With their synchronous all-wheel drive system and go-anywhere attitude, Subaru vehicles have been a big hit with adventurous Kiwi’s for over 50-years. Last week, the intrepid brand released two new ‘getaway’ models to their stable, the 6th generation Impreza and the (long-awaited) all-electric Solterra. To help celebrate, we took a drive from Auckland to Napier (via Taupo) to see how they both are.
Firstly the 6th Generation Impreza. The Subaru Impreza has been thrilling the motoring world both on and off road, since 1992 and this latest evolution takes things to the next level. Not only is it much higher spec’d than the previous model, but it embodies the brand’s commitment to safety, reliability, versatility and driving pleasure – impressed yet?
With a sleek and sporty design, the new impreza is out to deliver a quintessential Subaru driving experience, thanks to its AWD system and horizontally opposed boxer 2L engine, but it doesn’t stop there. It’s a driver’s car that now sits on a refined global platform that delivers a further 10% increase in torsional rigidity, and cleverly minimises vibrations in the cabin, delivering a much smoother ride and increased stability.
The LinearTronic gearbox has been revised with expanded gear ratio range for improved acceleration on takeoff, and a higher overdrive in top gear. Oh and according to Subaru, everything from cornering to steering and handling has been enhanced, thanks to them leaning on their WRX engineering team.
Design-wise, the new Impreza comes with the brand’s signature hexagonal grill, streamline LED headlights and sporting accents that combine to create a visually striking hatch. While inside the cabin, the seating comfort and support for all passengers has been elevated. Working in conjunction with a medical school they identified that ride comfort was not only affected by vibration, but also by sounds and changes in the visual information, so the front seats have been completely redesigned based on the human body structure to be more supportive and the seat rails are now mounted directly to the chassis, reducing the swaying motion of the seat itself.
It’s also jam-packed full of new convenience and infotainment technologies that boasts the latest generation infotainment unit with an 11.6 inch high definition touchscreen, wireless smartphone charging, and a 360-degree panoramic monitor to assist when parking in tight spaces. Navigation is included as is a 10 speaker Harman Kardon audio system.
When it comes to safety, Subaru have added some new features, so not only does it have their eyesight system, but now has ‘stereo’ cameras (so double the vision), lane centre assistance, speed sign recognition and new monocular camera has been integrated to further improve pedestrian and cyclist protection. Front and side radars have also been added to aid its collision avoidance.
Not only is the new Impreza watching the road and surroundings but it’s also watching you too, with the inclusion of their driver monitoring system, constantly monitoring for fatigue and lack of attention.
Now I have your attention, let’s talk about the (long-awaited), all-electric Solterra. Now you may recall we first got to see this giant step for Subabu a loooong time ago, but it’s finally here and well worth the wait.
The Solterra is Subaru’s first, all-electric SUV and as you would expect, it’s adventure ready. In terms of size it sits between the Forester and Outback, however, it’s in a league of its own when it comes to durability and adventure.
Built on the e-Subaru Global Platform and boasting two 80kW electric motors it holds true to the brand’s core DNA, with a low centre of gravity and symmetrical AWD drive. It’s quiet and refined on the tarmac, but the Solterra has been created to come its own when venturing off the sealed stuff, with class-leading ground clearance of 210mm, X-mode adjustable grip levels (snow, mud, sand) and plenty of torque when required to navigate through the rough stuff.
The SUV’s electric motors are powered by a 71.4kWh battery (max AC charging rate of 150 kW/h) and when combined with multiple regen modes (and ‘one pedal’ driving ability), Suabaru claims that the Solterra is good for around 485km, meaning that you can venture that much further afield.
Subaru is launching Solterra in two different models, the AWD and the AWD Touring, both are incredibly well-kitted out, however, the Touring comes with wireless phone charging, 20-inch alloys, panoramic sunroof, 10 Speaker Harman Kardon sound system and synthetic leather seats, so is a tad more upmarket.
But you won’t feel short changed in the AWD either, as it too has a 12.3 touchscreen infotainment system, power tailgate, wireless Carplay (wired Android), and shares the stylish good looks of the Touring – closed off hexagonal grille, LED headlights, wheel arch protection and strong character lines.
As with the Impreza, the Soltera has a comprehensive suite of active driver assist technologies, including pre-collision braking, lane tracing assist in dynamic radar cruise control, reverse automatic braking, 360 degree view, intelligent parking and safety exit assist, that watches for cyclists and the like.
Our overnight escape was a two-fold experience that began at the Hilton in Auckland, with an off the main highway drive to the Hilton in Taupo in the new Impreza.
As outlined, there is only one ‘top of the line’ spec level, however, there are 7 colour options, we grabbed the Oasis blue – one of the standouts. The cabin is familiar and yet modernised, with a large infotainment screen and welcoming leather seats that are thankfully very supportive.
The sporty hatch got up to the national speed limit with ease, the 2L doing its job well and with very little whine from the transmission, and it felt more than at home on SH1 heading south. The cabin is very quiet which meant that some wind noise entered from the door mirrors, but the road noise is minimal, even on the open coarse stuff, with both being drowned out but impressive stereo or my co-pilots conversation about golf (the driver drowsiness alert did go off for the latter).
Although we didn’t venture off-road, the Impreza’s AWD came to the fore during our more spirited drive towards Matamata, with the hatch’s grip and overall handling being nothing short of awesome. The lane keep alert did make itself known a fair amount but for those that it annoys, it can be silenced.
Even with our detour, we arrived at Taupo at in time for lunch, and although very tasty, it was the treat of driving the all-new Solterra that we were really looking forward to.
In looks alone the Solterra is a winner, and when you add in its AWD capability it becomes a work and play EV. We went for the base model, but as I mentioned before, you’d hardly know it. The seats are cloth, but still supportive, the dash is very futuristic with an instrument cowl that is recessed enough to act like a head up screen and a 12.3-inch touch screen that handles everything you need or want to know.
It’s fair to say that off the mark and overtaking, the Impreza is far better than the previous model, but the Solterra, with its 160kW of power and 337Nm of torque is leagues above. It made light work of the line of tractors and traffic as we left Taupo headed for Napier and the thrill continued on from there.
The ride itself is really mature, with a glorious sense of poise, while the steering input through the squaring shaped wheel is weighted well. As with the Impreza there is a bit of wind noise from the mirrors but nothing that needs to be shouted about (or shouted over for that matter).
The road to Napier offered plenty of twists and turns but the Solterra handled them all with ease, possibly a little too much ease in fact as on several occasions we needed to pause and let the traffic create a gap. During one such ‘rest’ I clocked that the Solterra claimed a 77% range of 338km which even when being pushed over the range, seemed to be a true reflection of the distance travelled and we arrived at Napier with a couple of hundred kms left.
Again, we didn’t test this off-roader, off road, but the rain did join us for a while, which didn’t phase the AWD SUV one iota.
Both the Impreza and the Solterra handled the day’s drive with aplomb and both lived up to their Subaru claims of versatility and yet enjoyable drives. They each have their place in the driving world, and both showcase the direction that the brand is heading, with more premium appeal, safety and style. But regardless of your own particular needs or demands, to me, both are ideal ‘getaway drivers’.