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Subaru Solterra brings small, useful changes to Japan Mobility Show

Subaru took an updated Solterra to the Japan Mobility Show, the electric crossover perhaps previewing changes that will come to the U.S. after the crossover goes on sale in Japan. The changes are small but important results of owner feedback. The first is the reshaped ‘squircle’ steering wheel. The thick, round wheel in the current model can block one’s sightline to the digital gauge cluster that’s set a ways back on the instrument panel. In our Solterra First Drive, we wrote, “Depending on your seating position, your view of the instruments might be partially obscured by the steering wheel. We found we had to strike a balance between a comfortable wheel position and our ability to see that digital screen, which we were able to do after some fidgeting.” A flat-top wheel addresses that.

New programming means better battery preparation when it’s time to charge in cold weather. Subaru claims that when plugged into a 90-kW charger at 14 degrees Fahrenheit, charging time from when the low-power light illuminates to 80% SOC can take up to 30% less time. We don’t have a benchmark to compare this to, but 30% less time is a lot better no matter the current rate, especially when it’s that cold. In ideal conditions, the U.S.-spec Solterra can take advantage of a 100-kW DC fast charger, recovering 80% of a charge in about 56 minutes.

There’s also additional charging information added to the display, but Subaru didn’t specify what this is.

Engineers pulled a couple of sly tricks in the quest for more range, too. They reprogrammed the Solterra to default to Eco mode, which would enable Eco mode range estimates to be the default in countries whose standards bodies measure vehicle stats according to the settings at powertrain startup. On top of that, the HVAC system gains a humidity sensor, and the heating system will place more emphasis on using the heated seats and heated steering wheel to warm the occupants.

Finally, Subaru’s EyeSight safety suite expands its purview with Advanced Drive Congestion Assistance, Front Cross Traffic Alert with a new anti-collision function, Lane Change Assist, and automatic hazard flashing during an emergency stop. 

Outside the official PR, a rumored change for the Japanese market is the arrival of a Soltera STI next summer. Japan’s Best Car magazine says (translated) Subaru is ready to make a production version of the Solterra STI concept the automaker showed at the 2022 Tokyo Motor Show. That concept boasted a front splitter, rocker panel extensions on both sides, winglets on either side of the rear bumper, and a roof-mounted spoiler. Many of these add-ons were painted cherry red to create a visual link between the Solterra STI and some of the other STI-badged cars Subaru had on stand at the show, but there did not appear to be any performance improvements. The lack of extra go wouldn’t be too surprising, considering the WRX STI in Japan is an appearance package. The carmaker trademarked “STe” in Germany, that could be the moniker for spicy electric offerings if and when they arrive. 

Subaru hasn’t announced what’s on the way for our Solterra, nor has Toyota done so for the twinned bZ4X, but it shouldn’t be too long.

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