emergency braking, automatic high beams, lane departure warning, and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring. This is the first Subaru to get a 360-degree view camera and the first Subie to get standard Safety Exit Alert, which warns passengers before exiting the vehicle of obstacles and pedestrians.
No word yet on official pricing for the 2023 Solterra, but Subaru says its electric SUV will go on sale sometime in 2022.
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