Subaru’s All-New, All-Electric Compact SUV
The all-new, all-electric 2023 Solterra compact SUV is a major step for Subaru, one that will be a welcome addition for its loyal owners. Joining the SUV lineup of Crosstrek, Forester, Outback and Ascent, the Solterra is not Subaru’s first model with a plug as the Crosstrek Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) debuted in 2019. But the Solterra completely leaves gasoline behind and is all-electrons all-the-time.
This Flash Drive review hits the highlights of our four hours spent driving the 2023 Solterra at a recent Subaru media launch event. Look for the full Road Test review in the coming months, where we will have spent a week driving and exploring the full capabilities of the Solterra.
Red and ready to go off-road
Two Motors, AWD Standard
No frunk, but plenty of EV hardware
The 2023 Subaru Solterra has a 72.8 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery and two 80 kilowatt (kW) electric motors, good for 228 miles of driving range in the Premium trim and 222 miles in Limited and Touring. The twin motors put out 215 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque for the symmetrical all-wheel drive, which includes the latest generation of X-Mode, adding increased grip and traction in icy, sloppy and off-road conditions along with hill ascent and descent control. Clean Fleet Report recently tested the all-new 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness, where we put X-Mode through its paces in some pretty rough terrain.
Whether driving on- or off-road, the 72.8 kWh lithium-ion battery needs to be charged. When driving, charging is accomplished through regenerative braking that converts kinetic energy into electric energy when applying the brakes or coasting, and stores it in the battery. The Solterra has paddles, located behind the steering wheel, where the amount of brake force can be adjusted. Four pulls on the left side paddle gets maximum regeneration.
Plugging-in the Subaru Solterra will take these times at different amperage and voltage:
Charging starts here
120V – Level 1 50 hours (@12 amps)
120V – Level 1 77 hours (@8 amps)
240V – Level 2 9 hours (@32 amps)
240V – Level 2 35 hours (@8 amps)
480V DC Fast Charging 56 minutes (from 20% – 80%)
For new owners, the Solterra comes with a $400 credit towards public charging at EVgo chargers, or the money can be used with QMerit for a Level 2 home charger installation. For even more peace of mind, on those occasion where a long road trip is planned, there are 10 free days of a Subaru gasoline-powered car or SUV.
We got a chance to get dirty
If a Subaru is going to truly be a Subaru, it needs to have serious off road DNA. Enthusiasts of driving on dirt, sand, snow and rocks will be pleased to hear Subaru feels the “Solterra in some ways is our most capable all-wheel drive vehicle.” To demonstrate this, Subaru flew journalists from Santa Barbara to Catalina Island, which sits 26 miles off the Southern California coast, to drive in all-electric silence on dirt roads usually only open to fire and maintenance personnel.
The pristine terrain provided challenges for the Solterra, so we utilized the off-road driving systems of X-Mode, Grip Control, Dirt Drive mode, downhill assist and hill start assist. The StarDrive all-electric drivetrain knows the opportune time to engage the front and rear motors, making for an assuring off-road driving experience. With 8.3-inches of ground clearance, the Solterra can safely handle dirt and gravel roads with ease and confidence, but is not meant for rock crawling.
The beauty of electric power plus Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive is, when stopped on a trail due to deep ruts, the instant torque at any speed delivered a smooth escape. There was never a time where we were concerned the 4,455-pound Solterra would not get us out of a challenging situation.
Back on the Pavement
Capable around town, too
Since most driving will be on paved surfaces commuting, grocery-getting and other errands, the 2023 Subaru Solterra first-and-foremost needs to have good road manners. With all-time all-wheel drive, grip is enhanced even on a dry, smooth roadway. The Solterra shines in town and on the open road with acceleration more than adequate for entering freeways and passing big rigs. The smooth operation is what makes driving an electric vehicle so wonderful.
The three drive modes—Normal (default), Eco and Sport, controlled by a button on the center console next to the shift-by-wire rotary transmission knob—are self-explanatory. When in X-Mode, the default is Normal.
Handling was solid, aided by a low center of gravity as the batteries are placed under the floorboard, providing near 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution. Eighteen-inch Bridgestone Touranza all-season tires are standard on the Premium, with 20-inch on the Limited and Touring. MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link rear make up the four-wheel independent suspension, which also features cornering assist, traction and vehicle stability control.
Stopping is through the power-assisted ventilated front and rear disc anti-lock brakes.
A versatile top
Visually, the 8.3-inches of ground clearance is a good ride height that is complimented by front fender brush guard cladding providing protection when going off-road or encountering a wayward shopping cart. Cladding is also found to a more normal degree over the rear wheels and across the lower rear fascia. The front, side and rear overhangs are short, giving the Solterra a wide-looking stance.
The sleek aerodynamic roof rails can accommodate up-to 700 pounds when parked, so that three-person tent is a go. The rear hatch has an interesting dual-wing top spoiler with a more conventional lip spoiler at the bottom of the steeply sloped glass. Narrow LED head and tail lights take-up little space leading to a contemporary design. Along with active grille shutters, spending time in the wind tunnel paid off as the air flow is directed around, over and under in such a way to get the Coefficient of Drag (Cd) to a low 0.28.
Airy, Rugged Interior
The thin A-pillars, sloping hood and tall windows provide excellent forward and side visibility from a cabin with ample head and leg room. The front seats are supportive, and are covered in StarTex, a lightweight synthetic material that prevents moisture from soaking into the seats, and is more durable than cloth or leather. The driver gets 10-way power adjustments including lumbar and memory, while the passenger has manual adjustments. The carpeted floor mats were a nice touch, but for the Solterra and its off-road use, rubber mats would have been easier to clean after a muddy, sandy or dusty day.
A few new twists in the controls
While the rear seat can hold three adults, Solterra owners will likely take advantage of the 60/40 second row split seat that, when folded flat, increases the cargo space to 30 cubic feet. Access to the cargo area is through a power lift gate with a low load height. Larger cargo can be carried on the roof. The optional power moonroof was a welcome feature, opening the cabin to the great outdoors.
The multimedia system comes standard with an 8.0-inch high-resolution touchscreen, with a 12.3-inch touchscreen optional. Both house navigation and SiriusXM/AM/FM radio with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. USB A and C ports and wireless phone charging are standard.
To increase driver attention to the road, channel and volume knobs would have been a nice feature as trying to use the touchscreen can at times be inconvenient or buggy. We would have liked to see a Head-Up display, but Subaru says one isn’t needed as the 7-inch LCD gauge cluster sits high enough to keep the driver’s eyes on the road.
Safety and Convenience
The 2023 Solterra comes with active and passive advanced driver assist systems (ADAS), including multiple airbags, advanced adaptive cruise control, automatic pre-collision braking and throttle management and lane departure warning.
Additional safety features include blind spot monitoring with lane change assist, a 360-degree camera, and the all-new Safety Exit Alert that notifies occupants of obstacles and pedestrians, with an audible and visual warning, before exiting the vehicle. This video explains the EyeSight driver assist technology on the 2023 Subaru Solterra.
Additional safety and convenience features include automatic climate control, digital rear-view mirror camera with Homelink, push button start/stop, remote keyless entry, electric power steering, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth control switches, exterior power mirrors, rain-sensing wipers and a tire pressure monitoring system.
The 2023 Solterra has not yet been safety rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). However, the Solterra should receive high safety ratings similar to all other Subaru models.
Before the dust begins to fly
Pricing and Warranties
The Solterra has three trim levels of Premium, Limited and Touring, with these base prices including the mandatory $1,225 delivery and destination fee. Federal and state tax credits may affect your final price, so speak with your CPA before heading into your local Subaru dealer.
Room to fill
- Limited $49,720
- Touring $53,220
The 2023 Solterra comes with these warranties.
- Basic – Three years/36,000 miles
- Powertrain – Five years/60,000 miles
- Battery – Eight years/100,000 miles
Observations: 2023 Subaru Solterra EV
There are several reasons why major car companies would get together to jointly build a car. The upside of sharing design, manufacturing capability, technology strengths, and development costs are just a few. The risk, though, is whatever is decided upon, each company’s final vehicle may be too close to the other’s. On the surface it may appear the all-electric 2023 Subaru Solterra and the 2023 Toyota BZ4X are identical twins, but that is not the case at all as each has their own raison d’être.
Outstanding in its field
The 2023 Solterra EV was co-developed by Subaru and Toyota, with Subaru working on its own AWD, suspension and chassis development. The Solterra needed to retain its light-duty off-road cred and DNA, because as we were clearly told, “It had to be a genuine Subaru.” This meant the on- and off-road capabilities would not be compromised, but it would also be as good for in-town errands and commuting as on long road trips and off-road adventures. Subaru says they are targeting the Solterra towards a younger buyer, which will certainly include many that have never considered a Subaru.
How will the Subaru faithful take to the Solterra EV? It has the size to fit 4- 5 adults and haul their gear, plus it is ideal for strapping-in a couple of child seats and chauffeuring the little ones to school. For those who drive long distances into the wilderness, it may not meet their needs as all-electric range could be an issue. However, if those people get a full charge before heading out into the wilds, they should have no issues getting back to civilization as a 222+ mile range should be adequate to meet their needs.
Clean Fleet Report expects Subaru faithful to welcome the Solterra into the family.
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Story by John Faulkner. Photos by John Faulkner and Subaru.
John’s preferred off-road vehicle
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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