The Subaru Baja is, generally speaking, a car-based crew-cab pickup truck. Based on the 2000-2004 Subaru Outback, it shares the same 104.3-inch wheelbase, but is 6 inches longer in rear overhang. The Baja has seating accommodations for four full-size adults, with rear-seat legroom noticeably tighter than in the Outback. But instead of a conventional trunk or the glassed-in storage box of a wagon, the Baja substitutes the cargo box of a pickup truck. Subaru figures that the Baja appeals to those wanting utility without the harsh ride and poor fuel economy that often come with a truck-based vehicle.
Should you think that the Baja is just a remake of the El Camino, Subaru has added some features that make the cargo box even more useful. Most importantly, the Baja's cargo bed can be extended by using the "Switchback" feature, similar to the Midgate design found on the Avalanche. The front of the bed along with the rear seat back fold forward into the rear seating area, expanding the usable length of the bed from 41.5 to 60 inches. . Although the Baja is relatively enjoyable to drive thanks to its responsive suspension and steering, with the base 165-horsepower, 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine..
Even with the power increase, it's our opinion that the Subaru Baja is more of an exercise in style and a statement about your lifestyle than a conveyance rooted in function. It's for those who frequent Home Depot as a hobby, picking up a new ficus and trellis instead of drywall and furniture. It's great at transporting bulky sports equipment, such as a surfboard or skis, but not necessarily great for moms picking up kids and the groceries during a rainstorm. The 2006 Subaru Baja has limited appeal, but for those who need about half the open-bed cargo utility of a truck as well as a vehicle that rides like a car, the Baja is a reasonable choice.