Solterra and Forester Wilderness rekindled my love for Subaru | Opinion

Solterra and Forester Wilderness rekindled my love for Subaru | Opinion

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BUCKEYE, Ariz. — When I was getting ready to get my driver’s license in the late 1990s, I was obsessed with the first-generation Subaru Outback. I already had a thing for wagons, it appeared, and an all-wheel-drive wagon only seemed cooler. I ended up with my sister’s S-10 Blazer, and later an XJ Cherokee, but my heart would still skip a beat when I saw those big windows perched on top of a layer cake of sheet metal and plastic cladding. It was in love.

I finally got my Subaru fix in the form of a 2004 WRX, which I purchased new in 2003. I owned it for about a decade and a half before I reluctantly sold it. I freaking loved that car, and even though I was tempted to update my garage with subsequent WRX models, this one had everything I needed. But I grew up, and my family increased in population from me and a few cats to add a wife, a kid and a constantly fluctuating number of pets (the former of which now includes a large dog who might actually be part horse). Meanwhile, Subaru’s product lineup had evolved, hitting a crescendo for my brand infatuation with the launch of the superbly fun BRZ. A few years after our first child arrived, I decided to part ways with Sarah Michelle Gellar (yes, the WRX had a name, and that was it). At the end, that car was mostly sitting unused, as the fun but increasingly aged and impractical-to-me compact sports sedan took a back seat to the cars I needed to review for work.


Other Subarus I had driven in the interim hadn’t provided me with that same spark. I liked them just fine, and there were moments when I felt an inkling of what I’d felt before — an exceptionally exciting corner at Thermal in the STI Type RA, catching an enormous drift on a frozen lake in a BRZ with studded tires, the first quarter mile after the pavement ended in the 2020 Outback. I’d get flickers of that sensation I used to feel all the time when driving my WRX or walking a Subaru lot as a younger adult. The lineup for the past 10 years just hadn’t tickled my fancy the way it did back then.

Then, this spring, I drove the 2023 Subaru Solterra, and really felt, despite the amount of Toyota baked into it, that it fit into my previous vision of what the Subaru brand was. The electric motor’s instant torque was the cure for any sadness I’d felt from the disappearance of turbochargers from the Forester lineup, and its all-wheel drive and mild off-roading capacity was still what I’d expect from anything but the BRZ. That drive stuck with me, and brought back memories I’d had test-driving older Subarus and of doing silly, happy things in my WRX.