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Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel-drive is standard on the Solterra.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Subaru’s first all-electric vehicle, the Solterra, shares its platform with the Toyota bZ4X. This is the second collaboration between the Japanese auto makers with the first being two gas-powered sports cars – the Subaru BRZ and the Toyota GR86. This time, it is an all-electric joint venture with the Solterra and bZ4X. The all-wheel-drive version of the bZ4X and the Solterra, which comes only in all-wheel drive, start at just under $55,000 and both are produced at Toyota’s Motomachi assembly plant in Japan.

“For Subaru, we’re a smaller car maker so a collaboration with a much bigger partner like Toyota is extremely important for us. We want to and we need to start making electric vehicles. Their development is extremely expensive so collaborations like this really help us move things forward much more quickly than we would have been able to do otherwise,” said Brad Evans, car line manager at Subaru Canada Inc.

Size wise, the Solterra compact SUV is about the same length as the Subaru Forester. The height and width are similar to an Outback and the wheelbase is on par with the three-rowed Ascent. But the Solterra is powered by dual 80-kilowatt electric motors, which produce 215 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque and have a range of up to 360 kilometres – a bit low compared to some competitors. “We’ve been conservative in rating the Solterra … but conservative doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s worse. 360 kilometres actually takes you a lot farther than you expect,” said Evans.

We test that premise on a 215-kilometre road trip from Dana Point, Calif., about 100 kilometres south of Los Angeles, to Palm Springs on curvy back mountain roads instead of major highways. On our route is an unexpected off-road course in the desert – an ideal spot to test Subaru’s electric off-roading capabilities as well as its symmetrical all-wheel-drive system and a new X-mode function designed to tackle uneven terrain.

The Solterra has dual 80-kilowatt electric motors, which produce 215 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

While the Solterra has different drive modes – Eco, Normal and Power, the X-Drive mode has a grip control feature, which helps when driving down hills. It acts as a low-speed cruise control so the driver doesn’t touch a pedal and the vehicle crawls down hills at speeds between two and 10 kilometres an hour. Driving over ruts, the system worked well and provided excellent grip with little wheel slippage. While the all-wheel-drive power distribution is 50:50, the system can also distribute 70 per cent of its torque to the front axle or 60 per cent to the rear, as needed, to help get out of sticky situations.

With 21 centimetres of ground clearance, driving over obstacles proved effortless for the Solterra. The vehicle was stable and solid with excellent traction and rugged performance capabilities.

The Solterra has a 72.8-kilowatt-hours of battery capacity and claimed range of up to 360 kilometres.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

On the road, the Solterra is pleasant to drive and feels like a Toyota bZ4X. The S pedal drive, which is the strongest level of regenerative braking, lets you accelerate or decelerate using one pedal. But the system can’t bring the vehicle to a complete stop – it can only slow the car to six or seven kilometres an hour. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel also lets you access lower levels of regenerative braking when the accelerator is not pressed to help recuperate lost energy and boost range.

The 72.8-kilowatt-hour battery pack runs along the floor and creates a flat cabin surface with respectable head and legroom for rear-seat passengers. The charging port is located on the driver’s side and can accommodate Level 1, 2, or 3 fast charging. The number of Level 3 fast chargings is limited to two per day to protect the battery.

“Fast charging at a slower rate will prolong the battery life and the development target for this model is 90 per cent battery retention after 10 years,” said Evans. The battery and electric drive units are covered under warranty for eight years or 160,000 kilometres.

Evans is right on the range front. Surprisingly, 360 kilometres got us a lot farther than expected. We began the day with 377 kilometres of range and arrived in Palm Springs with 158 kilometres of electric range. After turning off the air conditioning, radio and ventilated front seats, the range increased to 202 kilometres.

The 2023 Subaru Solterra is already on sale in Canada. Prices starts at $54,295. Wait times vary depending on the dealership.

Tech specs

2023 Subaru Solterra

  • Base price: $54,295 – $62,095 (plus $1,995 Freight and pre-delivery inspection)
  • Motors/drive: Dual 80-kilowatt electric motor (front and rear)/all-wheel drive
  • Battery capacity: 72.8-kilowatt-hours
  • Charging time: Level 1 – 50-77 hours; Level 2 – 9 – 11 hours; DC fast-charger (100-kilowatts) – 10 to 80 per cent in 60 minutes
  • Horsepower/torque (lb-ft): 215/248
  • Claimed Range: up to 360 kilometres
  • Alternatives: Tesla Model Y, Nissan Ariya, Volkswagen ID.4, Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, Chevrolet Blazer EV


The design language of the Solterra resembles other electric vehicles on the road. Attractive touches include matte black plastic cladding, a closed front grille, Subaru’s signature C-shaped headlamps and a distinct colour called harbour mist grey.


The Solterra has a high-mounted seven-inch digital gauge cluster that can be difficult to see over the steering wheel.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

A modern tech-savvy interior, but I’m not a fan of the high-mounted seven-inch digital gauge cluster. The top of the steering wheel obstructs the view so it’s hard to see necessary driver’s information. The 12.3-inch landscape touchscreen, available on higher trims, is intuitive and easy to use with useful hard buttons and switches nearby.


The ride is comfortable and smooth. And the real-life driving range performed better than expected. Off-road capability is impressive. Definitely rugged and capable of tackling tough terrain.


As expected from Subaru, there’s plenty of standard safety technologies such as lane tracing assist, adaptive cruise control, and an advanced parking system. Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel-drive is standard, too.


The Solterra has 820 litres of cargo space in the trunk.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Flexible cargo space. The deckboard can be lowered by 71 millimetres to increase cargo carrying capacity to 820 litres from 784. There’s also a compartment under the flat trunk that is enough space for the charging cable. While there’s no front trunk, you can fold down the rear seats for added space in the rear.

The verdict

The Solterra starts at $54,295.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Subaru’s first EV is a competent and capable vehicle with an abundance of standard features like symmetrical all-wheel drive. But for people craving long road trips, the 360 kilometres of range and longer charging times may be an issue.

The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.

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