2023 Subaru Baja The revival of long-dead factory names is something that is trending recently. Acura brought back the Integra, and Subaru… well,
Subaru had to follow suit. Rumors have started circulating the internet about Subaru doing just that in the form of the Subaru Baja 2023, a model from the brand’s backlog.
Plus, with the recent success of cars and trucks like the Hyundai Santa Cruz and Subaru Outback, the time is near for trucks/small cars like the Baja.
- Subaru Baja is a sales flop that will kill it today
- Rumors swirl, but no word from Subaru about the 2023 Subaru Baja
- Hyundai Santa Cruz proves there’s room in the world for the new Baja
2023 Subaru Baja Review
You’d be forgiven for not having heard of the Subaru Baja. It was the successor to the famous Subaru BRAT of the past. It was a rather obscure model (both BRAT and Baja). Every car is designed to do the same thing.
Even though they are three decades apart. Like mullets, both party cars in the back and businesses in the front. Now, turning back to the Subaru Baja for a moment, it truly was the first of the “lifestyle vehicles.”
Debuting in early 2001, the Subaru Baja operated from July 2002 to April 2006. During those years, Baja experienced sales failures. Obviously, American society is not ready for the Ute Australia concept.
Offering a turbocharged or naturally aspirated 2.5L boxer engine, the Baja was unheard of sales hit. Evidently, the idea of a small car that could do it all has made something of a renaissance in the form of cars like the Hyundai Santa Cruz and the Subaru Outback itself.
Fast forward to today, and small “truck” cars are back in popularity. The Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz proved to be very popular. Obviously, the two took the Subaru Steel formula and built on it.
The Santa Cruz offers a turbocharged and AWD four-pot, just like the Baja. It also has enough room to fit a few mountain bikes in the back, like the Baja. Finally, the design is fresh, taking on a new segment that we rarely see in America. Sound familiar?
With the return of a model like this, it’s clear why rumors of a Subaru Baja 2023 are starting to swirl again. A small number of renders have already started popping up, like this one. Frankly, it would be a pity if Subaru didn’t join in here.
The brand already has a tall unibody chassis that can easily fit four doors and a small truck bed in the Outback form.
As for the possibility of a Subaru Baja 2023? Unfortunately, Subaru gave no indication that anything was in the works.
However, the brand is known to pay close attention to trends. The Outback Wilderness is built because that’s what Outback owners do with their cars. And if Outback owners get their hands on the neat stuff, why can’t Baja fans get it too?
Is Subaru Bringing Back The Baja
In the second episode of the American Motor1.com podcast Rambling About Cars, we cover the Ute segment and the Australian Unibody pickup in general.
Including the Subaru Baja which is no longer operational. A viewer named Nathan Mondor then sent us a letter about a topic we read about in the third episode.
He then asked, is there a future for pickup trucks based on the Subaru Outback? Apparently, Mondor didn’t want to just ask.
Mondor apparently also wants to contribute his thoughts on the concept of the Subaru Outback-based pickup truck.
And now, Mondor has proved it. He has sent us a rendering (concept drawing) imagining what a model Subaru Baja pickup truck might look like.
The recipe for the new Subaru Baja concept is actually quite simple for a designer.
Take the current Subaru Outback and build a cargo bed, or rear luggage storage area.
Add some bars from the C-pillar to the floor to add extra style and structural reinforcement.
These renderings from Mondor perfectly express everything a new Subaru Baja could be in a pickup truck model.
The upward sweeping along the line of the rear door windows is a very nice touch and matches the similar elements on the current Subaru Outback’s D-pillar.
Subaru introduced the Subaru Baja in 2003 as a spiritual successor to the Subaru BRAT in the late 1970s to 1980s.
The base engine is a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated flat-four (inline-4) with an output of 165 horsepower (123 kilowatts).
But there is also a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine that produces 210 horsepower (157 kW). However, Subaru discontinued the 2006 Baja model.
When discussing the possibility of a new Subaru Baja with that pickup truck model on our podcast, the hosts were split.
This is because the pickup truck will take up the production capacity for the best-selling Subaru Outback at the company’s factory in Indiana, United States.
So, bringing the vehicle back to life in the United States doesn’t always make sense from a business point of view.
Or, it could be that competitors like the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz are now on their way to production.
So, Subaru had to capitalize on the renewed interest in the unibody pickup segment and come into play in the competition.
Do They Still Make Subaru Baja
Sometimes you are so far ahead of the curve, you have to wait almost 15 years for the rest of the world to catch up. Likewise, the Subaru Baja became a fairy tale.
With a span of four years from 2002-to 2006, the Subaru Baja was unrivaled in the super-sized SUV boom of that decade.
Read next: New 2023 Subaru Impreza Exclusive Review
But now, with maximum utility and minimized carbon impact on everyone’s minds, the Subaru Baja is back with a vengeance, ready to continue (yes, pun) right where it left off.
A Vehicle Born on the Baja Peninsula- Subaru Baja
You can see the rise of the hilltop residences as you look south from San Diego. You cross the border, hook right, uphill, and hook left to enter “Route-1”. Route-1 was built by the Americans to help thwart a potential Japanese invasion of the coast in World War II.
Route-1 was designed to deliver emergency supplies as far as Cabo San Lucas in the 1940s and has not been paved since.
In fact, once you pass through Ensenada, most of Route-1 is now gone, and you must follow an almost impassable path through a barren wilderness dotted with farms and fishing villages.
Anyone who’s been there or brave enough to race through this terrain in the annual Baja 1000 knows very well that what you’re driving has to be tough, highly off-road capable, easy to repair, easy to pull out of potholes.
on earth, and very flexible concerning cargo and people it can carry.
The original Subaru Baja came with special amenities to cope with the rigors of Baja off-road life on the “peninsula.” Early models enjoyed:
- Off-road lighting
- Raised 7.3″
- The extendable rear cargo bed
- Movable license plate frame (this is Steel after all)
- Redundant storage and map pockets
- Leather seat
2.5L 165HP Mesin Engine
- Turbo 2.5L with 210HP
- 5-speed manual or automatic transmission
- A back seat passes into the cargo bed
- Flip-up cargo bed (after all, it’s a Baja)
When you’re conquering an endless expanse of the horizon with only the cattle crossing as your landmark, it makes perfect sense to have outside seating available. After all, you may have to help a stranded rancher and an injured calf.
The rear of the Subaru Baja is specifically designed for this. Unfortunately, the recovery vehicle for the stranded Caballero can’t keep up with the full-size SUV revolution. So the tough and adventurous Baja awaits its moment, south of the border.
For the legions of Subaru Baja fans out there, the time of the Baja SUV has finally come.
Steel (Potentially) Rises Again
Times are changing, and so is the automotive landscape. Where a once-growing desire for full-size SUVs and trucks sank the Baja, its unique class of small haulers is now seeing serious interest.
Some brands have thrown their hats in the ring – but what formula do they follow? Take a more smooth and maneuverable car platform, and give it an open pickup bed.
In Australia, this is a popular “ute” segment (ironically, the Baja was never sold there). The benefits of these “utes” are many.
A lower center of gravity provides precise handling, a more agile size for city streets, and a smoother, more comfortable car-like ride. Sure, the cargo capabilities are less than a body-on-frame pickup, but you get a decent dual-duty vehicle in return.
Think of it as a pickup truck for those in need of an open-air haul on Mondays, but an easy city computer-like experience for the rest of the week.
We can’t say for sure, but we know that rumors are swirling. That makes sense. Why skip the segments you helped pioneer? The Baja is a pseudo-classic today, standing out as a shrugging vehicle in an early 2000s size-obsessed market and confidently doing its own thing.
This is a simple concept. You see, the Baja can be thought of as a modified Outback without a back – it rides on the same platform with the nearly identical interior, powertrain, front end, and body lines.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Does Subaru make trucks?
Yes, although not anymore. Subaru, over time, released two trucks in the North American market: the BRAT and the Baja. The BRAT appeared in 1978 as a bold open-bed variant of the Leone (the model that would later evolve into the iconic Impreza) and remained in sales until 1994.
Decisive features such as the bed-mounted seat and boxy body made the BRAT a classic. instantly recognizable among Subaru fans.
Meanwhile, the Baja was the successor to the BRAT based on the Outback wagon that appeared in 2003. Following a similar formula, the Baja lasted until 2006 with variants such as the turbocharged model – and the iconic yellow paint scheme.
Additionally, in Japan, Subaru makes small “Kei” work trucks like the Sambar, although they never sell them here in America.
Why was Subaru Baja discontinued?
Compared to full-size pickups, the Subaru Baja is small and expensive. Research shows that the original Subaru Baja doesn’t quite live up to the luxury expectations of brand loyalists. The good news is, Subaru, the #1 brand for Brand Trust, will solve all those old problems.
Did Subaru bring Steel back?
For now, we do not know because Subaru has not released any information regarding the New Baja. Stay tuned!
Is the Subaru Baja a truck?
Yes. In terms of utility, the Subaru Baja will be talked about as a pickup truck. Officially, it wouldn’t pass the 7,000-pound federal weight criteria to be classified by the DOT as a truck. But that’s great news.
What is saved in weight, is made in the projected towing capacity? The new Subaru Baja is expected to carry up to 5000lbs.
Quantrell Subaru in Lexington Closer Than San Felipe
Luckily for you, when the time comes early next year, you won’t have to travel too far to sneak behind the wheel of the all-new Subaru Baja. The Quantrell Subaru in Lexington, KY, doesn’t require a passport to get there.
All it takes is a quick email with one of our specialists, so give them a call as soon as you want to order one, or do a test run.
If you really can’t wait for the new Subaru Baja to become available, why not try the new spacious and capable Subaru Ascent for sale? Or on the other hand, keep the money in your pocket and pick up one of our amazing second-hand Subaru models for sale to temper the impatience.
With Subaru, your investment is always protected with the Subaru Trade-Up Advantage program and customer loyalty rewards. Now on a farewell note, the biggest question remains unanswered. Well, we know the answer.
With all the farms and outdoor activities around, will the new Subaru Baja also make as good of a cargo bed as the original? I guess you’ll have to see for yourself but you may find yourself saying “Vamos” to anyone you meet along with your daily adventures.
2023 Subaru Baja Wilderness
Check out a new rendering of the Subaru midsize pickup you want in your garage and why Subaru should build a new Wilderness truck.
The rendering of the Smooth Solution pictured above of the new Subaru midsize pickup is what performance and truck enthusiasts want in their garages.
A new Subaru truck with a hood scoop will have the FA24 2.4 liter turbocharged Boxer engine producing nearly 300 horsepower and extra torque for towing. We think it’s the missing vehicle in Subaru of America’s all-wheel-drive lineup, and it’s going to be a top-seller for the Camden, NJ automaker.
Pickup trucks are top sellers, and Subaru would be in a great position for cash if they would go one step further and build a new Wilderness truck to join the Outback and Forester Wilderness sub-brands.
Hyundai is introducing the all-new Santa Cruz Sport-Adventure Vehicle (SAV), and the Subaru Wilderness truck will raise the bar.
A mid-sized Subaru Ascent-based Wilderness pickup would likely do well and fill the hole in the Japanese automaker’s all-wheel-drive lineup.
The brand’s Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system will be a perfect fit for the new pickup and will likely be a big hit with truck buyers looking to go off-road.
The new Subaru Global Platform will allow the Japanese automaker to use the Ascent platform without any significant changes. Engineers could easily cut out the rear, make exterior design changes, and Subaru would have a nice 4-door all-wheel-drive truck for its US customers.
It will be produced alongside the 2022 Ascent 3-Row family carrier in Lafayette, Indiana, with a 2.4-liter direct-injection four-cylinder boxer engine for power.
The new Wilderness truck will sit higher off the ground with at least 9.4 inches of ground clearance just like the Outback Wilderness with its upgraded suspension.
The new truck will come in Base, Premium, Limited, Sport and Wilderness trim levels. The Wilderness will feature black alloy wheels, interior, exterior accents and badges, and Subaru’s dual-function X-Mode all-wheel-drive system.
The all-new Ascent-based pickup will sit right in the wheelhouse of Subaru’s all-wheel-drive models and appeal to tens of thousands of midsize truck buyers. The Ascent platform gives Subaru a truck to compete in the hot midsize pickup segment with the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Chevy Colorado, and GMC Canyon. That will be the missing piece in Subaru’s all-wheel-drive lineup.
We want Subaru to bring back the Baja nameplate for its new midsize truck. Would you buy the rugged new Subaru Baja Wilderness 2023 midsize pickup if the Japanese automaker offered one next year?
Best Year Subaru Baja
Long ago in a factory far away called Lafayette, Indiana, Subaru Baja was assembled. You’d be hard-pressed to find one of these Subaru pickup trucks as they were only produced in 2003-2006.
Sure it only existed for a few model years and didn’t sell well, but is the Subaru Baja really that bad? Baja is the automaker’s sole attempt at a pickup truck. With off-road capabilities making it big with the Subaru brand, could something else be in the works?
Steel was not produced or sold for a long time. That’s largely due to its poor sales figures over its short life. The Subaru Baja hit peak sales during its first model year after selling more than 2,500 units in 2002. The 2003 model year saw 10,694 Baja burst from dealerships and into owners’ driveways.
Although, it didn’t get any better from there. The rest of Baja’s life has seen a steady decline in sales each year, according to CarSalesBase. In the last model year Baja in 2006, sold 5,241 units, followed by a record low of 1,127 in 2007.
Compare those sales figures to the best-selling pickup truck in America at that time, and it looks even worse.
In 2007, the Ford F-150 sold 691,589 units. That’s 690,462 more trucks than the Subaru Baja sold during that year. In fact, that’s 657,457 more F-150s than Baja sold during all model years combined. In such a competitive vehicle segment in the United States, numbers like Subaru’s pickups over the years are untenable.
The Ford F-150, Ram 1500, and Chevrolet Silverado have been some of America’s best-selling vehicles for some time. Competing in the pickup truck market is not an easy task for any car manufacturer.
Some of the main reasons for the discontinuation of Subaru Baja were poor sales figures and simply not being able to compete in the segment. However, there is a small niche community that really loves pickup.
This unibody truck isn’t the most handsome you’ll ever see on the road, but it’s functionally a sturdy vehicle. It basically looks like a car with a truck bed sticking out from the back, making it the complete opposite of spoiling the eye. However, many people like it for several other reasons.
Built on the Outback station wagon platform, the Baja only comes in AWD and features a turbo version. It was capable of towing up to 2,400 pounds, and the rear seats could be folded forward to increase interior cargo space.
The Turbo variant makes it more interesting to drive and adds a bit more traction. The Baja Turbo is available for the 2004 model year and adds a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that can produce up to 210 horsepower.
It comes with a factory standard ground clearance of 7.3 inches, making off-road driving an easy task.
To state the obvious, it’s been discontinued. To elaborate further on the current existence, it is actually rather expensive. If a buyer is interested in buying one of these used unibody pickups, they will have to pay a premium price tag.
Once vehicles die, they become rare and little sought after. With greater demand than all-time sold units, the price you’ll pay for a Subaru Baja in 2021 is probably more than you’d expect.
Between 2003 and 2006, only about 30,000 of these vehicles took to the roads. That meant the request of the special group who wanted to ride high Baja but couldn’t be fulfilled. A basic Bajas model from 2005 can cost upwards of $10,000.
That’s for a unit with over 100,000 miles that aren’t in great shape. Compare that to Outback of the same year, from which it got its platform, selling for around $6,000 to $8,000. We previously reported a 2005 Baja Turbo with just 25,000 miles on sale by dealers in California for $19,999.
The return of Baja has not been confirmed by the automaker and is therefore completely unofficial. Although rumors swirl and anything is a possibility. After all, where there is smoke, there will usually be fire.
With many new vehicle releases focused on the EV market and bringing back the old nameplate, Baja is a real possibility.
There are plenty of electric pickup trucks available over the next few years, so could Subaru bring the Baja back as an EV? Baja’s redesign and focus on fully futuristic electric power could be the model needed to compete in today’s market.
We expect the truck to move away from the Outback platform and want to compete with real compact pickups. Could the 2022 or 2023 model years give us the Subaru Baja vs. Toyota Tacoma?
The Baja is an oft-forgotten unibody truck that has its pros and cons. Even though it didn’t sell well, some people were still very interested in its unique looks and surprising abilities. The modern version is a real possibility, though by no means confirmed.
We don’t think the Subaru Baja is that bad in many ways outside of its overall design and styling. If Subaru was able to build a truck that had similar capabilities and make it look a lot more attractive, it could have a winner on its hands.
2023 Subaru Baja Midsize Pickup
The render of @catchme_outback pictured above of the new Subaru Baja 2023 midsize pickup is exactly what Subaru and pickup enthusiasts want in their garages next year.
The new mid-size 4-door Subaru pickup with the turbocharged 2.4-liter Boxer FA24 engine will allow outdoor enthusiasts to tackle steep roads or tow trailers.
It’s the missing vehicle in America’s Subaru all-wheel-drive lineup, and it will be a top-seller for the Camden, NJ automaker.
Midsize pickup trucks are a hot segment, and Subaru is at a loss if they don’t offer them in the US market. Subaru of America would be in a great position to cash in if they would go one step further and build a new midsize Wilderness truck to join the Outback, Forester, and Crosstrek Wilderness SUV coming soon.
Hyundai is introducing the all-new Santa Cruz Sport-Adventure Vehicle (SAV), and the Subaru Wilderness truck will raise the bar.
Nissan recently introduced the all-electric Surf-Out concept pickup truck as part of its next-generation product plan to counter the off-road offerings offered by everyone from Ford to Tesla.
What are Subaru’s plans for the electric lineup?
Subaru plans to have a full lineup of fully electric vehicles coming through the mid-2025 to 2030 model years. With a full lineup, that doesn’t mean an all-battery-electric lineup. Subaru plans to bring more hybrid and plug-in hybrid models to its current all-wheel-drive lineup.
Subaru has set a target to “sell only electric vehicles” worldwide in the first half of the 2030s. These will likely be hybrid and plug-in hybrid technologies stemming from its partnership with Toyota. Subaru calls them “strong hybrids”. Subaru could build an all-electric Baja pickup or a plug-in hybrid variant.
Build a Baja midsize pickup in the US
The mid-size Subaru pickup can use the new Outback Wilderness 2022 frame and suspension without any significant design changes and is made at the factory in Lafayette, Indiana.
The argument is that Subaru has the total capacity now at US factories with no room for a new model. Subaru may have to abandon the Legacy sedan in favor of the newly resurrected Subaru Baja pickup.
Subaru Baja 2023 will fill a gaping hole in the lineup
The Outback-based Baja Wilderness pickup would do well to fill a gaping hole in the Japanese automaker’s all-wheel-drive lineup. The brand’s Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system would be a perfect fit for the new pickup and would be a big hit with truck buyers looking to go off-road.
The new Wilderness Baja will sit higher off the ground with at least 9.4 inches of ground clearance just like the Wilderness Outback with its upgraded suspension.
With a 2.4-liter direct-injection four-cylinder Boxer engine for power, the Baja will have the horsepower and torque needed to pull high mountain passes carrying an entire cargo load.
Subaru Baja is coming in five trim levels
The new Baja midsize pickup will come in Base, Premium, Limited, Sport, and Wilderness trim levels. The Wilderness will feature black alloy wheels, interior, exterior accents and badges, and Subaru’s dual-function X-Mode all-wheel-drive system.
The all-new Baja pickup will sit right in the wheelhouse of Subaru’s all-wheel-drive models and appeal to tens of thousands of midsize truck buyers.
The developed Wilderness platform gives Subaru a leg up in the hot mid-truck segment and instant credibility to compete with the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Chevy Colorado, and GMC Canyon.
Would you buy the new Subaru Baja 2023 midsize pickup if the Japanese automaker offered it next year? This is the missing piece in Subaru’s all-wheel-drive lineup.