Subaru Solterra EV: handles rough terrain with ease
This sleek, futuristic newcomer to the market has a stealthy electric motor, says Ed Coles
Pros: All-wheel drive makes off-piste driving easy
Price as reviewed: £49,995
Cons: Full charge is not as advertised
Subaru is the latest manufacturer to join the all-electric market. The Solterra was slightly late to the party, but Subaru has had a sneaky hand in the game for a while now. It’s been collaborating, developing extension-lead powered off-road abilities — and some readers may find the Solterra strikes a resemblance to a Toyota. That aside, let’s crack on.
Sleek meets futuristic ruggedness. The overall silhouette is pleasing to the eye despite its familiarity. There are some bold angles incorporated in the styling, which marry well with the LED lights front and rear. The Solterra is certainly eye-catching, and it has a higher-end look.
Crouching down with a feedbag, there’s not much to take in — it’s mostly industry-standard plastic under-trays. We’ve got 177mm of ground clearance before we scuff the bottom, and we can see a bit of the front-running gear, with MacPherson struts and regenerative brakes.
It’s more interesting at the back; we can see the independent suspension and a bit of the rear all-wheel drive (AWD) motor. The driveshafts look skinny, but the Solterra comes from a good 4×4 heritage. There’s no tow bar, and a 750kg towing weight means we won’t be taking the bowser out.
Opening the bonnet, we can see a section of the electric power unit. It’s an AC permanent-magnet synchronous motor that produces 107bhp. At the back, we have an identical motor that provides drive to the rear wheels. This gives the Solterra a combined maximum power of 215bhp and 337Nm of torque. With a zero to 62mph of 6.9 seconds and a top speed of 100mph, the Solterra should be fun. Off-road looks promising too; the Solterra’s permanent AWD uses the X-mode system.
Room for kit
The boot is of a reasonable size, although tall dogs may struggle. There’s plenty of room for kit or shopping, easily taking six bags of wheat and room for a cocker. The gun slip squeezes in at an angle, but my rifle sticks are definitely a back seat job. With the seats down, the space doubles but it would be nice if the load area was flat. (Read more about transporting guns in cars.)
It’s plush inside. The practicalities of light-coloured carpet seats are up for debate, but they’re comfortable and heated. The sleek black dash with a central 12.3in touchscreen looks high-end and has all the latest gadgets, entertainment, connectivity, driver safety aids and all the usual acronyms. There is optional wireless mobile charging, a 360-degree panoramic view monitor and a driver-monitoring camera to keep an eye on you on long journeys as well. Reversing out of my driveway, the Solterra handles the craters well, with only a mild bit of rocking from the suspension. Pulling out on to the back road with a heavy right foot, the electric motors launch us down the lane. It handles the ripples in the road well, and the handling feels positive through the twisty bits. It’s a comfortable ride, but it would be a good idea to increase the stiffness of the suspension.
The drive is smooth and constant in eco and normal mode, but power mode livens things up. X-mode has three settings: snow/mud, deep snow/mud (up to 13mph) and grip control for off-piste (up to 6mph).
Heading into the wood there is a lot of tyre spinning, but after a pause the AWD system kicks in. Straddling the ruts through the wood, the all-wheel drive performs well. An addition of raisable suspension to the X-mode settings would be good, but the 177mm has done well.
The Solterra is nimble through the avenue up to the wet wood and handles the potholes with ease, with a bit of bouncing. Traction along the woodland track is good, the X-mode keeping us on the straight and narrow. I like the stealthiness of the electric motor, and it’s not been bad on eco safari around Edwardshire.
The Solterra is a versatile SUV that performs well on and off-road. It’s comfortable, with an understated high-end feel. It could do with a bit more ground clearance and maybe a tweak to the suspension, but overall it’s pretty impressive off-road. Regarding buying one, I would recommend getting the fast charging plumbed in for optimal use. The three-pin AC charging is a bit long-winded and frustrating. It claims 91/2 hours for a full charge, but I was getting around 80 miles of charge in eight hours, and it seemed like I was having to plug it in all the time while parked up. I’m sure a fast charge would improve the situation.
With a range of 286 miles its eco-credentials look good, but you do have to drive it sedately to achieve that. That said, it is fun to drive and definitely capable of a day in the field. The Solterra is available in two specs and, unlike the Toyota variant, AWD is standard on both. The Limited version like this starts at £49,995 on the road, and the higher-spec Touring is £52,995.
Solterra – need to know
- Manufacturer Subaru
- Front motor 107bhp
- Rear motor 107bhp
- Max power 215bhp
- Maximum torque 337nm
- Top speed 100mph, 0 to 62mph 6.9 seconds
- Range 286 miles
- Battery Type Lithium ion
- Nominal voltage 355
- Capacity 71.4kWh
- No of cells 96
- Ground clearance 177mm
- Towing weight 750kg