2004 Subaru Baja (Natl) Review

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John Pearley Huffman John Pearley Huffman Editor
September 3, 2002

Subaru has effectively divided itself into two separate companies in North America. First there’s Rally Subaru that sells the WRX to a generation that is as familiar with it from PlayStation as from the World Rally Championship. Then there is the Outback Subaru, which sells sedans, station wagons and the Forester small SUV to suburbanites who don’t need true off-road ability but like the look and crave the all-weather security of all-wheel drive. The Baja definitely belongs to that second aspect of Subaru’s schizoid personality; it yells off-roader in its decoration while offering a new riff on the ancient car-as-truck formula (see everything from Model T pickups to the El Camino).

Is it much of a car? Or much of a truck? Or much of anything?

Hey, let’s hack off the roof!

Review continues below

It would be unfair to write off the Baja as simply an Outback wagon with the last third of its roof sliced off like a bunion. But it wouldn’t be that unfair – the basic structure and everything from the rear set of doors forward in the Baja is essentially identical to a Legacy Outback. The Outback, like all Legacys, is a structurally impressive, satisfyingly solid and poised vehicle so, no surprise, is the Baja. And like other Legacys, the Baja is built at Sube’s plant in Lafayette, Indiana.

While the Baja shares its wheelbase with the Outback, it’s about six inches longer overall. So all that extra length is in rear overhang for the 41.5-inch long pickup bed that’s grafted on just behind the rear seat. In truck terms, 41.5 inches is a puny bed length, however the tailgate can be put down (the gate-mounted license plate frame folds out to remain conspicuous) and the bed extended with an extender made with aluminum tubing to stretch that to 60.5 inches. Beyond that is Subaru’s “Switchback” gate that opens behind the rear seats, which naturally fold down. Add that length, and the total available length is 75 inches.

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