This story contains independent artwork that was written by CarScoops artist Josh Byrnes and is not related to or endorsed by Subaru.
Weirdness and Subaru go hand in hand, as the Japanese automaker has the amazing ability to produce some of the weirdest things on wheels. Need examples?
Well, the futuristic Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed SVX coupe, the bug-eyed second-generation Impreza from the early 2000s, and the seven-seat Tribeca SUV (in its original form) have all done their best to transform the chronicle head spectators. scrapers. And then there was the Baja…
Arguably one of Subaru’s oddest offerings, the short-lived little Baja pickup was touted as a do-it-all utility that carved corners like a car. In reality, it was just a Subaru Outback whose rear roof section had been lobbed in a strange experience. For all its odd proportions, the all-wheel-drive offering had a loyal following. Sure, it had compromised load-carrying capabilities, but fundamentally it was an enthusiast’s dream with sleeper looks and rally underpinnings.
Related: Everything We Know About the 2023 Subaru Crosstrek/XV
Fast forward to 2022, and now we have Ford Mavericks and Hyundai Santa Cruzs occupying the small unibody truck market. With Subaru sales struggling recently, a reintroduction of a Baja could be the ticket to regaining market attention. While the Japanese automaker hasn’t indicated such a return, we’ve illustratively considered what a Baja return might look like and explore everything it might offer.
Sleek and modern styling
This study takes a clean, contemporary approach in keeping with the design language of Subaru’s current lineup of offerings. The front end embraces its off-road ambitions with contrasting black upholstery and body-coloured inlays. Hinting at its turbocharged potential, the hood sports an intercooler scoop, while dynamically slim DRLs make the truck look fast even when standing still.
In a nod to the Subarus of yore, frameless windows are back, as is the rear door cutline located behind the glass. The contrasting theme also extends to the thick fenders and cabin. The latter has been designed to allow for different color schemes for maximum visual impact.
While the short high-sided bed may seem difficult when upright, steps and grab handles have been used to improve access. While the original had many limitations, practicality could be enhanced with clever passage solutions, storage and a customizable bed box.
What we would find under the skin
Sitting atop the Subaru Global Platform (SGP) that underpins everything from the WRX to the Outback, the Baja would once again be a unibody proposition with plenty of room for occupants. The cabin styling is said to be more adventure-oriented and loaded with goodies such as a digital instrument cluster and a portrait-style infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Baja’s powertrain would ideally come in two versions: hybrid and turbocharged. Granted, Subaru doesn’t have a standout gasoline-electric unit in its arsenal; however, with its strategic alliance with Toyota, the RAV4 Prime’s 302 hp (225 kW) PHEV powertrain could serve as an eco-friendly option.
For those who won’t settle for anything but horizontally opposed firing pistons, the turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder might be the answer. Tuned to pump out over 300bhp, such an option would put it ahead of the Maverick and Cruz. What we wouldn’t do with it, however, is the automaker’s current obsession with continuously variable transmissions. ZF’s superb 8-speed automatic dispatch power to all four wheels can fill that void.
The tough competition
Logic defines the Hyundai Santa Cruz and Ford Maverick as the Baja’s main set of competitors. Other possible candidates, depending on your needs and price range, could include Honda’s larger Ridgeline and some lesser midsize trucks such as the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier.
Driven: The 2022 Ford Maverick is proof that big things come in small packages
Should Subaru consider bringing the Baja back? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.