2024 Subaru Solterra

HERNDON, Va. — If you weren’t aware that Subaru had been offering a dedicated battery electric (BEV) for most of the past two years, you’re not alone. The Subaru Solterra, sharing a platform with the equally anonymous Toyota bZ4Z, has received little attention from Subaru’s marketing execs, and even less attention — if that’s possible — from the buying public.

On one level, that’s indicative of a decline in consumer interest across the whole battery-electric genre; on another it’s the increased competition in that segment from other OEMs, along with aggressive discounts from Elon Musk’s Tesla. Regardless of where you are as a consumer or enthusiast, the Solterra is viable, if only because its platform is shared with Toyota, and — not incidentally — you can buy or lease it from your Subaru dealer.

With a base price in the mid-$40s and an as-tested window sticker on our Touring trim of $54K (with destination), the Solterra sits where the bulk of EVs sat (and I include Nissan’s Ariya, Tesla’s Model Y, Ford’s Mach-E and VW’s ID4) before Elon started dropping (price) trou. And as you’ll know, writing a check for upwards of $50K in this market environment — even if you find $10K in the EV’s spare tire well — is certifiably daft. Better, many think, in a time of downward pricing and evolving tech to lease an EV for 2-3 years and let the tech ramp up while prices, in all likelihood, stay down.

There’s a lot to like in your walkup to Subaru’s Solterra. It’s a relatively upright 2-box design with a reasonable greenhouse for visibility, generous doors for easy ingress, and some 30 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the second row. I might argue with the all-too-predictable fender cladding — to make it, I’ll guess, a Subaru — but if you can work through that you’ll find the sheetmetal and general proportions attractive, if a tad generic. And since a great deal of the design is shared with the difficult-to-remember-its-name Toyota, the little bit of differentiation the Solterra received is probably as much as we — and Subaru retailers — might hope.

Beyond its luggage capacity (within its 112-inch wheelbase and 185 inches of overall length) is generous room for four and adequate room for five. Beneath you on the Touring trim is Subaru’s StarTex perforated upholstery, above you is a panoramic moonroof, and in front of you is an almost-intuitive 12.3-inches of multimedia audio, available navigation and a Sirius/XM trial subscription.

Once familiar with the Solterra’s rotary shift knob (which is simple enough) you’re ready to go, until — of course — you’re not. The claimed range of the Solterra is roughly 210 miles, but if (and that’s a probable ‘if’) you engage any aspect of the crossover’s ventilation system that range drops by about 35 miles.

So, I’m going to a Cars and Coffee on the first Saturday of the loan period, see a 100% charge supplying roughly 215 miles of range, engage the windshield and rear window defrost…and I’m suddenly down to 180 miles of range. To be sure, my round-trip is but 20 miles, but the math and its implications (going from Dallas to Austin you should probably stop in Waco…WACO!) are disconcerting.

While the suits at Subaru have done nothing to extend the Solterra’s range for 2024, they have introduced faster charging; the high-capacity lithium-ion battery can be juiced from 10% to 80% in as little as 35 minutes.

Once you work through range anxiety you’ll find the ride and handling exactly what you’d hope from a Toyota/Subaru collaboration. Car and Driver claims a 0-60 time of 6.5 seconds, the ¼ mile in just over 15 and a top speed of 110. That performance is delivered via two motors, one mounted in front and an identical unit powering the rear wheels. Combined output is 215 horsepower, along with 249 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers won’t overwhelm, but neither will the Solterra’s performance leave you underwhelmed; it does exactly what you’d want a family hatch to do in around-town driving or when merging onto a freeway.

All of that, in combination with 8.3 inches of ground clearance, Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, Dual-Function X-MODE and the aforementioned cladding gives you the chance to emulate the Dukes if you’ve got some gravel you need to travel…or a berm you want to jump. (Some 40 years after its network run, there are still guys — in assisted living centers — wanting to jump Daisy…)

Personally, I see an EV as a perfect commuter, or a great passenger pod for weekend errands. And with the few EVs promising something north of 300 miles between charges, you might even — strategically — get out of town. For the Solterra prospect with a Level 2 charger in the garage it’d make a viable lease option (a quick online search suggested lease numbers all over the map), if that lease option is way cheap.

And if it isn’t, it soon will be.

— David Boldt (MyCarData)