2023 Subaru Solterra EV Easily Tackles the Terrain Off-Road with AWD

Photo credit: Subaru
Photo credit: Subaru
  • The Solterra, Subaru’s latest collaboration with Toyota, is an all-electric compact crossover with standard all-wheel drive and a promised range of 222 miles.

  • Despite its EV format, the Solterra doesn’t drift far from Subaru formula, its AWD layout and utility-focused shape striking the same notes fans of the brand have long admired.

  • First year build allotment of the car are already sold out, however, even before stickers were released; the Solterra starts at $46,220.

The first EV from Subaru is (finally) a clear fulfillment of the car company’s eco-image. When Subaru revealed the car would be a joint venture product with Toyota, questions emerged. How Subaru would it be? The BRZ collaboration with Toyota resulted in a mash-up of a Subaru boxer engine with a common body fronted by different grilles. That combo worked, although some questioned whether it was really a Subaru since it didn’t have AWD.


We got a taste of the new electric SUV at a press preview and can affirm the 2023 Solterra is solidly Subaru, a truly capable off-road machine that is just as comfortable heading down the headway as the backroads.

There is a catch, however: Subaru’s allocation of 6500 Solterras for this year are already sold out. Subaru has been taking reservations for the EV as a way of laying groundwork for a completely new product and evidently overshot the mark. Unseen and obviously not test-driven, the demand for a Subaru EV is clearly beyond the initial thoughts of the Subaru-Toyota planners. Since it is being built in a plant that produces a variety of other models, there will likely be some juggling going on in the manufacturing offices of Toyota, which is the designated builder of the Solterra and its siblings, the Toyota bZX4 and Lexus RZ 450e. Stay tuned; Subaru seems eager to bump up its numbers, and Toyota is the world’s largest car maker.

Along the dusty, almost empty roads on Catalina Island where the test drive occurred, we were able to put the SUV up against some fairly serious off-road terrain. Solterra ate up the route (this portion of Catalina is a conservancy with very limited vehicles—we saw more backpackers than cars and trucks). The ups and downs of the island put Subaru’s X-mode, Grip Control and Hill Ascent/Descent Assist to the test while the 8.3 inches of ground clearance came in handy in some of the deeply rutted trails.

Photo credit: Subaru
Photo credit: Subaru

Proudly labeled as Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, the system is basically a Toyota AWD system tuned to Subaru’s specifications. It works. Based on test reels from the development team as well as my own time behind the wheel, it’s clear Subaru’s long history with four-wheel-drive vehicles led to a trustworthy piece of technology.

The up-and-down of the island topography leads to another observation. Typical Subaru off-roading—slow speed, hilly climbs, and dips—is very EV friendly. Though we drive several dozen miles, because of regen we didn’t really burn up that many electrons.

On the highways around Santa Barbara, I took the Solterra on what will be its more typical use—cruising the freeways and backroads around Southern California. The power of its dual motors’ 215 horsepower (80kW) made easy work of threading through traffic and passing slower trucks. Delivering 249 lb-ft of torque instantly and having a super low center of gravity (in spite of the generous ground clearance) added to the fun over some of the backroads and sped up the boring sections of relatively straight highway.

To maximize efficiency the design of the Solterra features an array of aerodynamic touches, such as front air vents to reduce drag around the wheels, winglets off the rear of the roof to reduce turbulence and a completely flat floor pan. The result of all this wind-tunnel magic: a 0.28 Cd, almost as slick moving through the air as the BRZ. Of course if you stick a kayak on top like many Subaru owners do, those numbers are out the window.

Photo credit: Subaru
Photo credit: Subaru

Subaru did a good job inside the cabin, which is spacious thanks to the long wheelbase and flat floor. The backseat is ample for sitting, but with the seat backs folded down it provides 73 inches of cargo space. As a nod to its eco-following, Subaru offers its StarTex vegan leather interior. Seating is comfortable and supportive for both freeway hauling and light off-roading. The center screen in the base (Premium) model is eight inches, growing to 12.3 inches in the Limited and Touring trims.

One observation (pun intended). Part of the Subaru-Toyota interior design consists of a lowered cowl (the front edge of the windshield), which aides forward visibility. Subaru took advantage of that by elevating the driver gauge cluster, essentially creating a poor man’s head-up display by putting it in your line of site above the steering wheel.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

One missing piece of the Solterra puzzle up to this point was pricing, which Subaru released just today (April 25). The Premium model will start at $46,220, Limited at $49,720 and Touring at $53,220, reflecting the increasing level of standard equipment. All models will be eligible for the federal tax credit as well as any state or local EV incentives. Subaru is sweetening the deal by offering a $400 credit that can be used either for high-speed charging on the EVgo network or for installation of 240-Volt home charging unit through QMerit.

Of course this information appears only to be relevant to the 6500 Solterra reservation holders. I trust they will use it well.

What you think about the Subaru Solterra and how it will fare? Share your thoughts in the comments below.