Subaru is set to be caught up in frenzy of battery-car launches coming next year, the automaker releasing teaser images of the Solterra EV model it’s developing as part of a joint venture with Toyota.
The smaller of the Japanese automakers is doling out details with an eye dropper. It insists the battery-electric vehicle will incorporate “Subaru DNA.” Perhaps, but based on what it is offering up, it seems reasonable to expect that Solterra’s underlying drivetrain, as well as the electric SUV’s overall design, will stray little from what Toyota has coming next year in the form of its first long-range BEV, the bZ4X.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. As the two automakers have demonstrated with the second-generation Subaru BRZ and Toyota GR 86 sports cars, they seem to be able to work well together and deliver products that hit the mark in terms of performance and handling.
A look at the future
Lisa Materazzo, group vice president of Toyota Marketing, offered some insight into what is coming back in June when she noted the bZ4X is “roughly the size of a RAV4, with the versatility to stand apart from other BEVs, it will be well positioned in the sweet spot of the market.”
The images Subaru has released offer still more insight. From a silhouette perspective, Solterra adopts a relatively blunt, upright front end that is likely to abandon a traditional grille — BEVs needing relatively little air under the hood. The overall shape has clearly been sculpted in the wind tunnel, starting with the way the multi-element LED headlamps flow back into the front quarter panels.
The wheel arches flare out, giving the Solterra a more muscular and rugged appearance than some current EV models. The roofline has a relatively gentle arch to it, flowing into an integrated rear spoiler. The tailgate is steeply raked and there’s a possibility the design will bring enough airflow over the back glass to allow Subaru to forego a rear wiper.
An overhead shot, meanwhile, appears to reveal a nearly all-glass roof. The side image shows cladding virtually identical to what was seen in images of the Toyota bZ4X.
A shot of the back end reveals traditional Subaru badging, along with a new, blue “EV” logo.
It’s what’s on the inside that matters
Subaru also released a night shot of Solterra’s interior and it suggests the automaker has gone for a look that is not only high tech but also more luxurious than we’ve seen with the brand’s existing line-up.
The cabin is dominated by a widescreen infotainment display, while a higher-mounted digital gauge cluster is just barely visible behind the steering wheel. While there appear to be individual controls for a variety of different vehicle functions, such as climate control, most seem to rely on capacitive touch technology. The one exception looks to be a rotary multifunction knob just below the point where the touchscreen wraps into the center console.
The precise timing of the Subaru Solterra’s launch hasn’t been confirmed but, like the Toyota bZ4X, it’s widely expected to roll out in mid to late 2022 as a 2023 model-year offering.
The Solterra is, for now, the only BEV that Subaru has confirmed. But the relationship with Toyota could provide other opportunities in the future. The Japanese giant isn’t moving as aggressively into all-electric products as rivals like General Motors and Volkswagen. It is betting that conventional and plug-in hybrids will dominate consumer demand for at least the rest of this decade. Nonetheless it is working up seven Beyond Zero battery-electric vehicles. The automaker plans to add another eight BEVs to its line-up, as well — though not all will come to the U.S.