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Subaru Baja Turbo or Toyota Tacoma 4x4 Double Cab?

jimqpublicjimqpublic Posts: 23
edited March 25 in Subaru
Baja Turbo or Toyota Tacoma 4x4 Double Cab?

I know them's fightin' words on a Subaru forum, but my short list of new vehicles has these two at the top. Other possibilities are a Forester XT or !aack! a minivan.


Cabin dimensions are similar although the Baja is limited to two in the back seat. With a baby plus a toddler in the family my wife often ends up riding in the back seat of our Outback with the kids, but hopefully this will change soon (maybe with a rear-seat DVD system).

Bed cargo capacity is 5' for the Toyota vs. 3-1/2' for the Baja. Not a huge issue since I mostly like the bed for dirty, not big things (bikes, plants, BBQ, etc.) Bikes can go on the roof. With the Baja's unfortunate fakey chrome trim bars in the bed, there will never be a good selection of caps or tonneau covers available for secure storage.

Power is similar but the Baja Turbo has the edge at 210 HP vs. 190 with similar torque numbers.
Weight is similar with the Baja being a couple hundred pounds less than the 4x4 Toyota.
Length and width are almost identical at 202" long.
EPA mileage is 17/19 for the Toyota vs. probably 19/23 or so for the Turbo Baja. Real world mileage for the Toyota is around 16; I imagine the Baja will probably deliver 20 or better if I can keep a light foot.


I don't really mean off "road", more off highway on rough, rocky unpaved roads in California and Baja California. I estimate that the car will see at least 95% paved roads, 4% graded but rocky roads and maybe 1% unimproved roads.

Offroad abilities are so much better with the Toyota it's not even worth comparing. The question is not which is more capable, but rather are they capable enough for my needs? In the past (before the kids) I've always used motor vehicles to get me to the place that I would start my bicycling, hiking, or skiing adventure. Offroad driving was never an end in itself (except for the now gone motorcycles). With kids, we aren't likely to do 50 mile mountain bike loops or serious backpacking so I want to get a bit further with the vehicle.

The Baja should be pretty capable, since our Outback has been quite good. The extra inch of ground clearance coming for next year will be good. My main concerns are the durability of the undercarriage and available tires. Toyota comes with tough 31" BF Goodrich All Terrains vs. the soft-sided 27" tires on the Subaru. It looks like I might be able to run 28" All Terrains on 15" rims on the Baja (LT215/75R15/C). The undercarriage is another matter. Can it handle being pelted with stones?

Technical offroad requires very slow speeds and finesse. What's technical for the Subaru would be a cakewalk for the Toyota. That means it is important to be able to go very slow on much more moderate terrain. Unfortunately no low range in the transmission. I am thinking that the automatic transmission will be better for this application?


Tow ratings are quite different. Toyota says up to 5000 pounds with up to 500 pounds tongue weight or 600 with a weight distributing hitch. For the 2003 model Subaru says 2000 pounds with automatic or 2400 pounds with manual transmission with (I think) a maximum of 200 pounds of tongue weight and no weight distributing hitch permitted.

Our trailer (Chalet brand popup) weighs 2000 pounds empty according to a certified scale. It's probably 2200 to 2400 pounds ready for a long vacation. Tongue weight is the big issue at almost 300 pounds which is great for towing stability but not great for the rear suspension of the car. We have added Scorpion rally springs to the rear of our '96 Outback and it does okay, but I would really feel better if Subaru approved of more tongue weight AND the use of a weight distributing hitch such as the Reese 350 Mini.

The longer rear overhang on the Baja vs. Outback makes the tongue weight more critical (longer lever = more pressure). It would really be nice to use a weight distributing hitch to avoid overloading the car's rear axle and unweighting the front axle.

In other parts of the world (Australia) Subarus have much higher towing limits. The Outback is rated at about 3000 pounds with 300 pounds of tongue weight. They also have dual range transmissions though.

Most vehicles have a higher tow rating with an automatic transmission vs. a manual, the opposite of Subaru's policy. Usually an automatic transmission fluid cooler must be added to get the full rating. For example my 1989 Toyota pickup is rated for 3500 pounds with a manual transmission, 2000 pounds with an automatic, or 5000 with an automatic AND the ATF cooler. Does anyone know if I could safely ignore the 2000 pound Subaru limit by adding an ATF cooler, at least as far as the transmission goes?


Nicely equipped each will probably be in the mid $24,000 at a decent discount.


This almost goes without needing comment. Although the Baja is the most truck-like Subaru, it's no truck. I'd be willing to bet that the Subaru has a foot lower center of gravity. I know when I compare our Outback to my old Toyota pickup, again no comparison. I love driving the Subaru. I tolerate driving the Toyota when I have to haul something.


My wife actually prefers manual transmissions to automatics. I don't care as long as the auto is responsive and crisp.

Family is parents in our 30's with a 2 year old and a baby. No more additions are planned.

Current vehicles are '96 Outback with 2.2 and manual transmission with 130,000 miles (the new car to be kept) and 1989 Toyota pickup (to be replaced).

I also posted this note on the Subaru forum.


What do you think?

I really like my manual transmission, but contrary to Subaru's ratings would the automatic be better for towing?

Any talk of better looking cladding to go with the turbo model next year?

1996 Outback 2.2 /MT


  • kg11kg11 Posts: 530
    The Subaru would be great for a family of 4 taking bikes to the park and certanly drives better ,but with a rack on your current Outback you already have that capability.

    A 2400 lb trailer would be a nightmare to tow at freeway speeds with a Baja. All that overhang translates to being steered from behind.Also,max tow ratings can be decieving. I used to tow a 4000 lb boat with a '95 Tacoma std cab with a tow rating of 5000.It wasn't that bad but I did need to use low range on the luanch ramp and freeway speeds were kinda scarey.The guy I sold it to towed a slightly larger boat with it once and said he'd never do it again.

    My current tow vehicle has a tow rating of 14k and I use it to tow 7k.I got so sick of towing with a maxed out vehicle I went for overkill.I could be towing this same boat with most half ton trucks. Also,if you have an accident while towing more than rated capacity you could be criminally charged.Your brakes were not designed to stop that much weight.If you wreck ,it's your fualt.

    Oh yeah,I almost forgot.Get the auto.It's easier to tow with and easier to drive very slowly on rough roads.If you get the stick you'll be replacing the clutch.
  • rshollandrsholland Posts: 19,661
    As far as towing is concerned, both the Baja and Tacoma are limited to 1000 pounds if the trailer doesn't have brakes. This info is in the owners manual. I know it to be true, because I checked the owners manual of both vehicles last fall, with that very question.

    As a daily driver the Baja would be much better. For truck-type chores, the Tacoma would be better.

  • bkaiser1bkaiser1 Posts: 464
    I think 16" wheels are the smallest you can fit to the Baja due to the size of the brake rotors, in case you were thinking about putting 15" truck tires on. Also, when I was shopping the Tacoma Double Cab, they were auto manual transmission was available with 4x4 at the time, maybe that's changed by now.

    It's an interesting comparison between two really different vehicles...they're similar in theory, but both are going to drive VERY differently. I eliminated the Tacoma from my list of choices based on the drive -- I just don't like driving trucks on a daily basis and prefer the responsiveness of a car. I like my friends to own trucks, I'll take the car (or Baja, as the case might be)!

  • rshollandrsholland Posts: 19,661
    are all other small truck-based crew cabs, such as: Explorer Sport Trac, Frontier Crew Cab(s), and the S-10/Sonoma crew cabs.

    I think it's safe to say the comments pertaining to the above, would be much the same as those pertaining to the Tacoma: Essentially it's truck vs. car; nonetheless...

  • jimqpublicjimqpublic Posts: 23
    I do appreciate your input and please keep them coming.

    Generally what it comes down to is that the Subaru would be a much better vehicle for the 90% of driving that is on-road, not towing. The Toyota would be better off road or towing.

    A few responses:

    To KG11:
    Yes, the rear overhang on the Baja is cause for concern. I might decide to give up the pickup bed for the shorter overhang of the Forester.

    I currently tow the same trailer with a '96 Outback with MT which has only about 1/2 the torque of the new Turbo engine. That combined with probably the automatic transmission should allow much easier launches. With upgraded rear springs in our existing Outback plus sway control on the trailer it tows very well.

    Tow ratings are not all equal. I seriously doubt that the Toyota can tow double the trailer that the Baja can with equal safety and control. The vehicles are rather similar in dimensions, power, and reliability. Softer rear suspension on the Subaru can be corrected with aftermarket springs.

    Regarding liability in an accident, I keep hearing that argument but have never actually heard of actual cases. Nonetheless, our trailer will never exceed the 2400 pound rating on the Baja. BTW- Subaru rates its trailer towing capacity with the car at GVWR, not empty like most brands.

    Regarding tow vehicle brakes, Ford's towing guide says it best where they note that the truck brakes are only rated to stop the truck at GVWR, not GCWR. Baja's payload capacity is only 350 pounds less than the Tacoma but it has much better brakes.

    To RSHolland:
    I completely agree with your last sentance in message #3.

    Regarding trailer brakes, agreed- they're a must have. We have 10" electric brakes on the trailer controlled by a Tekonsha Prodigy. I've driven cars in the past that didn't brake as well as this trailer.

    I have looked at the other small crew cabs and the Toyota came out on top of my truck list, especially since it's the only one made in California.

    To BKaiser:
    Good point about the 15" wheels maybe not fitting. I'll check this item. I was hoping to swap the 15" wheels from our existing car to this one.

  • saddaddysaddaddy Posts: 566
    "Do I want a car or a truck?"

    If you are considering a minivan, how could a 4x4 also be on your list to look at??????

    Why not a Tacoma prerunner, why even worry about 4wd. Adds weight, gas cost, and insurance cost????

    How could you consider towing a 2000 lb trailer with a CAR with a 2000 lb towing capacity???? I mean throw tongue weight and all that out the door -- those figures just don't add up. This issue kinda scares me. You say that the Tacoma can't tow twice as much b/c power ratings are similar. Hehe [shaking my head]-- SOOOO much more goes into it. Brakes, suspension, you could go on and on. Towing is an area where you want to incorporate as much room for error as possible. Come on, don't endanger others. Seriously, towing 80+% of the towing capacity is DANGEROUS, don't do it with ANY regularity.
  • kg11kg11 Posts: 530
    I agree with almost all of it.
    Cars don't tow like trucks.
    Trucks don't ride/drive like cars.

    Bob is right.Tacoma is probably the least car-like of the crew-cab minis.The Nissan and Sport-trac offer more car-like comfort.
  • jimqpublicjimqpublic Posts: 23
    SADDADDY asked:
    >"Do I want a car or a truck?"
    >If you are considering a minivan, how could a 4x4 also be on your list to look at??????

    Two very good questions. I'm trying to avoid prejudging the type of vehicle and instead look at the potential uses. I estimate that 90% of the time the new vehicle will be used for going to work, schlepping the family around, etc. 10% will be towing and 5% off-highway driving, with maybe 1% needing the greater offroad capabilities of something like the Tacoma.

    The question I'm trying to answer is whether I'm willing to give up that 1% of offroad or the 5% off-highway while driving the new vehicle. If so there are several minivans that are quite capable at towing a trailer my size and better at family car duties.

    If I were to buy (for the wife mostly) a minivan then I would take over the existing Subaru. A few thousand bucks in upgrades would make it great for off-highway driving and I'd only lose the ability to do the technical 4x4 stuff.

    As hinted at above is of course my own family dynamics. If we buy a new truck it would be mine, a minivan hers, and a crossover we'll probably flip for it.

    >Why not a Tacoma prerunner, why even worry about 4wd. Adds weight, gas cost, and insurance cost????

    True, but the added cost of 4wd is only about 15% of the vehicle cost for much increased abilities, especially the safety cushion factor if you get stuck in the sand 100 miles from nowhere. The day-to day compromises are already made with the truck so why not go all the way?

    >How could you consider towing a 2000 lb trailer with a CAR with a 2000 lb towing capacity???? I mean throw tongue weight and all that out the door -- those figures just don't add up. This issue kinda scares me. You say that the Tacoma can't tow twice as much b/c power ratings are similar. Hehe [shaking my head]-- SOOOO much more goes into it. Brakes, suspension, you could go on and on.

    Please do. I should probably just shut up but I will go on. Brakes on the Subaru are much better than the Toyota. Suspension is tighter, especially with a few upgrades. Tire sidewalls are much shorter, making up for any lack of stiffness. Center of gravity is lower. The main issues where the truck is probably much better than the car are:
    -Body/frame integrity. Truck construction may be more flexible but should have much more ultimate strength.
    -Longer wheelbase/less overhang. Probably one of the biggest statistical advantages on the Toyota vs. the Subaru Baja.
    -Rear Axle Weight Rating. I don't have the numbers in front of me but I assume the truck is much higher.
    -Tire load ratings. Car is much lower but still well over any potential load.
    -Transmission and final drive. Subarus are not designed for constant high loads however they have proven acceptable with up to 300 lb*ft of torque.

    >Towing is an area where you want to incorporate as much room for error as possible. Come on, don't endanger others. Seriously, towing 80+% of the towing capacity is DANGEROUS, don't do it with ANY regularity.

    Interestingly the tow ratings of the same vehicle lines are much different in other markets. That says the rating is not necessarily based on engineering data. In Australia the Subaru Outback rating increases to 3000 pounds with 300 pounds tongue weight while the Toyota decreases to 4000 & 400. 0,12- 89,8---24^19,00.html

    As stated I tow this trailer with a slightly less capable predecessor of the same vehicle. It handles far better with the trailer than my brother's '00 Explorer with a similar weight trailer. The primary failing of my existing vehicle is the measly 130 lb*ft of torque.

    I apologize if it sounds like I'm trying to justify a decision that hasn't been made yet. I did ask for input from both Subaru and truck enthusiasts and I appreciate your posts. I just start to get a little defensive when people try to compare their experiences with mortal cars to Subarus.

  • kg11kg11 Posts: 530
    I must confess ,the only time I've ridden in a Subaru was my mother's '79 wagon and I know the rest of the world has changed in 25 years so I have to ask a few questions.

    300 lbs of torque at 3600 rpm is the peak output but what does it do at 1200? You won't be taking off from a dead stop at 3600 will you?

    Is the turbo modle rated to tow at all? Most gas powered turbos aren't.

    Most Subaru owners are brand zealots and it seems likely that the cars meet those drivers needs very well.It seems that you fit this catagory.Would you be happy with the "Outback" version of this car and on the rare occations that you need to heal something messy just make sure it's well contained or rent a utility trailer? It don't seem like you really want a pickup and the difference in fuel cost would offset trailer rental.
  • jimqpublicjimqpublic Posts: 23
    KG11 said:
    >300 lbs of torque at 3600 rpm is the peak output but what does it do at 1200? You won't be taking off from a dead stop at 3600 will you?

    My mention of 300 lbs of torque was just to mention that the Subaru transmission CAN handle quite a bit on a modified engine.

    The new Baja turbo will put out 230 lbs of torque at 3600 rpm's. Based on the single road test I've read of the vehicle with an automatic the torque converter stalls at about 3000 so it should pull quite well on an uphill start.

  • saddaddysaddaddy Posts: 566
    you defend it in some pretty dead end issues, I would say that your mind seems pretty made up on the Subaru.

    Whats with all the questions?

    Just being a devil's advocate here, I guess. Good luck in you decision to purchase a weird looking car. I guess some folks find uses for them - I would've never guessed it. Oh well, Ive been wrong before. L8rs and good luck.
  • kg11kg11 Posts: 530
    The decision has clearly been made right from the start.Jim appears to be looking for approval for buying something that most people wouldn't do.

    Here's the hitch Jim.If people approved of towing a 2400 lb trailer with a Subaru,you'd see them doing it.
  • rshollandrsholland Posts: 19,661
    It has the same engine as the upcoming Baja turbo. The power is great, and easy to live with. The one I drove was a 5-speed, and running through the gears, you're at 80 mph very quickly. There's no turbo lag, and it feels a lot like a big V8 in the delivery of power.

  • rshollandrsholland Posts: 19,661
    Not sure what your asking? The gearing seemed fine to me.

  • saddaddysaddaddy Posts: 566
    as far as towing goes, gearing is another reason why a tacoma should be able to tow more than a minivan or sedan with similar power numbers -- gearing.
  • rshollandrsholland Posts: 19,661
    Well a whole lot of factors come into play when it comes to tow ratings, not just horsepower. I'm pretty sure Subaru has not increased its towing capacity for the XT.

    Having said that, I would say yes, the XT would probably be easier to tow with because of the increased power, especially down low.

    One thing you may not be aware of, the Forester has a higher tow rating with the manual 5-speed (2400), than it does with the automatic (2000). It may be due to the extra gear and the Hill-Holder clutch, but I'm not sure. In any case, if you don't have trailer brakes, you can't tow over 1000 pounds with any Subaru or Toyota (including Land Cruiser, Tundra or Sequoia).

  • jimqpublicjimqpublic Posts: 23
    I didn't mean to make it seem like the decision has been made; it hasn't. The capabilities of the Tacoma are pretty well known so I didn't feel the need to elaborate on it.

    I won't commit to buying a Baja until I see the spec's on the actual production model. The Turbo model will have a different transmission from the current automatic and the suspension is going to be revised for 2004. I hadn't thought of the fact that the addition of a turbocharger might lower or eliminate the tow capacity. On the 2 liter turbo WRX models the tow rating is the same as the 2.5 liter non-turbo Impreza; OTOH the 2.5 liter turbo STI is not recommended for towing.

    The odd thing on Subaru tow ratings is that their manual transmission models are now rated somewhat higher (2400 vs. 2000) than the automatic, but no mention of a required automatic transmission fluid cooler for towing. Most brands have much higher ratings for automatic vs. stick but they always require a cooler.

    -Tow rating- I need 2400 available with a fully loaded tow vehicle. Generally Subaru tow ratings assume the vehicle is loaded to GVWR, (including tongue weight).
    -Tongue weight rating- I'd like to see at least 240.
    -GVWR and payload capacity- To handle passengers, bikes on the roof, some light stuff in the bed plus the tongue weight the total carrying capacity needs to be about 1000 pounds. I've seen different values for the 2003 model ranging from 800 to 1050 pounds net carrying capacity.

    It will be September before the new Baja model is actually available so if I haven't bought a new vehicle by then I will check it out.

    Thanks for the input.
  • rshollandrsholland Posts: 19,661
    The odd thing on Subaru tow ratings is that their manual transmission models are now rated somewhat higher (2400 vs. 2000) than the automatic,

    That's only true for the Forester. It might(?) have something to do with the fact that the Forester 5-speed has a Hill-Holder clutch, and an extra gear. All '03 Bajas are rated at 2400 pounds for braked trailers. Also '03 H-6 Outbacks are also now rated at 2400 pounds.

  • saddaddysaddaddy Posts: 566
    Have you read the owners manuals for all those Toyota trucks you just cited? Your profile shows no ownership of a Toyota vehicle. Just wondering???

    My manual says no such thing. Where are you getting this?
This discussion has been closed.