2005 Subaru Baja
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.
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
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
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