This is a heavily modified, fire breathing example of Subaru’s lukewarm Outback-pickup-thing, which they called the Baja. It belongs to my friend, Rob, who has spent the last eight years corrupting every last inch of this once awkward and unassuming ‘Ute toward the dark side of The Force.
Why… Just why?
Because things like this need to exist. Subaru never made a blood thirsty rally version of the Baja, so Rob has taken it upon himself to make one.
What is the main thing I need to know about the Baja From Hell?
It is different, and its entire identity revolves around being so. Rob’s Baja is a car that is bursting at the seams with “special” and it has proven able to draw a sizable crowd at any sort of automotive gathering.
What is it like to drive?
The Baja is a raw, exhilarating, and unfiltered example of what a modified Subaru should be like. These cars take no prisoners, and they keep you on edge the whole time while behind the wheel. The Baja has the demeanor of a wild beast, and it is up to you to get a shackle around its neck so you can dictate the direction of its fury.
This fury comes from the Baja’s turbocharged 2.5L boxer four (STi EJ257 swap with CP pistons), which produces around 475bhp and over 500ft/lbs of torque in it’s current configuration (around 375hp at the wheels). Considering the Baja made only 210bhp when Rob first got it, the transformation of the car’s character has been massive. Dr. Jekyll has indeed become Mr. Hyde.
This thing accelerates like a bat out of hell, especially in the context of a tight, winding back road with shoddy pavement, and large trees just feet from the tarmac. The grip available from the all wheel drive allows you to slingshot yourself out of corners, transforming the those trees into a gray blur as all of your focus moves to the next rapidly approaching corner.
The upgraded brakes slow the car with astounding force, and the chassis gives you an unexpected sense of balance when being thrown into a turn. The Baja actually still has stock Subaru suspension on it because Rob, like me, understands the value of having a good amount of suspension travel when attacking these rally-stage-like back roads. The solid composure of the chassis through a bend lets you focus on picking the precise moment to blast yourself out onto the next straightaway. Like most fast all wheel drive cars, the game here is really point and shoot, with horsepower and torque being the heavy artillery in the battle for speed.
The Baja’s controls are nice too. The steering offers a lot of feedback from the road. The clutch is a bit heavy with a lot of bite, which can be a bit tricky at first, but once you’ve got it, it’s fantastic. Its shifter has a good notch to it with a throw that is just right (short, but not too short). In terms of braking, the pedal is progressive, with a lot of stopping force available when you really stand on it.
Where the Baja definitely has other turbo Subarus beat is in its throttle response, thanks to its air-to-water intercooler setup. It’s almost like the car is naturally aspirated, I kid you not. Rob also has a nice trick up his sleeve here because he can throw ice into the system’s reservoir during the summer months to make the car perform like it does in late Fall, when that first nip of cold is biting the air.
While the Baja is certainly a different package than your standard WRX or STi, it has definitely been cut from the same cloth. It has everything you want in a fast Subaru, savage acceleration, nimble handling, powerful braking, and frantic driver involvement. As a backroad attack vehicle, the this car is certainly up there with the best of them.
What all has been done to the Baja?
I’ll let Rob explain…
How does the Baja make you feel?
Like a total and complete badass! This car will corrupt anyone who gets behind the wheel.
How does the Baja compare with an STi?
Fast Subarus, especially modified ones, have a certain edge of brutality to their driving experience and the way that they deliver their performance. These are very raw and exciting cars, however those wanting refinement need not apply.
For reference, the Baja doesn’t feel quite as tight as an STi, but the difference isn’t night and day. Remember, the Baja was not originally meant for this sort of performance, so it’s underpinnings are more standard Subaru “sporty” than “rally inspired.”
In terms of tangible differences, the extra power in the Baja was apparent. On my ride home, my STi’s surge of power, while still exciting, felt a bit dulled off. That said, the STi’s handling was tighter and it felt more nimble. This is not to say that either car is lacking in any aspect of performance, but having experienced the nuances of each car back to back, that is what I noticed.
Is the Baja practical?
Very. In fact we stopped to pick up some bags of wood chips near the end of our drive, and Rob has a child seat fitted in the rear for his young son (who loves riding in the Baja for obvious reasons). Also, Rob has been able to get as much as 27mpg when just cruising out of boost.
The Baja maintains all of its original functionality, and that means Rob’s modifications have only improved the car as a whole. It can even still climb over curbs with no issue… I’d like to see a stanced STI try that…
Who is this car for?
Rob, duh! It’s his creation through and through, of course with the help from Ryan at Area1320. Rob is one of those people that gets a kick out of people reacting strongly to his car, either positively or negatively.
How do other people receive the Baja?
Well this goes off of what I meant in my last point. A lot of people will love the Baja from Hell, but many will also despise it. It’s one of those cars that causes a scene, and is basically a big middle finger to the customs and values of mainstream society.
It has character for sure, but for every thumbs up, there is a wag of the finger to match, and of course law enforcement likes to “check” on Rob and his car from time to time… as I’m sure you can imagine by now.
Will it terrify little old ladies on their way home from church?
How much has it cost?
Rob put his total spending on the Baja at around $55k to $60k at this point, including the price of the car itself.
For me it is always important to understand how much money has actually been spent on a modified car in order to really appreciate it. Otherwise one might mistakenly think that the road between a standard Baja Turbo and the car you see here is a cheap and easy one.
Knowing the total cost of a car is also important for me to see where it falls in terms of opportunity cost as far as what other cars could have been had for the same money.
Was it worth it?
I definitely think so. It is one of just a handful of fast Baja’s in the world, and it has many custom features that would even allow it to stand out among them. The Baja From Hell is about as functionally unique as any modified car could hope to be, and in that regard, no option for the same money comes even remotely close.
In terms of performance, this Baja will certainly hold its own against most other cars you can get for $60k. It will certainly blow the doors off of, say, a brand new BMW 335i or Audi S4.
What would you change about it?
Nothing, because to change it means changing its personality. Much like a person, the Baja is the way it is for a reason, and that is what distinguishes it as “special.”
If you had one phrase to describe the Baja, what would it be?
I had driven the Baja From Hell once before, prior starting Mind Over Motor. Between then and now the car grew a lot, and I was very excited about doing this article on it in its current form.
Those of you who follow this blog know that I’ve tested all types of different cars, everything from the frugal Prius C to the outrageous Lamborghini Aventador. Even among such wide ranging company, a car like the Baja From Hell stands out.
Rob couldn’t really believe that I’d be so excited to review his car after driving sampling the automotive elite, but the truth is that few of those cars have the same sort of genuine personality, or relative rarity, as the Baja. It is a car crafted by an individual to express their own personality through the medium of automotive form — Put simply, the Baja is “Art,” loud, obnoxious, exciting “Art.”
WoM Score: The Baja From Hell
Primary Function: Performance: 2
Secondary Functions: Comfort(2) Practicality(2): 2
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 2
Value for Money: 2
Final Score: 10/10….. what’d you think it would get?
-Article by Nick Walker