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SUMMARY: The Subaru Baja is more than a car, but it's not really a pickup or traditional SUV. It essentially a vehicle that will predictably offer an appeal that draws no lines in the sand where gender and age are concerned.

Following extensive on road and off-pavement exercises which included an obstacle course and ground clearance demonstration, my personal preference leaned to the 5-speed manual transmission model, simply because the power delivery was deemed more responsive -- the automatic transmission model seemed short on acceleration with the four banger motor. Admittedly, it will be just fine for many buyers, but it wouldn't be a disappointment to learn that Subaru planned to shoehorn in their 3.0 liter 6-cylinder boxer motor coupled to their Sportshift automatic transmission.

Ride quality and handling characteristics on the other hand, are not lacking at all. The Baja is both comfortable and agile, on or off the pavement. It may well be the ideal vehicle to satisfactorily address the broadest range of lifestyle endeavors regardless of age or gender.

The Baja is extremely attractive, and while not arousing every observer's emotions, it is definitely a cool ride that delivers a higher than average level of functionality. The Baja is decidedly for those who want to "Go outside and play".

SPECIFICATIONS: 2003 Subaru Baja

Base Price: To be announced
Price as Tested: $24,995. Estimated

Engine Type and Size:
2.5 liter horizontally-opposed Phase II SOHC 4-cylinder with sequential multi-port fuel injection.

Horsepower (bhp): 165 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 166 @ 4,000 rpm

Standard 5-speed manual or optional 4-speed electronic automatic (4EAT) with lockup torque converter and gated shifter.

Longitudinally mounted front engine / All-Wheel Drive - Continuous AWD - manual transmission / Active AWD - automatic transmission.

Front - Independent MacPherson-type struts with internal rebound springs, lower L-arms, liquid filled L-arm rear bushings, stabilizer bar and negative-scrub geometry.

Rear - Independent multi link: one upper link, two lower links with radius arm per side, coil springs, shock absorbers and stabilizer bar.

Power-assisted 4-wheel discs (vented front) with standard 4-channel, 4-sensor ABS.

Bridgestone Potenza 225/60 R16 97H mounted on 5-spoke alloy wheels.

Wheelbase: 104.3 inches
Length Overall: 193.3 inches
Width: 70.1 inches
Curb Weight: 3,485 lbs. - M/T 3,550 lbs. A/T

Fuel Capacity: 16.9 gallons
EPA Mileage Estimates:
20 mpg city / 25 mpg highway - M/T
21 mpg city / 26 mpg highway - A/T

Drag Coefficient: 0.36
0 - 60 mph: Not tested
Ground clearance: 7.3-inches
Approach angle: 17.8 degrees
Departure angle: 18.9 degrees
Ramp break over angle: 17.3 degrees

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