This story contains independent illustrations that were penned by CarScoops’ artist Josh Byrnes and which are neither related to nor endorsed by Subaru.
Weirdness and Subaru go hand in hand as the Japanese automaker has had an uncanny ability to produce some of the weirdest-looking stuff on wheels. Need some 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 at turning onlookers into chronic head-scratchers. And then there was the Baja…
Arguably one of Subaru’s oddest offerings, the short-lived Baja small pickup was billed as a versatile utility that carved corners like a car. In reality, it was just a Subaru Outback that had its rear roof section lobbed off in a strange experiment. For all its odd proportions, the all-wheel-drive offering did have a loyal following. Sure, it had compromised load-carrying abilities, but fundamentally, it was an enthusiast’s dream with sleeper looks and rally-bred underpinnings.
Fast forward to 2022, and we now have the likes of the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz occupying the small unibody truck market. With Subaru sales struggling recently, a re-introduction of a Baja might be the ticket to recapture the market’s attention. While the Japanese automaker hasn’t indicated such a return, we’ve illustratively envisaged how a Baja comeback may look and explore everything else it could offer.
Slick And Modern Styling
This study takes a crisp, contemporary approach in keeping with the design language of Subaru’s current crop of offerings. The front embraces its off-road ambitions with contrasting black cladding and body-colored inlays. Hinting at its turbocharged potential, the hood sports an intercooler scoop, whilst the dynamically slim DRLs make the truck look fast even when still.
In a nod to Subarus of old, frameless windows are back, as is the rear door cutline set aft from the window glass. The contrasting theme also extends to the chunky fenders and cab area. The latter has been designed to enable various color schemes for maximum visual impact.
Whilst the high-sided short bed may appear vertically challenging, box steps and grab handles have been employed to improve access. While the original had many limitations, practicality could be enhanced with clever pass-through solutions, storage, and a customizable bed box.
What We’d Find Under The Skin
Sitting atop Subaru’s global platform (SGP) that underpins everything from WRX to the Outback, the Baja would once again be a unibody proposition with plenty of occupant space. Cabin styling would be more adventure-orientated and laden with goodies such as a digital instrument cluster and a portrait-style infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Baja’s powertrain would ideally come in two flavors: hybrid and turbocharged. Admittedly, Subaru doesn’t have a standout petrol-electric unit in their arsenal; however, with its strategic alliance with Toyota, the RAV4 Prime’s PHEV 302 hp (225 kW) powertrain could serve duty as the eco-friendly option.
For those who won’t accept anything other than pistons firing in a horizontally opposed manner, the 2.4-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder could be just the ticket. Re-tuned to pump out more than 300 hp, such an option would put it ahead of the Maverick and Cruz. What we wouldn’t pair with it, though, is the automaker’s current obsession with continuously variable transmissions. ZF’s superb 8-speed automatic sending power to all four wheels can fill that void.
The Tough Competition
Logic frames the Hyundai Santa Cruz and Ford Maverick as the Baja’s core competitor set. Other possible candidates, depending on your needs and price range, could include Honda’s larger Ridgeline and some lower-spec midsize trucks such as the Toyota Tacoma and the Nissan Frontier.
Should Subaru contemplate on bring back the Baja? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Read more: carscoops.com