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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 edmunds.com 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