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Subaru Solterra test drive 2024: adding a credible EV to the range

The Subaru Solterra, the company’s only new-for-2023 electric car, had “first attempt” written almost all over it. Essentially a kissing cousin of Toyota’s first electric car, the bZ4X (arguably the worst named import since the Merkur XR4Ti), the Solterra SUV gave Subaru an electric toe to dip in the water and get its share of those $7500 federal tax credits to claim.

As an aside, this tax credit only applies to rental contracts. Because the Solterra is built in Japan (65 percent Japanese parts, 35 percent Chinese, our window sticker says), the $7500 cannot be applied to the purchase. The main difference between the bZX4 and the Solterra is that the Toyota is offered with front-wheel drive, and the Subaru only with four-wheel drive.

For 2024, the Subaru Solterra has enough updates to make it feel like a brave second attempt. Most importantly, it charges faster: For 2023, Subaru said the battery on a DC fast charger could reach 80 percent capacity “in about an hour,” which lagged behind the competition. By 2024 this will only be about 35 minutes. Subaru says it can also charge “significantly faster” than the 2023 model in cold climates.

2024 Subaru Solterra plug-in hybrid cover
Steven Cole Smith

Range is the same as in 2023, estimated at 220 miles after a full charge for base models with 18-inch tires and wheels, or 220 miles for models with 20-inchers, including this test vehicle. Our test Solterra came with a 94 percent charge, which, according to the dashboard, was equivalent to 200 miles of juice. For comparison, Kia says the 2024 EV6 Wind e-AWD has an estimated range of 452 miles and a combined output of 320 horsepower, which is 105 more than the Solterra, at a similar base price as our test vehicle.

In terms of dimensions, the Solterra can compete with most of the competition. The length is 184.6 inches, one inch shorter than a Ford Mustang Mach-E. The width is 74.1 inches, a tenth of an inch wider than a Kia EV-6. The Subaru has 23.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats in place, and 63.5 cubic feet with the rear seat backs folded.

2024 Subaru Solterra interior front dash corner
Subaru

Inside it is spacious for four, a bit tight for five. The interior has a luxurious appearance; the exterior styling is quite busy and angular, but inside the cockpit the design is largely conventional, apart from the new oval steering wheel. I like steering wheels with a flat bottom, like this one: they make it easier to slide into the driver’s seat.

In the center is a wide console that leads to the 12.3-inch multifunction touchscreen. Instruments and controls, while not exactly intuitive, are fairly easy to figure out. The sound system, an 11-speaker, 576-watt Harmon Kardon, was fine, but most premium stereos are consistently good these days.

Specifications: 2024 Subaru Solterra Touring

  • Base price/as tested: $44,995/$54,558
  • Powertrain: Dual electric motors, one at the front axle and one at the rear, with a 96-cell lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 72.8 kWh
  • Combined output: 215 hp; 249 Nm of torque
  • Layout: Four-wheel drive, five-passenger SUV
  • Approximate range at full charge: 222 miles
  • 0-100 km/h: 6.7 seconds
  • Competitors: Toyota bZ4X, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Chevrolet Blazer EV, Kia EV6

From the outside, the design doesn’t exactly resemble a member of the Subaru family. I like it, but if you choose the ‘Elemental Red Pearl’ paint you also get a ‘Galactic Black’ finish (the colors cost an extra $890, the special names are free), plus those big charcoal arches over the front and rear wheels that go well with colors such as gray or blue, but contrast loudly with the red. Not everyone was in favor of it. The bZ4X has the same plastic covering; neither company has made much of an effort to differentiate the exterior styling. Nor is the driving style.

2024 Subaru Solterra rear three-quarters
Steven Cole Smith

Because it’s a Subaru, the company’s marketing goes out of its way to paint the Solterra as an off-roader, but that’s a tall order. Yes, it has 8.3 inches of ground clearance, but that’s barely more than the Toyota bZ4X’s 8.1 inches, and Toyota’s press materials only refer in passing to “off-pavement exploration.” Both companies offer Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud settings, and Grip Control and Downhill Assist Control, both of which use the same name for all those self-explanatory settings, quite unusual for two separate brands.

Another side note: In case you were wondering (I wasn’t, but maybe you are), the name Solterra “was created using the Latin words for ‘Sun’ and ‘Earth’ to represent Subaru’s commitment to delivering traditional SUV capabilities in an environmentally friendly way. responsible package,” says the company. That is probably one of the reasons that the comfortable seats are covered with polyurethane “StarTex”, which is definitely not leather. Basic models use ‘fabric’. Helpfully, Subaru explains that polyurethane is “synthetic plastic,” presumably compared to plastic that grows in the wild.

2024 Subaru Solterra interior dashboard front
Subaru

On the road, despite only having 215bhp in total, the Solterra has more power than you’d expect, and our 0-62mph time of 6.7 seconds isn’t bad. During many local and highway trips I never wanted more power. That said, the base AWD Ford Mach-E comes with 266 horsepower, and Ford says the 0-60 mph time is 5.2 seconds. Not that owners are likely to tow either vehicle.

The Solterra drives well in the city, but its long suit is its performance on the highway. The fairly simple, independent suspension – MacPherson struts and coil springs at the front, double wishbones at the rear – ensures a smooth ride despite all bumps. The steering feels right on center and requires no constant adjustment to keep the Solterra in a straight line.

2024 Subaru Solterra three-quarter blur action at the front
Subaru

I haven’t had the opportunity to extensively test the Solterra’s off-road capabilities; the cow dragging we did could have been mastered by a Ford Crown Victoria. I have no doubt the Subaru can handle some moderate obstacles, and it certainly has plenty of electronic assistants to navigate various surfaces. But before I tackle anything challenging, I want a more aggressive tire profile than what is available on the Solterra.

The Solterra is offered in Premium, Limited and Touring versions, with Touring being the top model. Our Solterra was a Touring model, with a starting price of $51,995, a significant step up from the Premium’s $44,995. With freight ($1345) and a handful of minor options, our test car cost $54,558.

For that, you get just about everything you could want, from a panoramic moonroof to a 360-degree camera to the fancy alloy wheels, plus a long list of electronic safety features. Like the Subaru-Toyota marriage that spawned the successful Subaru BRZ and its near-twin, the Toyota GR86, this Solterra/bZ4X collaboration works very well.

2024 Subaru Solterra front three-quarter
Steven Cole Smith

2024 Subaru Solterra Touring

Price: $54,558

Highlights: Luxury interior; excellent ride, especially on the highway; comfortable seats front and rear, best ground clearance in its class.

low points: Mediocre range and charging time, polarizing styling, pricey unless you just want an electric Subaru.

Takeaway: If you can live with the range and mediocre power, this is pretty much a vice-free electric SUV with some moderate off-road capabilities.

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