A week before its first fully electric model makes its formal debut at the LA Auto Show, Subaru scooped itself by revealing its Solterra battery-electric car in Japan.
The Subaru Solterra is the result of a joint effort between the Japanese automaker and its larger partner, Toyota — which will market a version of its own in the form of the bZ4X.
The underlying platform will “form the cornerstone for Subaru’s future BEVs,” the smaller automaker said during the Solterra launch event. However, Subaru has not yet indicated how many more all-electric models it plans to bring to market.
An expanding partnership
Both partners were, until recently, reluctant to enter the all-electric vehicle space. Toyota, in particular, was focused on conventional and plug-in hybrids. But, with the rest of the industry rapidly shifting to BEVs, they have entered the emerging segment. Toyota, in particular, plans to bring out 13 battery-electric models by 2025, nearly half wearing the bZ — “Beyond Zero” — badge.
CEO Tomomi Nakamura made it clear that Subaru’s electrified future will be closely aligned with that of its largest shareholder. “The EV market is not mature yet, so we will respond to it by deepening our cooperation with Toyota,” Nakamura said in Tokyo.
Subaru didn’t reveal much about the new Solterra, saving a number of key details for the official unveiling in Los Angeles on Nov. 17.
Range and charging
It did confirm that there were will be at least two versions. A single-motor, front-wheel-drive Subaru Solterra will get an estimated 530 km, or 329 miles, per charge. That will dip to 460 km, or 286 miles, with the twin-motor, all-wheel-drive model. Those figures are based on the global WLTP test cycle. EPA numbers for the U.S. typically run at least 20% lower. The BEV uses a heat pump system to reduce energy losses during cold weather, the automaker said.
The Subaru Solterra carries a 71.4 kilowatt-hour battery, about 10% bigger than the pack in the comparably sized Chevrolet Bolt EUV. The automaker said the pack will be able to go from zero to an 80% state-of-charge within 30 minutes using a 150 kilowatt DC fast-charger.
Solterra, like the Toyota bZ4X, uses a skateboard-like platform placing the batteries and motors under the floorboards, a layout that both lowers the center of gravity and provides additional room for passengers and cargo.
The smaller manufacturer took the lead in developing the drivetrain technology for both BeVs. The AWD Solterra features an all-electric version of Subaru’s X-Mode technology, introducing a system dubbed “Grip Control,” meant to enhance operations on rough roads and in off-road situations.
This marks the latest time the carmakers have worked together. They recently introduced the second-generation Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 models. But where those compact sports car are all but identical, the companies worked to give Solterra and bZ4X somewhat more distinctive designs.
The Subaru has a distinctive nose and rear end, with a hexagon grille and C-shaped taillights. Solterra will come with 18-inch wheels, though 20s will be optional. Overall dimensions are nearly identical but for width, the bZ4X measuring about a half-inch wider.
Inside, the Solterra skips the unusual, yoke-style steering “wheel” found on the Toyota BEV. But both vehicles share the same steer-by-wire technology.
Still more details should be revealed during next week’s LA Auto Show. Like the bZ4X, the Subaru Solterra is expected to reach U.S. showrooms by mid-2022.