Production began in the summer of 2002 on the brand-new Subaru Baja sport utility vehicle, which resembles a car with a pickup-truck cargo bed. Several full-size SUV/pickup-truck crossovers have been launched lately, and Subaru is using the idea for this smaller model.
Subaru promises that the Baja will combine the practical benefits of a compact four-door pickup truck with the safety and comfort of a passenger car. Blending a car and a pickup isnt a new idea at Subaru, which once offered a BRAT model with a similar theme. The new all-wheel-drive (AWD) four-door vehicles design hints at Baja racers and is a production version of Subarus ST/X concept that was seen at auto shows during 2000. The Baja is based on the Legacy Outback platform, and it debuted at the 2002 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It goes on sale in September 2002.
The Baja is similar to the ST/X concept in that both feature with a Switchback system that provides a reconfigurable rear seat and cargo area. With an optional bed extender, the cargo bed lengthens to 7.5 feet. Subaru expects to sell about 24,000 Bajas in the United States annually.
The Baja is designed with a family resemblance to the Legacy Outback. The new crossover vehicle features enlarged front fenders and large, foldable, body-colored mirrors. Integrated fog lights sit behind protective stone guards. The grille is unique to the Baja, while the stylized alloy fuel door is similar to the one used on the ST/X concept. The Baja will feature Silver Stone Metallic lower-body and tailgate cladding. A monochromatic Silver Stone Metallic model with a matching body and bumpers will also be available. A power moonroof is standard. The Baja rides a 104.3-inch wheelbase and measures 193.3 inches long overall.
The expandable cargo bed is designed to hold such equipment as mountain bikes, surfboards, scuba gear and even a go-cart. An integrated bedliner is easy to clean. Four tie-down hooks, sport bars on the cargo bed, and a bed light are installed. Roof rails and crossbars are standard, and attachments will be available for skis, kayaks and snowboards.
The Baja seats four occupants on perforated leather-trimmed upholstery. It comes equipped with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter handle, as well as a dashboard area thats designed with silver metallic-finished trim. Cupholders are integrated into the rear seat bottoms, and occupants have a rear-seat console box. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, keyless entry, a six-way power drivers seat, an outside-temperature gauge, and power windows, door locks and mirrors.
Under the Hood
Subarus 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine generates 165 horsepower and 166 pounds-feet of torque. A five-speed-manual transmission with continuous AWD is standard. A four-speed-automatic transmission is optional and features an Active AWD 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 smooth running, and 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, the Bajas acceleration is fairly good from a standstill, but low-speed passing power is mild. The gauges are easy to read, and the seats have unusually snug side bolstering. The backseat is comfortable enough, but legroom could be better.