Subaru combines the notion of a sport utility vehicle and a pickup truck in its compact car-based Baja four-door crossover. A turbocharged engine goes into the new Baja Turbo, which has been added for the 2004 model year.
Adapted from the four-cylinder turbo in the automakers high-performance Impreza WRX STi, the new 2.5-liter engine produces 210 horsepower. Assertive styling touches give the Baja Turbo a distinctive appearance. Turbocharging this SUV is said to be part of Subarus new driving performance strategy.
Hinting at Baja racers, this crossover is a production version of Subarus ST/X concept; it debuted for the 2003 model year. Several full-size SUV/pickup crossovers have been launched recently, but Subaru is unique for offering this smaller model.
Based on Subarus Legacy Outback platform, the regular four-passenger Baja carries a 165-hp engine that mates with one of two all-wheel-drive systems.
The Baja was designed with a family resemblance to the Outback. It features enlarged front fenders and large, foldable, body-colored mirrors. Integrated fog lights sit behind protective stone guards. Its grille is unique, while the stylized alloy fuel door is similar to the one used on the ST/X concept. The Baja features Silver Stone Metallic lower-body and tailgate cladding. A power moonroof is standard. The Baja rides a 104.3-inch wheelbase and measures 193.3 inches long overall.
A Switchback system provides a reconfigurable rear seat and cargo area. With the optional bed extender, the cargo bed lengthens to 75 inches and can hold such equipment as mountain bikes and surfboards. An integrated bedliner is easy to clean. Tie-down hooks, a bed light and sport bars on the cargo bed are installed. Roof rails and crossbars are standard.
Four people sit on perforated leather-trimmed seat upholstery. The Baja driver faces a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter handle, as well as a dashboard with silver metallic-finished trim. Cupholders are integrated into the rear seat bottoms. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, keyless entry, a six-way power drivers seat, an outside-temperature gauge, and power windows, locks and mirrors.
Under the Hood
In standard form, Subarus 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine generates 165 hp, and the new Turbo version produces 210 hp and 235 pounds-feet of torque. A five-speed-manual transmission with continuous all-wheel drive is standard. The optional four-speed-automatic transmission features an Active all-wheel-drive system that distributes power between the front and rear wheels depending on acceleration, deceleration, cornering and wheel slippage.
The Baja has depowered front airbags with a dual-stage front-passenger airbag. The front seat belts have pretensioners and load limiters.
Extroverts are the best prospects for the Baja, especially if its painted bright yellow. With its huge, low driving lights and roof-mounted auxiliary lights, the Baja looks more like a rescue vehicle than a practical machine.
The Baja is quiet, and it runs smoothly. It drives and feels like any Subaru, which means easily and pleasantly. Confident steering produces a near-sporty feel. The ride is firm but not bad, even on rougher pavement. After initial hesitation, its acceleration is fairly good from a standstill, but low-speed passing power is mild. The seats have unusually snug side bolstering. The backseat is fairly comfortable, but legroom could be better.