All four wheels are going electric

Price: TBA
Engine: Dual electric motor, four wheel drive, 160kW, 336Nm. 0-100/h, 7.7 seconds
Transmission: Single speed, all wheel drive
Safety: TBA
Fuel and economy: Battery - 71.4kWh lithium-ion battery.
Emissions: Zero emissions
Dimensions: Length 1690mm; width 1860mm; height 1650mm


Richard Bosselman takes a look at Subaru’s first battery electric vehicle due to arrive on our shores in April next year.

‘‘We are not afraid to launch Solterra . . . it will bring a whole lot of other opportunity to our business.

‘‘Already 20% of new car sales in New Zealand are electrified and it’s only going to grow further.’’

Subaru of New Zealand’s boss Wallis Dumper said this at an event in ate May in a local market media welcome to what was likely to be his brand’s very last fully petrol car: The WRX.

At that time, he hinted Fuji’s fully electric landmark model might hit our soil ‘‘sooner than you think’’.

Fast forward to July 6, to a conference venue on Waiheke Island.

The high-end, twin motor model on display is not for local consumption — for a start, it’s left-hand-drive. Japan wants it back. No worries, a right-hand-drive example will arrive, again asaflag waver — but set to tour nationally (one stop is the November 19 Queenstown marathon) — until showroom stock lands.

April, 2023, is the target for lending Kiwi access to this five-seater crossover whose name conjuncts Latin words for ‘‘sun’’ and ‘‘earth’’. It’s a special month; 50 years since Subaru hit NZ.

Subaru of NZ plans to have two versions, both of course with all-wheel-drive, the keystone tech they shared with co-developer Toyota (theirs is the bZ4X, also coming in 2023), which in turn designed the powertrain. Both influenced the styling.

Unsurprisingly, given that it’s a proven sales spur, the intent is to get at least one version priced below the $80,000 threshold to receive the Clean Car Discount.

The display vehicle seemed representative of the other extreme. It was a car with the works. Twenty-inch alloys shod with 235/50 tyres (235/60 R18s are the base choice), panoramic glass sunroof, leather, heated seats and steering wheel, QI wireless charging and alarge touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

If it costs more than $80k? Mr Dumper notes that while many brands deliver variants designed to capture the rebate, research shows the more expensive models are nonetheless more popular with the buyer demographic.

The Solterra has been designated as a fit into the ‘C’ class, industry-speak for small but not-so-small. Think current Forester and Toyota RAV4.

The e-Subaru Global Platform/Toyota New Global Architecture has a 71.4kWh lithium-ion battery pack integrated into a structure in the floor for a low centre of gravity and optimal crash performance.

The all-wheel-drive flagship has two 80kW electric motors, developing 160kW combined, cited 460km range and X-mode all-wheel-drive that’s highly-advanced and equal to anything Subaru has now. The 71.4kWh battery recharges via a CCS port, on the front left side, with 150kW maximum DC recharging, a rate that allows 80% capacity in 40 minutes. Subaru says the battery will retain 90% efficiency after 10 years’ duty.

The car will offer a comprehensive suite of active and passive safety features including Subaru Safety Sense, a 360-degree camera, blind spot information system, rear cross-traffic alert, and a safety exit alert.

Subaru dealers are already fielding inquiries and many have taken confirmed deposits. Mr Dumper believes it will appeal to buyers without previous Subaru experience. However, he’s also certain brand fans will flock, because it has the right look, driving flavourand capabilities. Same 210mm ground clearance as a Forester, lots of underbody protection and well-sorted all-wheel drive.

‘‘It . . . does not compromise on the brand’s values,’’ Mr Dumper says.

Toyota intends to roll out five EVs on this platform within the next few years and while Subaru has not indicated how many sibling models the Solterra might spawn, Mr Dumper says the plan is that more than 40% of Subaru production will be electric vehicles by 2030.

Subaru Japan is investing $NZ3.2 billion for electrification and will have a whole new factory with a dedicated electric vehicle production line by 2027. The Solterra and bZ4X come from the same Toyota-owned factory.

In respect to external styling, Subaru’s car differs most to the Toyota inrespect to the front end, where Fuji’s car has a closed-off hexagonal ‘‘grille’’ and unique LED headlight signatures.

Vehicle weights range from 1930kg to 2020kg depending on the motor count; the lower being for a front-drive edition with a 150kW electric motor and 530km range unlikely to be seen here as an official import, as Mr Dumper is intent on ensuring distributor-sanctioned models have the same renowned mettle asthe fossil-fuelled cars that continue to sell so well here to outdoor enthusiasts.

Says Mr Dumper: ‘‘It is important to us that we remain true to our 100% all-wheel-drive strategy in New Zealand . . . we will introduce the Solterra knowing it can handle ‘Subaru country’.’’

The electric Solterra remains true to Subaru’s all-wheel-drive strategy in New Zealand.

- Richard Bosselman. Photos: SUBARU NZ