2023 Subaru Solterra bows: No yoke for boxer brand’s first mainstream EV

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Subaru and Toyota’s partnership has produced another offspring, but this time it’s an electric SUV rather than a gasoline boxer-engined sports car or the electrified hybrid heart of the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid. The new 2023 Solterra was first introduced in Japanese spec via livestream, but we got a preview of the U.S version before it makes its debut at the Los Angeles auto show. 

Predictably, the Solterra (a combination of the Latin words for “Sun” and “Earth”) looks very familiar to the bZ4X with the same basic shape but a different grille, lighting, and other details. There are also small “EV” badges on both sides of the Solterra, above the same prominent black plastic fender cladding. Atop the back of the roof, a twin-ducted spoiler feeds air down to a small duckbill spoiler that Subaru says does produce noticeable downforce.

2023 Subaru Solterra

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2023 Subaru Solterra

2023 Subaru Solterra

2023 Subaru Solterra

The Solterra will seat up to five passengers across two rows, similar to the Forester compact SUV. Its other dimensions are similar to those of the Forester as well, at 184.6 inches long, 73.2 inches tall, and 65.0 inches wide with a wheelbase of 112.2 inches. That makes it about 2 inches longer and wider than the Forester, but slightly shorter. Its wheelbase however is just over 7 inches longer and this gives the interior some very solid passenger room. The backseat is very roomy, with plentiful leg and headroom. Curiously, the available panoramic sunroof has a bar across the middle of it that Subaru says is to aid safety and strengthen the body. But it’s an eyesore.

Ground clearance is a robust 8.3 inches, which gives the Solterra some off-road capability. At the unveiling, the Solterra drove up a dirt hill and then through a pond to prove that point. Subaru did confirm that the Solterra will offer the same X-Mode AWD control system found on many of its other vehicles (and it will be in the Toyota as well).

Though the Japanese specs listed both front- and all-wheel drive models—just like the Toyota—it appears that only the AWD version makes it to the United States. Subaru didn’t list a curb weight, but the Japanese AWD vehicle weighs an estimated 4,453 pounds. 

2023 Subaru Solterra

2023 Subaru Solterra

2023 Subaru Solterra

2023 Subaru Solterra

Powertrain details line up with those announced for the bZ4X: a 71.4-kwh lithium-ion battery pack and 215 hp/246 lb-ft of total output. Subaru’s estimated range is over 220 miles and the Solterra will feature DC fast charging, though details were very limited. If it matches up with the announced capability of the Toyota model, that would mean fast charge capability up to 150 kw with the ability to get to 80% capacity in 30 minutes.

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Inside, the Solterra once again closely matches the Toyota with a cloth textured dashboard that sits ahead of a large touchscreen with climate controls below. Sitting inside of it, it feels much more like a Toyota than a Subaru. Even the way that the doors close reminded me of Toyota hybrid vehicles, unlike anything that Subaru makes.

2023 Subaru Solterra

2023 Subaru Solterra

2023 Subaru Solterra

2023 Subaru Solterra

2023 Subaru Solterra

2023 Subaru Solterra

The placement of the 12.3-inch touchscreen high up on the dash makes it easy to see, matching the level of the instrument cluster. It’s a large, clear display in landscape orientation with new navigation features that Subaru will detail more closer to launch. The cluster has been pushed far back, into a spot that’s supposed to be easier for the driver to see without bringing their eyes too far down. 

But there’s one big problem: it’s blocked by the steering wheel, the top rim covering up the bottom half of the screen. It’s really a setup for a yoke, like the Toyota will offer, which doesn’t have a top and would look pretty nice (if being a bit impractical for things like steering). Subaru made no mention of a yoke at this time and that means a steering wheel will be it for now.

2023 Subaru Solterra

2023 Subaru Solterra

The 2023 Solterra will arrive in a crowded segment that’s currently populated by the Volkswagen ID.4 and Ford Mustang Mach-E, but that pair will soon be joined by the Kia EV6, Hyundai Ioniq 5, and Nissan Ariya. The Solterra’s potential off-road capability might be what it needs to stand out from the rest, since competitors will offer more range.

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