Vehicle Type: A four-door, five-seat compact electric SUV.
Price Range: From $46,220 to $53,200, including a $1,225 destination charge, but before applicable incentives.
Powertrain: A 215-horsepower, 249 lb-ft of torque electric powertrain with front and rear 80 kW electric motors and all-wheel-drive.
What’s New for 2023?
The Subaru Solterra EV is an all-new offering for 2023 and the brand’s first fully electric vehicle.
- Standard all-wheel-drive
- Respectable performance off the pavement
- The list of standard features is respectably generous
- The range isn’t as generous as most rivals
- The base price is higher than the very similar Toyota bZ4X
- Doesn’t break much new ground among EVs
Would we buy one? Possibly. It’s one of the few EVs at any price to offer standard all-wheel-drive, and it’s a practical package. But there are less expensive and more efficient rivals.
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Finally, loyal Subaru buyers have a zero-emissions option. The 2023 Subaru Solterra is the automaker’s first all-electric vehicle, following years of only having the plug-in hybrid Crosstrek. But more importantly for the company, the Solterra is aimed squarely at an exploding class of compact crossover SUV-styled electrics — and it’s getting in before the class really grows in the following years.
The Solterra was developed with Toyota, the pair’s second collaboration after the 86 and BRZ sports coupes. The upcoming Toyota bZ4X will be the other piece of the puzzle, and an upscale Lexus derivative is also coming.
As for the Solterra, like most Subarus, it’s available only with all-wheel-drive, and it boasts relatively generous ground clearance and various electronic off-road assists to help it when the pavement ends. It goes on sale in summer 2022 and will be available in all 50 states but through an online reservation system on Subaru’s website.
Overall Score: 3.5/5 stars
Safety Features: 4/5 stars
All Solterras will come with Subaru’s EyeSight suite of driver assistance features. In addition to automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, the Subaru also comes standard with an active lane departure warning, a lane-tracing system, an intersection assist, and evasive steering assist to prevent the driver from steering into oncoming traffic. It’s a generous package at this price level.
But neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has tested the car yet, so it’s hard to say how they’ll stack up with the competition.
Value: 3/5 stars
The base Solterra Premium starts from just over $46,000 before the $7,500 federal tax credit and any local or state incentives. It’s reasonably well equipped with the aforementioned advanced driver assists, a wi-fi hotspot, heated front seats, and even five USB ports.
For $3,500 more, though, the Limited adds heated rear seats, a power tailgate, and a 360-degree camera, among other features. And three of the five available exterior paint colors are a $395 add-on, while two-tone paint on the top-level Touring trim can cost up to $890 extra.
If you don’t need all-wheel-drive, the related Toyota bZ4X is more than $3,000 less expensive and comes with nearly the same features. The Ford Mustang Mach-E and VW ID.4 are also available with less-expensive front-drive versions that also have a little more range than any Solterra.
And at more than $53,000, the Solterra Touring is more expensive than a base Audi Q4 e-tron with 295 horsepower and very close to the very powerful, 402-horsepower all-wheel-drive Volvo XC40 Recharge. Both are slightly smaller inside than the already compact Subaru, but it gives buyers an idea that the Solterra makes more sense in the lower two trim levels.
Tech Features: 4/5 stars
While the base Premium trim level gets a rather prosaic 8-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system, other models get a large and clear 12.3-inch model. In addition, it uses new, Toyota-derived software that’s worlds better than anything else Subaru offers — not to mention the clunky systems from Audi, VW, and Volvo. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, as is a trial cloud-based navigation system.
Subaru Solterra Connect is a new suite of tech features that provide several connected services, such as cloud-based navigation, a wi-fi hotspot, telematics services for service and safety issues, and remote control over the climate settings and locking. Limited and Touring models also include a digital key that unlocks and start the vehicle with a smartphone app or lets the owner give the key to others for a period of time.
Limited and Touring models include an active parking system for parallel and perpendicular spaces, wireless smartphone charging, and a Harman/Kardon audio system. And the Touring includes a digital rearview mirror that can be switched from a conventional mirror to one that projects a camera image of what’s behind the car.
Practicality: 3/5 stars
At about 27 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up, the space in the Solterra is pretty midpack among the competition — better than an Audi or Volvo, about what you’d find in a Hyundai or Kia, and behind the Ford and VW. But it’s notably compromised by the sloping rear window, making loading tall objects difficult. At least the seats fold flat with the cargo floor.
But space for people is very good. The room, both front, and rear, is generous despite the compact exterior dimensions. And headroom for six-footers is also good, with a rear seat that isn’t punishing, either.
The base model doesn’t get roof rails, and they’re nothing like the ones on the Outback with integrated crossbars. But Subaru made provisions for a hitch that isn’t for towing but for mounting a bike rack. There is no Tesla-esque front trunk, or “frunk,” although that could be said for nearly all Solterra’s rivals.
Styling & Design: 4/5 stars
Those who aren’t fans of some of the blobbier EV SUV shapes will appreciate the more rugged appearance on the Solterra’s exterior. Generous applications of black plastic cladding (also on the new Subaru WRX) help enforce the SUV angle, but so do the sharp lines and sloping rear end. It’s a more defined shape than the rounder Mustang Mach-E, ID.4, and Nissan Ariya.
Things are also mostly good inside, where the controls are nearly as straightforward as a Forester or Outback. The high center console and digital instrument cluster pushed far from the driver might take some getting used to, but most should be comfortable in a short period. There’s also a reasonable amount of storage, and the outward visibility is better than in many modern SUVs, despite the sloping roof.
Less satisfying, however, are some of the materials. While quality is good, the liberal use of gloss black plastic will be a nightmare of smudges. And the overall design doesn’t look or feel as premium as the Audi or Volvo or even the Nissan Ariya. Occupants might also find it dark inside without the panoramic roof that’s only available on the most expensive model — and that doesn’t even open.
Driving Experience: 4/5 stars
Unlike some other brands, Subaru makes things simple regarding powertrain and motor options: there’s only one. With 215 horsepower and all-wheel-drive, the Solterra’s performance specs are hardly scintillating. While performance is perfectly quick with a substantial amount of torque, it can’t hold a candle to rivals from Ford, Hyundai, Kia, and certainly not the Volvo.
Despite this, the Subaru is confident in corners and offers a compliant ride, even on the larger 20-inch wheels. It’s well insulated from road noise, too. However, while there are up to five levels of regenerative braking strength, it doesn’t provide the full one-pedal driving experience that some EVs do.
But what gives the Solterra a leg up on nearly all of its rivals is the standard all-wheel-drive and a generous 8.3 inches of ground clearance. Combined with Subaru’s X-Mode presets for the all-wheel-drive, it gives off-road abilities that rival any one of the company’s gas-powered SUVs.
Fuel Efficiency: 3/5 stars
The 2023 Solterra is rated at 228 miles of range on a full charge by the Environmental Protection Agency. Every version also includes Level 2 and DC fast-charging capability, with a 6.6 kWh charger. Expect a DC fast charger to get it to 80% complete in about an hour.
Among this class of EVs, the rear-wheel-drive Kia EV6 is rated at 232 miles with the standard range battery, but a larger battery version is estimated at 310 miles. And the all-wheel-drive variant is pegged at 274 miles. An all-wheel-drive VW ID.4 is estimated at 251 miles, while a Ford Mustang Mach-E AWD is between 224 and 312 miles (again, depending on the battery size).
Among more upscale models, an Audi Q4 e-tron is rated up to 241 miles, while the Volvo XC40 Recharge gets 223 miles. These models both have standard all-wheel-drive but only one battery size.
What’s it Going to Cost Me?
The 2023 Subaru Solterra starts from $46,220 MSRP and rises to $53,200, including a $1,225 destination charge, excluding applicable local and federal EV incentives. It’s available in three trim levels: Premium, Limited, and Touring.
The Solterra Premium starts from $46,220. Standard equipment includes the 215-horsepower, 249 lb-ft of torque electric powertrain with front and rear 80 kW electric motors, all-wheel-drive, the X-Mode adaptive driving settings with snow, dirt, and mud presets for the all-wheel-drive system, grip control, hill descent mode, a 6.6 kW onboard charger with DC fast charging capability, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, fabric upholstery, a 7-inch LCD instrument panel display, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display, satellite radio, wireless Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto compatibility, integrated streaming audio compatibility, Bluetooth phone and audio compatibility, five USB ports, heated front seats, windshield wiper de-icer, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
The standard Subaru EyeSight suite of driver-assist technology features includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, reverse pedestrian detection alert, safe exit assist alerting passengers of oncoming vehicles, and evasive steering assist, intersection assist, pre-collision braking, and active lane-departure warning.
Also included is the Subaru Solterra Connect suite of connected features, including a wi-fi hotspot, a voice assistant, a cloud-based navigation system, and remote access to the locks and climate control system.
Metallic paint is optional.
The Solterra Limited starts from $49,720. From the Premium’s features, it adds a 12.3-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system, wireless smartphone charging, a 360-degree camera system, rear cross-traffic alert with braking, a digital key, 10-way power driver’s seat, synthetic leather upholstery, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, Harman/Kardon audio system, LED fog lights, power tailgate, rain-sensing wipers, roof rails, and 20-inch wheels.
Finally, the top-level Solterra Touring starts from $53,200. It adds a digital rearview mirror with a camera projecting what’s behind the vehicle, a HomeLink garage door opener system, ventilated front seats, a panoramic glass roof with a powered shade, and interior ambient lighting. Two-tone paint is optional.
If it were our money, we’d pick the mid-grade Limited model because of its larger infotainment screen, a useful 360-degree camera, and heated steering wheel — considering that, if you want a Solterra, you’re likely to venture into some cold climates.