2003 was a strange year. Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California, 50 Cent topped the charts, and Subaru came out with the Baja… Car? Truck? Whatever you want to call it, the Subaru Baja is one of the strangest vehicles to ever grace our roads.
Throw in a manual transmission and a turbocharged engine, and you get the Subaru Baja Turbo, a short-lived vehicle that Subaru enthusiasts still have a soft spot for. A combination of a sedan and a pickup truck, the Baja was meant to raise eyebrows but be the ultimate practical companion on the road. We’ll let Doug DeMuro explain:
Subaru Sedan and Truck?
In order to make the Subaru Baja work, Subaru needed to decide how to integrate a truck bed of a useful size while keeping a car-like feel in the front half. To do that, it could have given the Baja a five-foot truck bed and made it into a two-door, or it could have shortened the bed and kept all four doors. Did Subaru do either of those options? Nope.
Instead, Subaru did both. It kept all four doors, with a full back seat, and then added a 3.5-foot truck bed. But to make the Baja even more useful, it added a bed extender. This was a metal fence attached to the sides of the truck bed that could flip outward to add a foot and a half of space to the enclosed bed, giving Subaru the full five feet of useful space it wanted.
The downside of using the bed extender was that you had to drive around with the tailgate open in order to use the entire bed. With the tailgate down, a problem arose: you couldn’t see the license plate. In another genius problem-solving move, Subaru added a license plate holder that was able to flip down below the normal placement, allowing the license plate to be visible with the tailgate open and allowing you to safely avoid being pulled over for not displaying your plates. While a good solution, we can’t help but wonder if Subar maybe should have taken it all as a sign that the world wasn’t quite ready for an El Camino revival.
The Baja’s interior
The coolest feature of the interior was tucked away behind the back seat. The Baja’s back seat folded down to show a hidden panel that gave you access to the truck bed from the interior of the cab. While back seat trunk access is a feature of most sedans, accessing the bed from inside the cab is definitely unique to the Baja compared to other trucks.
The rest of the interior, however, is very much just like other Subaru cars. The design of the dashboard is similar to Outbacks of the same year and the seats are just like that of an Impreza.
A More Powerful Subaru Baja
In 2004, Subaru released a turbo version of the Baja. With a 210-hp engine, up from the base model’s 165, it definitely had more get-up-and-go. But we still can’t help but wonder, why would Subaru choose the Baja for a turbo engine? It’s not exactly a sporty vehicle, and it still felt like you were driving around in a weirder Forester.
The Subaru Baja Turbo made for a more fun ride with more pick-up than the original, but it was one of the strangest vehicles for Subaru to develop at the time. Subaru stopped development on the Baja in 2006. While we can’t help but scratch our heads about it, it made for a memorable niche vehicle that never fails to make people chuckle when they spot one on the road.