Preview: 2023 Subaru Solterra EV Debuts With an Estimated 220-Mile Range

Built on a platform shared with the Toyota bZ4X, the Solterra promises to be off-pavement ready for weekend adventurers

2023 Subaru Solterra Photo: Subaru

Subaru unveiled its first-ever electric vehicle, the Solterra, at the LA Auto Show this week. The new outdoor activity-inspired compact SUV uses a two-motor electric powertrain to form a new version of Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system, offering 8.3 inches of ground clearance for weekend adventurers traversing dirt trails. 

Subaru says the Solterra was developed as part of a joint venture between itself and Toyota, and that it will be built in Japan and China on Toyota’s new dedicated all-electric vehicle platform, known as e-TNGA. Subaru calls its version the e-Subaru global platform.

More On EVs

Toyota said in April that the new EV would incorporate Subaru’s deep experience developing all-wheel-drive systems and that the Toyota version would be called the bZ4X. Toyota says the bZ4X will fall under its Toyota bZ—“beyond zero,” a reference to zero emissions—brand umbrella, which includes six other bZ models to be introduced by 2025. 

The Toyota-Subaru partnership is nothing new. It builds on the first-generation Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86 collaboration that continues today, and the development of the Subaru Crosstrek Plug-in Hybrid, which uses some Toyota Prius Prime components. Before Toyota’s announcement in April, Subaru had not yet divulged plans to follow the EV path that most manufacturers are pursuing. For its part, Toyota has been hesitant to jump on the EV bandwagon. Instead, it has been doubling down on its hybrid offerings. The bZ4X would be Toyota’s first dedicated EV in the U.S.  

What it competes with: Nissan Ariya, Toyota bZ4X
What it looks like: The offspring of a Subaru Crosstrek and a Toyota RAV4.
Powertrain: Front and rear electric motors with a combined 215 hp; all wheel-drive
Price: $37,000-$45,000, estimated 
On sale: Mid-2022

CR's Take

Subaru faithful have been waiting with bated breath for news of the brand’s entry into the EV market as other automakers, one after another, have signaled their intent. If the Solterra meets the light-duty off-roading and snowy weather performance standards set by Subaru’s other cars, the brand’s EV converts will most likely be happy with it. All-wheel drive and decent ground clearance are a good start, as are good cargo room and interior styling cues familiar to anyone who has owned a Subaru built within the last few years.

2023 Subaru Solterra driving in the dirt

Photo: Subaru Photo: Subaru

Outside

Subaru says the Solterra’s body styling is pinned on its trapezoidal grille—seen here as a blank panel because a traditional grille is unnecessary on an EV. It’s worth noting that the trapezoidal grille blank, thin headlight housings, and oval-shaped blue brand badge makes the Solterra look not unlike Ford’s Mustang Mach-E from the front, as does its deeply sloping rear hatch.

The similarities end there, though. The Solterra’s styling could be described as angular and active, with chiseled lines and stabs of black plastic accents suggesting ruggedness and motion. The roof appears to be adorned with utility rails—a must for any self-respecting Subaru owner, who likely has bicycles, cargo bins, kayaks, and other kit in that vein to clip to the roof.

2023 Subaru Solterra interior

Photo: Subaru Photo: Subaru

Inside

Much like many current Subaru models, the center of the dash is dominated by a large touch screen, although the Solterra’s is a 12.3-inch horizontally oriented unit. And it appears to be running a version of the redesigned infotainment system debuting on many new Toyota and Lexus models. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay will be standard, and a wireless smartphone charging dock will be optional. The turn signal and wiper stalks, and several of the dash controls, look as though they may have been lifted from Toyota’s existing parts bin—not that that’s a bad thing.

Volume-wise, the interior space is smaller than the current Subaru Forester by a few cubic feet. Despite its steeply raked rear glass, the Solterra offers a bit more cargo space than the Forester. That’s likely because the Solterra has a large, flat load floor, which Subaru says can be arranged at two different heights. The 60/40-split rear seats fold down to provide even more cargo space. The rear hatch opening is more than 41 inches wide to ease loading and unloading.

Thanks to the e-Subaru platform that underpins the Solterra, the floor of its passenger compartment is flat, too, which Subaru says aids legroom.

What Drives It

Subaru hasn’t yet offered details on the individual power output of the Solterra’s two electric motors, but their combined power output is 215 hp and 248 lb.-ft. of torque. The all-wheel-drive system will include the X-Mode traction and hill descent features found on many gasoline-powered Subarus. The automaker says the estimated range is more than 222 miles, although that figure hasn’t been confirmed by EPA testing. Like every EV, the Solterra will be compatible with both Level 1 and Level 2 charging, as well as commercial DC fast charging. Subaru says the battery can be charged to 80 percent capacity in under an hour using DC fast charging.

The Solterra’s infotainment system is enabled to make use of apps to help the driver find charging stations, tapping into a network of more than 3,000 DC fast chargers and 38,000 Level 2 chargers.

2023 Subaru Solterra driving, seen from the rear

Photo: Subaru Photo: Subaru

Safety and Active Features

The Solterra will come with EyeSight, Subaru’s suite of advanced active safety features that includes automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic, lane change assist features, and adaptive cruise control. The car will also have a 360-degree view camera and a parking assist feature that applies the brakes if an obstacle is encountered while backing up. A new feature called safe exit assist that alerts passengers of approaching vehicles when getting out of the car will also be included.

2023 Subaru Solterra cargo area

Photo: Subaru Photo: Subaru


Head shot of CR Autos Editor, Benjamin Preston

Benjamin Preston

My reporting has taken me everywhere from Baghdad, Iraq, to the Detroit auto show, along the U.S.-Mexico border and everywhere in between. If my travels have taught me anything, it's that stuff—consumer products—is at the center of daily life all over the world. That's why I'm so jazzed to be shining light on what works, what doesn't, and how people can enrich their lives by being smarter consumers. When I'm not reporting, I can usually be found at home with my family, at the beach surfing, or in my driveway, wrenching on my hot rod '74 Olds sedan.