Subaru is officially joining the electric car game, debuting a new SUV based on the platform that the company worked with Toyota to build. Called the Subaru Solterra, the vehicle will feature an all-wheel drive system with Subaru’s world-renowned “X-Mode” feature, plus it will get some kind of off-road cruise control. Here’s what we know so far.
June of 2019 was an exciting time because the world got its first close look at how Toyota and Subaru planned to work together to develop an electric car platform called “e-TNGA.” This was a big deal, because these two companies had, up until then, been small players in the high-volume EV space, especially in the U.S..
It took two years from then, but in June of 2021 we saw the first fruits of that development, the RAV4-sized Toyota bZ4X concept car, whose production variant Toyota showed just a few weeks ago:
Now we’re seeing for the first time the direction Subaru is taking with that e-TNGA platform (which Subaru calls e-Subaru), and the takeaway is: The Subaru Solterra prototype is pretty much the same car as the Toyota bZ4X.
Obviously, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a Toyota and Subaru that share body panels — the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 come to mind. But this is Subaru’s very first EV; sharing a platform makes total sense from a cost-sharing standpoint, but to enter the EV world with the same sheetmetal as another company? Even the interiors are essentially the same. Here’s the Toyota:
And here’s the Subi:
Heck, even the wheels are essentially congruent. Meanwhile, Kia and Hyundai — two brands under the same corporate umbrella — built two completely different-looking small-ish SUVs (the Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5) on the same e-GMP platform. (I’ll have an article on those two soon, as I recently drove them back-to-back).
Maybe I’m being a bit too critical, here. I guess I just expect brands to want to distinguish themselves more, especially when launching a vehicle that represents their entry into the new electric world. But it’s clear that this extreme level of cost-sharing made sense financially right now for Subaru, which is a relatively small car company. Here’s what the automaker’s CEO said at the launch event in Tokyo, per Reuters:
“The EV market is not mature yet, so we will respond to it by deepening our cooperation with Toyota,” Subaru CEO Tomomi Nakamura said during a launch event.
For now, he said, the Solterra would be built by Toyota in Japan and Subaru may move production to its main market, the United States, when it had sufficient sales volume.
In any case, the Solterra’s interior looks elegant, but in a simple sort of way, and the jagged exterior sheetmetal looks aggressive. I can dig it. Plus, the fascias on the Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra look different at least, and I think the Subi’s fits well with the brand’s current identity:
Here’s a look at the rear:
Here’s the Toyota, since I’m sure you’re curious. The taillights are quite different:
As the Solterra is a Subaru, the brand mentions the vehicle’s all-wheel drive system, which is based on a two-motor setup (one motor for each axle). From Subaru:
Like the other SUBARU SUV models, SOLTERRA features the X-MODE AWD control system that enhances the sense of security on rough roads. By adding the new Grip Control function, which enables the vehicle to run at a constant speed while stabilizing the vehicle even on rough roads, the capability is further enhanced.
It’s not clear exactly what this “X-MODE” will do, though the Grip Control thing sounds like off-road cruise control, which I’m generally a fan of.
The table above digs into the details. On the standardized WLTC drive cycle, the vehicle — equipped with a 355 volt 71.4 kWh battery pack — should offer 286 to 329 miles of “cruising range,” with a two-wheel drive variant eking out the higher figure. Max DC charging output that the vehicle can accept is similar to other EVs with batteries in the 350-volt range: 150 kW.
The Toyota’s specs are, of course, largely the same:
Two wheel drive models make about 200 horsepower and all-wheel drive models add about 15 to that number, though at 4,450, the latter is about 200 pounds heavier.
Both cars will hit markets around the world in 2022. I’m quite interested in knowing how much they’ll cost.