Cars and their stories / On The Street

The Subaru Baja

Subaru Baja
Another article (#3) about the vehicles who buck the system of automobile categories.

This beauty was spotted across the street from the local public library. The Baja has always been a curiosity.

“The Baja’s jarring look is homage to rally-race trucks. It’s supposed to look funky, look different. It doesn’t fit any category, and we knew that going in. It’s not like anything else on the road. And that’s important to a lot of people,” says Peter Tenn.

Tenn was the design lead from Subaru’s development team for the ST-X (Sport Truck X-perimental.)


Subaru Baja, original concept rendering.

This is an exciting concept when designed on a light duty truck platform, however the vehicle ended up with a lower stance and would be built off of the Subaru Legacy platform. Indeed, the actual production version appeared to be a Legacy wagon with an identity crisis. After seeing it’s potential, I envision a great concept squatting down in the Outback, and this is what was left when Subaru stood up.

I can’t say this is an awful vehicle idea. After all this appears to be a response to Chevrolet’s Avalanche, a full-size pickup version of what the Baja could have been for the light duty truck category. Subaru did respond quickly putting the Baja into production a mere nine months after Chevy.


Chevrolet Avalanche showing off it’s cargo capabilities.

Additionally, this vehicle design was a grasping effort to combine the utility of a pickup with the passenger capability of a sedan without building a carryall (the original category for the Suburban) or even the standard station wagon. The difficulty of the sale would end up being the manual procedure of opening the front bed panel and folding down the rear seats to achieve a cargo area barely equivalent to what the other vehicle options already provided.

If Subaru had developed an automated process like that of a convertible top perhaps it might have seen success, but I venture costs would have been prohibitive. Although, it would have been amazing to have the tech for automated rear folding seats. Imagine how that would have impacted the current market of people carriers – crossovers, minivans, and estate wagons!

Unfortunately its name would also represent its sales figures, muy baja. The experiment would only last one production cycle being built from 2002 to 2006. Subaru also decided against marketing this vehicle outside the Americas. I would speculate that they didn’t want to screw with the booming success of the Outback model in the Australian market. I would still love to see a light duty pickup version of this concept to truly rival the Chevy Avalanche since Cadillac picked up the variant with its Escalade EXT. Unfortunately, Subaru doesn’t build trucks.


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