For the second time (in recent memory, anyway) Subaru and Toyota are partnering up and going halfsies (sort of) on a pair of vehicles. Unlike their previous efforts that led to two bargain-priced and quite good sports cars, this next collabo is all about EV tech as both the 2023 Toyota bZ4X (hopefully we’ll all get the hang of that name eventually) and Subaru Solterra (a combination of the Latin words for “land” and “sun”) are full battery-electric crossovers.
It’s a big deal for both the brands. Forget BEVs, Subaru currently doesn’t even have hybrids for sale in Canada (though we did have the still-available-in-US Crosstrek Hybrid for a time, but only for the Quebec market). And for all their clout in the hybrid game, Toyota has never made a widely-available full-electric vehicle. With more EV mandates being implemented by governments the world over, the time is now for these two to pick up their boots and hop on the EV bandwagon.
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Like with the BRZ and 86 sports cars, you have to squint to see the stylistic differences these two present. Both the concepts we’ve seen have contrast-colour cladding ‘round the wheel wells, the headlight lenses are the same shape, both get a bi-level roof spoiler and contrast-colour roofs. The main difference is how the Toyota emblem sits at the leading edge of the hood on the bZ4X, but down where the grille would be on the Solterra.
‘Round back, both also get a full-width light bar and taillamp housings that swoop down towards the rear wheels. Overall, the look is a rugged one that strays pretty far away from the ultra-techy look exhibited not so much from Subaru’s products, but from Toyota’s hybrids such as the Prius Prime and Mirai. These fall much closer in exterior styling to the RAV4, but have undoubtedly seen some of their panels tweaked to reduce drag for better range.
The theme of similarities continues inside, with some futuristic styling additions by way of massive 12.3” Tesla-style central displays, unique gauge faces and assembly and a centralized control knob that acts as your gear selector.
See also: 2023 Subaru Solterra pictures
See also: 2023 Toyota bZ4X pictures
The steering wheel design is also quite unique; it’s very chunky and gets a huge hub plus a tonne of buttons mounted thereon. And thanks to the spoke design, it looks like an interesting mix of something you might see on an old Citroën, and something from a more futuristic vehicle.
Size-wise, we’re guessing something close to the RAV4/Subaru Forester. That would help these two go toe to toe with the likes of current EV CUVs on offer such as the Ford Mustang Mach E and Tesla Model Y. What we do know is they both get flat floors for optimal interior room, and that the bZ4X gets radiated heating for the feet and legs that warms occupants, and does so in a more energy-conscious manner.
Range and performance
Here’s where these two models really start to diverge, in that the Toyota will be offered as both a single-motor FWD model and a dual-motor AWD model (that, in a nod to Subaru, is called “X-Mode”), while the Subaru will only get the latter. That makes sense as Subaru offers AWD as standard throughout its lineup, but it does mean that if it’s range you’re after, you’re going to want to seriously consider the Toyota as the FWD XLE model gets 400 km of range, while the Solterra makes do with in and around 320 km.
That’s not a huge difference – both of these use the same lithium-ion battery pack making 71.4kWh in FWD models, and 72.8 kWh in AWD models – but in the burgeoning world of EVs, range is still paramount.
Both are fitted with Level 2 and DC fast chargers as standard – that’s good – but both OEMs claim the Solterra and bZ4X can be charged from 0-80 percent in under an hour, which is a little on the slow side as many OEMs – Ford, VW and Hyundai, for example -- are claiming closer to 30 minutes for the same charge.
Output for the AWD models is rated at 215 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque, putting the two right in the thick of things in the burgeoning segment they will compete in.
Subaru has been busy redesigning the AWD system that both of these models are going to use to provide better on-demand torque when you hit the throttle and user-selectable power regeneration modes.
For those of a more off-road persuasion, the latest ToyBaru twins get 8.3 inches of ground clearance and the batteries remain well-protected so if you’re going to be traversing a rock or two, you needn’t worry so much about durability. Now, these two are unlikely to provide the off-road chops of a Jeep Wrangler 4xe, but when the most hardcore off-roading most are going to be doing involves driving in snowy conditions or making their way to a remote summer home, what’s provided here should do the trick.
Safety and Infotainment
Subaru’s EyeSight safety tech will make an appearance here – it was recently designed for use in the new Forester, so there isn’t any change – but what they have done is provided a 360-degree parking camera, which is a first for any Subaru. As is Safe Exit Assist, which warns occupants of oncoming traffic before they exit the Solterra.
For its part, the bZ4X will be the first Toyota to receive the third generation of Toyota’s Safety Sense package that adds a broader range of detection for the system’s cameras and adds low-light cyclist detection and guardrail detection.
In addition to the big screen, the infotainment systems now make use of cloud data to obtain real-time traffic and parking situations at your navigation destination and along the route, and a smartphone-based digital key system is also available for the Toyota.
Each of these is a very important launch for their respective manufacturers; how they stack up to one another will be an intriguing evolution to track.
Officially, Subaru plans to launch the Solterra all-electric SUV sometime this year as a 2023 vintage. And officially, lo and behold, Toyota has the exact same timeline for its bZ4X (bz stands for Beyond Zero, by the way). ‘Sometime this year’ is pretty vague of course, and we expect to start getting firmer schedules from both automaker in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
See also: Subaru Introduces the Solterra, its First All-Electric Model
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See also: Toyota Unveils the bZ4X in Production Version
See also: Toyota Gives New Details About its bZ4X Electric SUV