Registry Tampa Bay

If you’re fluent in Latin – a rare skill indeed these days – you’ll know the word Solterra is made up of ‘sol’ for sun, and ‘terra’ for earth.

It also could be the name of the latest high-rise sprouting-up in downtown St. Pete – “Yes, we’re moving into the Solterra next year. We can’t wait”. 

On the automotive front, Solterra is also the name of Subaru’s first, all-electric crossover, providing Subaru lovers with an EV alternative to their beloved gas-powered Foresters, Outbacks and Crosstreks.

But if Latin isn’t your forte, a few words of Japanese might be helpful in understanding this new battery-powered Subie. That’s because behind those Subaru badges is a Toyota bZ4X. 

And no, that’s not a typo. Toyota actually did give its electric SUV this silly, alphabet-soup of a name. “Oh what a feeling, I’m driving a bZ4X”. 

In case you’ve been living in a igloo in Greenland for the past decade, you’ll know that once in a while, Subaru expands its model line-up by re-badging a Toyota model. 

The last time was with the sporty Toyota 86 two-door coupe that became the Subaru BRZ. It’s a smart way of spreading development costs. 

In the case of the Solterra, it’s very much a bZ4X with a very slightly redesigned front end, different LED headlights and a bunch of Subaru badges. 

Arguably the only significant change is that where the Toyota is offered in both  front-wheel drive and rear-drive, the Solterra being a Subaru, only comes with all-wheel drive. 

That and a very funky rectangular steering wheel that looks like something off a Gulfstream jet. 

I’ve just spent a week with the top-of-the-line Solterra Touring priced at $51,995, cruising around Tampa Bay, charging overnight and having no anxiety with the 200-mile-plus range. 

Other models in the line-up include the Premium at $44,995 and Limited at $48,495.

As for the electric bits, there are electric motors front and rear juiced by a 72.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack under the seats. Combined, there’s 215 horsepower and 249 lb-ft on tap. 

But to quickly address the 10-ton elephant in the room, arguably the Solterra’s biggest shortcoming is its mediocre electric range. Here we’re talking just 227 miles per charge. At best.

I know, I know. We’re told that the average American driver drives fewer than 40 miles a day. So, if you charge the Solterra at home overnight, 227 miles is perfectly acceptable. 

But for peace of mind, we want to know that we can drive across state to grandma’s house at a moment’s notice, or down to Naples to pick-up that Facebook Marketplace bargain you’ve just seen. Then 227 miles just isn’t enough.

Compounding the problem, re-charging the Toyota-sourced battery pack is like watching paint dry. 

Whereas the quickest-charging cars on sale today can go from 10 per cent to 80 per cent state of charge in as little as 18 minutes using a DC fast charger, you’ll wait at least 35 minutes for the Solterra to charge-up. That’s if you can find a fast charger.

Plug it in at home using a Level 2 charger, and the Subaru’s onboard 6.6 kW charger will need at least nine hours. 

Compared to rival electrics, like Hyundai’s Ioniq 5, Tesla’s Model Y, Ford’s Mustang Mach-e, VW’s ID-4 and Chevy’s new Blazer EV, that’s glacially slow.

But, if you’re a loyal Subaru fan, and happy to plug-in at home overnight, and keep your journeys to local commutes, this Solterra will make you deliriously happy.

That’s because it’s a delight to drive, courtesy of its zippy, off-the-line acceleration, its smooth ride, whisper-quiet running and safe, predictable handling. 

It’s roomy and practical inside too, with plenty of space for four adults and their stuff. Fold the rear seats and there’s up to 30 cubic feet of cargo space. 

Yes, there are more compelling EV rivals out there. But for Subaru loyalists, this new Solterra crossover will be an ohm run.

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