Subaru goes electric with all-new 2023 Solterra SUV
Every year for the past several years, the number of EVs on the market has grown significantly. Most automakers are speaking on the record about the date on which they will no longer produce internal combustion engines, and those dates aren't too far away. Now Subaru, the perennial Northwest favorite brand, has presented its first electric vehicle, and it's got everything that Portland buyers love about Subaru combined with EV performance and efficiency.
The 2023 Subaru Solterra is the result of a co-development project with Toyota. The Toyota version of the vehicle is called the BZ4X, and it will be produced in the same factory as the Solterra. The Solterra sits on an entirely new architecture designed for electric vehicles. Like many new EVs, the structure is a platform with batteries located in the floor and an electric motor at each end of the vehicle. This provides a low center of gravity and the Subaru hallmark of effective all-wheel-drive.
The nitty-gritty of the propulsion system is 215 horsepower and 249 pound-feet of torque, which is enough to give the 4,455-pound Solterra quick and lively performance on the street, and plenty of power to go off-road. Because the electric motors are already computer-controlled through Subaru's X-Drive technology, the Solterra delivers off-road performance on par with any of Subaru's conventionally-powered vehicles, and substantially better than most other brands.
The Solterra offers an EPA-rated 222 miles of range on a full charge, or 228 miles for the base Premium trim, because it's lighter. Recharging from empty with a standard 32-amp or 40-amp home charging station will take about nine hours. If you have access to a DC Fast Charging station, which are popping up more frequently around Portland, you can get an 80% charge in 56 minutes.
On our day-long test drive, we took the Solterra on about 60 miles of challenging dirt and gravel trails on California's Catalina Island. Steep uphill and downhill sections gave the Solterra no trouble at all. X-Drive provides wheel-by-wheel traction control as well as hill descent control. The Solterra also provides 8.3 inches of ground clearance, which is good for any compact SUV. Going off-road was mostly unremarkable because the Solterra is so good at it. You can just drive to your destination without any special skills.
On-road the Solterra is a pleasant daily driver, with plenty of interior space and comfortable seating. I'm six feet tall and I rode in the back seat on an hour-long drive over freeways and surface roads in perfect comfort. There's plenty of headroom and dual glass panes in the roof. There's 30 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, and up to 125 cubic feet if you were to fold down the rear seats and use the front passenger seat as well. The rear hatch is 41.3 inches wide, which means there's easy access to the back. Additionally, your roof-mounted cargo pod can weigh up to 176 pounds when driving, and 700 pounds when parked. That means your roof tent is a go with the Solterra.
There will be three trim levels. From least to most expensive, they are: Premium, Limited, and Touring.
As you might expect, the Solterra offers a lot of tech inside the cabin. The driver information display is mounted high on the dashboard and close to the windshield, about where you'd expect to find a head-up display. This allows you to see the information without looking down. I thought it was perfectly placed, though some shorter drivers didn't like it as much. On the Limited and Touring trims, there's a 12.3-inch multimedia touchscreen on the center stack with your optional navigation or display for wireless Android Auto or Apple CarPlay interface. It's an 8-inch screen on the base Premium trim. Wireless device charging is also standard on Limited and Touring.
One great thing about EVs is that you can control a lot more without having a gas engine running. Through your smartphone app, you can direct remote climate control and remote lock/unlocking on the Solterra. The remote climate control system can automatically warm up or cool down your car before you get there, even when it's in your garage.
The Solterra provides a bunch of standard safety and driver assistance features. Subaru's EyeSight system provides adaptive cruise control, steering assistance, lane change assistance, and automatic emergency braking. There's also a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert system with safe exit assistance, which means that the Solterra will sound an alarm if there's a car coming when you're opening the doors. Reverse automatic braking is also standard on all trim levels, along with multi-element LED headlights with automatic high beam control. Perhaps best of all, a 360-degree surround-view camera is standard on the Limited and Touring trims, giving you a bird's-eye view of the car when maneuvering.
Subaru expects the Solterra to go on sale at area Subaru dealers by this summer. The base price for a Premium trim, with all fees added, is $46,220, while Limited trim starts at $49,720 and the top Touring trim costs $53,220. Remember, though, that Subaru is still eligible for $7,500 in Federal tax credits and $2,500 in Oregon state rebates, so you can knock $10,000 off those prices at the dealership. Many other automakers have exhausted their Federal tax credits under the existing law.
On the test drive, we were in the mid-grade Limited trim and really enjoyed the large center display, wireless charging, and other features. The price difference is not a whole lot, so we'll suggest you get one of the upgrade trims. But any Solterra is going to be an excellent choice in the rapidly expanding market for electric vehicles.
2023 Subaru Solterra
Base price: $46,220
Price as tested: $49,720
Type: Compact SUV
Engine: Dual electric motors (215 hp, 249 lbs-ft)
Transmission: Direct drive
EPA estimated range: 222 miles
Overall length: 184.6 inches
Curb weight: 4,365 pounds
Final assembly: Aichi, Japan
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