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November 2004

2005 Subaru Baja Turbo

 The Good:  Easy entry and exit.  Roomy yet compact.  Truck bed comes in handy for many things.  Fold down rear seat with pass through to truck bed.  Smooth engine and transmission.

The Bad:  Exterior styling is bland and old.  Interior is dated as well.  Lacks precise steering.  Air leaks and wind noise at highway speeds.

 

The Baja Turbo was introduced in 2003 at the New York International Auto Show by Subaru, the only manufacturer to offer all-wheel-drive as standard equipment on every vehicle.  The Baja blends a four-door passenger car with a compact pickup truck for maximum versatility and ease of driving.  Subaru's rally-winning experience has led to the introduction of many turbocharged all wheel drive models, all providing passenger car comfort, usually in wagon form.  Subaru is the largest selling wagon model in the US.  The Baja hopes to add customers who might have bought a small truck instead.

The Baja Turbo is powered by a 210 horsepower 2.5 liter, intercooled turbo boxer engine.  A functional hood scoop feeds outside air to an engine-mounted intercooler.  The Baja is as easy to maneuver as a car, while still offering cargo-carrying versatility that a typical wagon or SUV cannot match.  While the front end is similar to other Subaru models, like the Outback, the back end is a truck bed slapped onto a car.  We did not like the overall appearance of the Baja.  Whereas most automakers are leaning toward smooth body panels, the Baja has a somewhat odd appearance with jagged body moldings stuck on top of other panels.  There are various bulges and humps that appear dated compared to current sedans and even pickups, just look at the current Honda Accord, BMW 5-series, or the new Ford F150 for exterior design cues.

The interior of the Baja turbo is roomy and comfortable.  Sport seats provide a snug fit and hold you in place during fast corners while being soft at the same time.  Dark smoke tinted rear door glass and rear window glass gives a cozy and SUV like feeling.  The rear seats are separated by a console box that can be used for storage and can hold two cup-holders.  The Baja is more of a useful utilitarian vehicle than a normal four-door sedan. 

Instrumentation is adequate with an easy to read instrument cluster which has a separately mounted turbo boost gauge.  Stereo and climate control functionality is typical Japanese; easy to use and very straightforward with little style. The steering wheel provides lots of grip and feels great.  We did not like the old style control stalks around the steering wheel.  Nor did we like the dark interior color and grey colored plastic trim on the dashboard.  Windows and mirrors were all powered for easy usage.  Seats are manually adjustable.  The parking brake was a bit soft and required a hard long pull to engage fully. 

Inside, the rear seats fold down and a "Switchback" panel can be opened between the cargo bed and the interior.  The tailgate is 41.5 inches long with the tailgate closed, and 58 inches long with the tailgate open using the bed extender rails.  With the rear seats lowered and the "switchback" door open, the length increases to over 90 inches.

The Baja's bed is also equipped for rugged use.  A plastic hard bed liner is useful and easy to clean.  A bed light, sport bars, and tie down hooks with net are all available.  The Baja also comes standard with roof rails and cross bars.  So as you can tell this is one car ready from the factory for all you need to do. 

Driving the Baja for our short limited test drive revealed a vehicle made for city driving as well as limited dirt road use.  While the drivetrain and engine are smooth and quick, this is more of a city car than a highway cruiser.  Driving fast on highways reveals many air leaks and a noisy engine.  There is high wind noise from the sunroof and front door seals.  The engine could use a sixth gear as well to keep noise down at highway speeds in fifth gear.  The steering is also not very precise and conveys little road feel.  The steering wheel can be turned a few degrees either way before the car starts moving from its straight line.  These things remind us that this is more of a pickup truck than a great car. 

The Baja is great for its utility.  You can put all your dirty gear in the back bed, transport a Christmas tree or even move some furniture.  If it rains however you are left with little space for your things if you have people in all four seats.  It would be good if a tonneau cover was built into the tail gate.  The tailgate door is also heavy, you cannot open it with just one hand unless you are very strong, it drops open without anything to slow down its descent. 

While this short test did reveal some of the ins and outs of the Baja, we come away with the feeling that a longer test would have shown us its true usefulness.  We recommend that you too take a long test drive before you decide to buy this vehicle.  It's designed for outgoing people with active lifestyles, however it still could be a good choice for baseball dads who need 4-doors and cargo room to boot.

 

PRICING INVOICE RETAIL
Base Pricing 21,779 23,995
Destination 550 550
Automatic,* 4-Speed w/Overdrive • Turbo w/o Leather Pkg 902 1000
Bed Cargo Group (PIO)
Includes Bed Extender & Bed Cargo Net
197 301
Popular Equipment Group 8 (PIO) • Turbo
Includes Inside Automatic Day/Night Mirror w/Compass, Security System Upgrade Kit & Vertical & Horizontal Cargo Nets.
295 450
Bed Cover 343 495

 

 

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