Baja Revisited: Was Subaru's Turbocharged Pickup Ahead of Its Time?
While the decade of the 2000s may have the image of being a rather conservative, bland time for the automotive industry, the truth is there were a lot of unusual, ambitious vehicles released during this period, most of which didn’t live to see the 2010s.
One of these vehicles come from Subaru, who even back then was known primarily for its small AWD compact cars and crossovers, but for a brief time in the 2000s they sold a four-door pickup truck with an available turbocharged engine: the Subaru Baja.
Supercharged First Appearance
The Baja first appeared in the year 2000 in the form of a concept car called the Subaru ST-X. Built on the Legacy/Outback platform and shown at the year's Los Angeles Auto Show.
The ST-X was basically an Outback wagon with an open truck bed rather than an enclosed cargo area. Under the hood sat an upgraded, supercharged version of Subaru’s four-cylinder boxer engine.
The concept was successful enough that a production version was green lighted, making its appearance in 2002 for the 2003 model year. It looked pretty similar to the concept version, with two-tone paint, plenty of body cladding and a whole lot of “active” style.
It did have some unique features that set it apart from traditional pickup trucks, including a pass through door from the bed to the folded rear seat area, significantly expanding cargo capacity.
Being a Subaru, AWD was of course standard, and for the 2004 model year a new turbocharged engine option was added alongside the standard naturally aspirated engine. The Baja Turbo made 210hp and could be had with an automatic or a manual transmission.
The American-built Baja was only offered in the United States, Canada and Chile with around 30,000 examples being sold in total. Whether it was the someone funky styling, the car-based underpinnings or the fact that Subaru wasn’t as mainstream back then as it is today, the Baja never really took off.
Baja Production wrapped up in the spring of 2006 after four model years, and Subaru decided not to follow up with a second generation. Interestingly, this happened just as Honda introduced its own unconventional pickup truck, the Ridgeline, to a more receptive market.
Because of its short lifespan and overall rarity, it’s easy to see the Baja becoming a bit of a collectors item in the future, especially in turbo trim with a manual transmission. At the very least it’s an unusual machine that’s a great example of the experimental auto industry of the mid 2000s.
Given how much Subaru has grown in the 15 years since it abandoned the Baja project, one has to wonder if a modern pickup based on the current Outback could succeed in today’s truck-obsessed and cross-over loving market?
Crazier things have certainly happened.
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