By Colin Ryan
All-wheel drive is standard
Many safety features included
The first all-electric Subaru
Charging times are not particularly quick
The Subaru Solterra electric SUV makes its debut for the 2023 model year
The all-new 2023 Subaru /zigman2/quotes/200526066/composite FUJHY -1.87% Solterra all-electric SUV has a maximum range of 228 miles and a lot of standard equipment, including AWD. The Solterra starts at $44,995 and goes up to $52K.
Size-wise, the new Subaru Solterra is similar to the Toyota RAV4, making it a compact SUV. The reference to Toyota /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM -1.19% is not coincidental, since the Solterra is part of a joint project that also includes the new Toyota bZ4X all-electric SUV.
In the case of the Solterra (and we thank Subaru for coming up with a name, instead of Toyota’s bZ4X), this is the company’s first-ever electric vehicle (EV) and, in typical Subaru fashion, all-wheel drive comes standard. Actually, the Solterra flips the script in a way.
Some buyers want an EV first and foremost, with the manufacturer being a secondary consideration. But there’s a solid base of Subaru fans who want a vehicle from their favorite car company, and the Solterra now gives them a zero-emissions alternative.
2023 Subaru Solterra pricing
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the 2023 Solterra electric SUV in Premium trim is $44,995, plus a $1,225 destination charge. Limited trim is $48,495, and the top Touring model is five bucks short of $52K. The most expensive 2-tone premium paint option costs $890.
A potential $7,500 federal tax credit applies, along with various state incentives. For example, California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate program usually gives $2,000 to those buying or leasing an electric vehicle (EV).
Subaru is also working on offering a choice of a charging credit with the EVgo network or money toward a 240-volt home charger from Qmerit. With every purchase or lease of a new Solterra, there’s also a 10-day free Subaru vehicle rental plan (at participating Subaru dealers).
The also-new-for-2023 Toyota bZ4X, built on the same platform as the Solterra, starts out a little less: $42,000. But that’s for a front-drive version. Toyota is also approaching the threshold where its electrified vehicles will no longer be eligible for a federal tax credit (Tesla /zigman2/quotes/203558040/composite TSLA -0.57% passed it a few years back). In contrast, Subaru still has a long way to go.
Other contenders include the Kia EV6, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Volkswagen ID.4, and Ford Mustang Mach-E—all with useful ranges.
Before buying a new Solterra electric SUV, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid for theirs. Resale values are still an unknown quantity at this time, but Subaru is usually a top choice in this regard.
Driving the 2023 Subaru Solterra
Acceleration is brisk, but not crazy. And the new Solterra electric SUV has a sporty driving mode for quicker responses. Even then, the fun pedal isn’t too sensitive.
Speaking of pedals, Subaru says the Solterra has a one-pedal driving function along with four levels of brake regeneration. This implies the kind of one-pedal driving trick that’s a boon in electric vehicles. Yet with brake regeneration at its highest setting, the Solterra won’t come to a complete stop when the driver lifts off the accelerator.
However, driving the Solterra SUV is generally pleasant, with a comfortable ride and predictable handling. If there’s some mild off-roading in a Solterra owner’s future, the abilities are here.
The X-Mode all-wheel-drive (AWD) system uses the brakes to simulate the kind of torque distribution achieved by a limited-slip differential. This method isn’t quite so effective, but it gets the job done. Ground clearance of 8.3 inches is useful. The system has Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud modes. And the standard-issue Grip Control is a low-speed cruise control of sorts.
Other advantages of electric power in these unpaved situations include the abundant torque available at low speeds, the lack of engine noise (all the better to hear the birds singing), and no spewing of hydrocarbons over the sagebrush. Just make sure there’s enough juice in the battery to reach the next charger.
With accommodations for four (or five, if someone doesn’t mind sitting in that little middle position in the back), the 2023 Solterra is quite spacious for a compact SUV. There are arguably better-looking dashboards, but the one in the 2023 Solterra follows the usual Subaru approach of simple and functional, while also fitting digital gauges.
Things like big door pockets and a flat load floor contribute to the Solterra’s overall practicality.
Rear legroom is 35.3 inches — not as much as, say, a Honda /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC -0.89% CR-V (40.4 inches), but still sufficient for most adults. Luggage space behind the 60/40 split/folding rear seats measures 27.7 cubic feet. That’s about the same as the bZ4X, Kia EV6 /zigman2/quotes/206019389/delayed KR:000270 +0.40% , and Hyundai /zigman2/quotes/204364212/composite HYMTF -2.02% Ioniq 5, and generous enough.
Time and again, Subaru owners have demonstrated that they’re not shallow — loving their Foresters or Outbacks or whatever for what’s beneath the surface, regardless of looks. With the new Solterra, no justifications are necessary.
There’s every chance that some buyers might be walking into a Subaru dealership for the first time, attracted not just by the idea of a new compact electric SUV, but also drawn by the styling.
The Solterra goes lavish with the obligatory SUV black plastic cladding right underneath the headlights, which then accentuates the wheel arches before creating a large rear valance. But other features bring more vibrancy, like the headlights and taillights, and the unusual rear spoiler.
Roof rails come in at the Limited trim level, strong enough to handle a rooftop tent. That’s also when 18-inch alloy wheels give way to 20s.
Digital key Using the Subaru Solterra smartphone app, several people can access one Solterra without them all needing a conventional key. This becomes standard in the mid-level Limited trim.
Advanced park: driver parking assistance It’s a clumsy title, but it should bring a little more elegance to slotting into parking spaces. This is a self-parking function, the kind of thing often found in luxury vehicles, now becoming available to more drivers. Also standard in the Limited model.
Premium is the first of three trim levels in the 2023 Solterra electric SUV lineup, followed by Limited and Touring. This most affordable version comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, full LED headlights, heated side mirrors, keyless entry/start, heated front seats, heated/leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, and cloth upholstery.
Safety systems include forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, emergency steering assistance, pedestrian/cyclist detection, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and Safe Exit Assist.
The infotainment setup has an 8-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +0.96% CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, one USB-A port up front, four USB-C ports (two at the front, two in the back), Bluetooth, cloud-based navigation (with a subscription), and voice control.
Acquiring more features means going for a higher trim, rather than scanning an options list.
Limited brings 20-inch alloy wheels, LED fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, roof rails, powered tailgate with automatic closing and height memory, Digital Key, simulated leather upholstery, 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with memory settings (including the side mirrors), a self-parking system, heated rear outboard seats, 360-degree camera system, wireless phone charging, 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, Wi-Fi, and a 12-speaker/576-watt Harman Kardon surround-sound system.
Touring adds a digital assistant for the infotainment system, ambient cabin lighting, rearview camera mirror, garage door opener, heated/ventilated front seats, panoramic moonroof with powered shade, and a retractable cargo cover. This trim level is eligible for a 2-tone paint job.
Battery power, charge times, and range
Every 2023 Solterra SUV is propelled by dual electric motors, one for each axle, creating a form of all-wheel drive. Combined output is 215 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque, with each motor generating the same muscle.
The floor-mounted lithium-ion battery pack requires about nine hours for a full charge from a 240-volt source like a home charging setup. A DC fast charger can bring the battery up to 80% in just under an hour. Some rivals enjoy faster charging times, like the Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5.
Subaru puts the maximum range at 228 miles for the Premium version. The Limited and Touring trims, with larger wheels, are capable of 222 miles. Note: The EPA calculates energy consumption for electric vehicles as a miles-per-gallon equivalent (MPGe).
Dual AC permanent magnet synchronous electric motors215 total horsepower249 lb-ft of total torqueCity/highway fuel economy: 111/114 MPGe (Premium), 93/94 MPGe (Limited, Touring)Estimated range: 228 miles (Premium), 222 miles (Limited, Touring)
This story originally ran on KBB.com.