Subaru Solterra, the road test (and off-road)

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At European latitudes the Subaru brand is to be considered a “niche” brand: just think that of the 860,000 units sold around the world last year, just over 22,000 ended up in Europe. The fact remains that 50% of sales in the old continent have hybrid engines and that there is a plan for the radical electrification of the Japanese manufacturer’s range. It is in this context that the new Solterra fits, the first electric Subaru sold globally. The name already clarifies the green ambitions of the product: “Sol” refers to the main star for our planet and “earth” is, to put it in Subaru fashion, “the home that we must protect”. Yes, the message is very hippies. But certainly the intentions are noble and indisputable. In other words, the electric future of the house of the Pleiades starts here.

And it is a half-engineered future with Toyota and its bZ4X, twin of the Solterra: the two cars differ aesthetically in the design of the front portion. However, the technical and mechanical bases are the same, daughters of a joint design. From Toyota comes the TNGA modular platform and electrified mechanics. Subaru brings in its fifty-year know-how on all-wheel drive, adapted to the characteristics of a battery-powered car (which lacks the traditional transmission shaft between the two axles), and safety-related technologies, as well as its imprinting in vehicle dynamics.

4.7 meters long, the Solterra offers a generous wheelbase of 2.85 meters – a guarantee of good internal roominess – and a boot of 452 litres. However, a glove box in front of the passenger is missing, replaced by a less practical compartment under the center console. On the other hand, the ones behind the “gearbox” selector are comfortable: the front one also includes a wireless charger for smartphones. Fair quality of materials and assembly.

The Solterra is driven by a pair of 218 HP electric motors, one for each axle so you can count on four-wheel drive, just like on any self-respecting Subaru. Weight? Just over 2 tons; not a few, of course, but at least “lightened” by the low center of gravity, typical of electron cars. The architecture is the most popular, with the flat battery, 96 kWh capacity, hidden under the floor, between the two axles.

On the road, the bulk is further masked by a suspension set-up that yields little to roll and pitch. As well as a steering with a reduced diameter, ready and giving an excellent sensation of control of the vehicle. The feeling of the brakes is also good. Yes, the car seems to weigh less and instills confidence both in the most sudden changes of direction and in the highway bends tackled at high speed. For the rest, the driving experience is that ensured by cars on tap: vigorous sprint, extremely silent driving (disturbed only by a few too many aerodynamic noises coming from the side mirrors), excellent pickup. Too bad for the particular setting of the driver’s seat: the instrumentation, placed very high up, forces you to drive with the steering wheel in the low position, otherwise the upper portion of the crown ends up covering the digital instrument panel.

Three driving modes, which optimize range or performance. Also worth mentioning is the “S Pedal”, with which it is possible to accelerate and decelerate using only the accelerator pedal. The paddles on the steering wheel, on the other hand, are not used to change gear: as on other electric cars, in fact, they regulate the car’s engine brake (the higher the latter, the greater the amount of energy recovered during deceleration).

Where the Solterra really amazes, however, is in off-road driving: the good ground clearance, the generous drive torque – delivered instantly – and the four-wheel drive management logic, derived from Subaru’s experience in the off-road field, make the vehicle surprisingly performing even in the most demanding off-road conditions. It is no coincidence that, in addition to underbody protection for the battery pack, the car is also equipped with functions that allow you to maintain a constant speed (essential off-road) both on the most impervious climbs and on the most treacherous descents. Not even the fords are a problem.

Autonomy? Up to 465 homologated km – more realistically around 350 “real” – which drop to 414 if you opt for the Solterra in the richest trim, with 20″ rims (and this says a lot about the usefulness of using extra-large rims, so trendy lately). Figures that are reduced using the air conditioning which, however, has an “Eco” function, the best compromise between fresh air and autonomy. Recharge times: with 150 kW direct current, 80% replenishment can be reached in about 30 minutes. Active safety has been taken care of, which includes devices such as adaptive cruise control – which automatically maintains pre-set travel speeds and safety distances – automatic emergency braking, lane maintenance system and road sign recognition. Prices starting from 59,900 euros.

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