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[NEWS] Subaru Solterra

Subaru Solterra

subaru solterra 01 side panning
Electric Solterra breaks new ground for Subaru but possesses a familiar personality

Co-developed, not badge engineered. That’s how the relationship of the new Subaru Solterra is described to that of its sibling car, the Toyota bZ4X.The bZ4X is the kind of pragmatic car you’d expect from its maker, and likewise the Solterra from Subaru. It’s a spacious, 4.7m-long electric family crossover of the kind of shape and size many car makers are converging on at the same time for their latest mass-market EV offerings, the likes of the Nissan Ariya, Kia EV6, Volkswagen ID 4, and Tesla Model Y among them.Like the bZ4X is for Toyota, the Solterra is the first series-production battery-electric car its maker has made. That co-development has obviously led to many of the specifications of the duo to be identical, yet the two do diverge in some key ways.Whereas Toyota offers a single-motor two-wheel-drive version alongside a dual-motor all-wheel-drive model, for Subaru it’s all-wheel drive only, and unlike in the Toyota, the Subaru’s AWD system is a permanent one thanks to some software changes.There are also styling differences front and rear, and chassis tweaks, the Solterra given a firmer suspension tune and more weighted steering system, plus an extra ‘Power’ driving mode and some paddle shifters to control the level of regenerative braking. Although the workings of the all-wheel drive systems are different, the key hardware of the car isn’t: there are electric motors front and rear for a combined 215bhp and 249lb ft of torque. Power is drawn from a 71.4kWh battery that can be recharged at speeds of up to 150kW. The AWD system being permanent marginally hits efficiency, which is rated 3.9mpkWh, while the range comes in at 289 miles. Our first drive in the Solterra starts initially on an off-road course, which perhaps shows you the positioning Subaru is going for with Solterra: it's very much rooted in the rest of the range in being the kind of safe, secure and adventurous car that can handle the worst of the conditions most of us are ever really likely to  encounter in the real world.And good fun and impressive it is on this course, too. The wading depth of 500mm allows it to conquer the kind of water hazards you see people try (and fail) to tackle on the news when our roads flood, and an X-mode additional driving mode selector tailors the traction control and hill descent systems to tackle the likes of deep snow and mud. There’s also a low-speed off-road cruise control system called Grip Control that can do all the hard work in the mucky stuff for you.On the road, the differences between the bZ4X and Solterra do a very good job of concealing themselves. I drove the two cars back toback, and any differences in the powertrain were indistinguishable. Those dynamic tweaks to stiffen the car are detectable, but it’s marginal and certainly not transformative. That’s no slight on the Solterra, quite the opposite: the BZ4X is a very accomplished car. It sits in that middle ground of doing what it needs to do in an unobtrusive and inoffensive way. There’s as much power as you need, delivered in a way that’s all very predictable, while riding quietly and comfortably and steering and handling predictably, if not in an involving way. Many of its other more rational qualities carry over, too, including a hugely spacious cabin that’s particularly mighty on rear leg room, and a 452-litre boot that, while not class leading in size, is a very useful and usable shape with Tardis-like qualities. Shock verdict alert, then: the four-star rating of the bZ4X can also be found on the Solterra. Would you go for one over the other? Mostly, this will come down to brand loyalty, or proximity to your local dealer, given there’s so little in it on price.For the majority, that will be the Toyota. For Subaru lovers, the loyal bunch that they are, they’ll find a car that is an impressive first foray into electrification and shows how so many of the qualities from the Subarus of the old world can survive and thrive in the new. Qualities that are plentiful enough to win over many new fans, too. ProsRelaxed, comfortable drive | Plentiful performance | Impressive off-road abilityConsReal-world range struggles to hit 250 miles | Limited dealer network | Not much fun to drive

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