Subaru Solterra EV reveals adventurous streak at LA show

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Japanese car maker’s first electric car, on show in LA, promises true off-road ability and a range of more than 450km.

Subaru has unwrapped the new Solterra as its first electric car, with a pledge that “existing Subaru customers can feel it is truly a Subaru”.

Due on sale globally in mid-2022, the Solterra is the second car to emerge from the EV development partnership between Subaru and Toyota, following the reveal of the technically identical Toyota bZ4X last month.

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As suggested by earlier teaser images, the Solterra is a close visual match for its Toyota sibling, save for a new treatment of the front grille and headlights that links it more obviously with Subaru’s existing SUV line-up.

Dimensionally, it is comparable with the combustion-engined Forester crossover, at 4690mm long, 1860mm wide and 1650mm tall.

Despite its close relationship with Toyota’s EV, the Solterra is claimed to have “been built as an authentic SUV in an environmentally friendly package that can be used with peace of mind like the existing Subaru SUV models.”

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Indeed, when Toyota and Subaru initially partnered to develop a new EV-dedicated architecture (called e-TNGA by Toyota and e-Subaru Global Platform by Subaru) – Subaru’s historic affinity for four-wheel drive was highlighted as a particular strength.

Subaru’s influence over the architecture extends to the twin-motor drivetrain – comprising a pair of 80kW motors for a total system output of 160kW and a 0-100km/h time of 7.7sec – which promises precise control of each wheel in turn and “flexible driving force distribution between front and rear”.

A familiar ‘X-Mode’ function enhances the EV’s off-road credentials, while the addition of a new Grip Control mode allows the Solterra to travel stably at speed over rough roads.

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As with the bZ4X, a 150kW front-wheel-drive entry-level model – with a 0-100km/h time of 8.4sec – will be offered, although Subaru has no plan on bringing them to Australia.

Both drivetrain variants take their power from a 71.4kWh battery, which can be expected to offer a range in excess of 450km, as with the Toyota. The Solterra will also get that car’s “efficient and effective” heating system to ensure consistent battery performance in all conditions.

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Although Subaru has released just two images of the car ahead of its Los Angeles debut next week, a first look at the cabin confirms that it will be a near-exact match for the Toyota, with a low-mounted instrument panel, large central touchscreen and textured dashboard. However, it is unclear at this stage whether Subaru will use the same innovative ‘steer-by-wire’ system as its Toyota and Lexus relations.

Felix Page

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