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Car of the Week - December 16, 2002
2003 Subaru Baja
If you're an outdoors person - the kind of person who regenerates via mountain air or ocean breezes - then here is a Swiss-Army-knife-type vehicle for you, the 2003 Subaru Baja. Unlike the others in the division, the Baja is based on a wagon, not a truck, and you'll notice that right away. The legendary Subaru AWD system, a resulting lower center of gravity, and a four-wheel independant suspension can turn rough conditions into a piece of cake. As we tested the Baja, the Northern California area was being hammered by a meaty El Nino winter storm - rain and wind up to 50mph. The Baja handled it with ease. It slipped through the storm with the ease of Bobby Jackson driving the lane around Shaq for an easy bucket.
Passengers enjoyed the interior with it four-door accessability and an in-dash CD system that put out a quality set of sounds. With the tunes off, we think you'll be surprised at the lack of road and engine noise. The instrumentation is easy to use and easy to read - using muted normal colors and avoiding the all-red blur.
How about a "switchback?" In this case this backpackers term refers to the Baja's midgate feature, similar to the Escalade and Avalanche consisting of a trap-door behind the rear seatbacks that folds forward into the rear seating area, expanding the usable length of the bed from 41.5 to 60 inches.
And if that's not enough room, there's an optional tailgate extender that increases the length of the cargo area to 75 inches. Versatility runs rampant throughout this well thought-out vehicle. Couple that with terrific bad weather handling and a smooth quiet freeway ride, and you've got a simply outstanding package for anyone with an active and diversified lifestyle. The Baja is a real winner.