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2003 Subaru Baja Pros and Cons at TrueDelta: I hate to love this car by lpcard



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I have wanted a Baja since I first saw them in 2003, and in 2010 I finally got the chance to own one. I had to have it in Baja Yellow, of course, and as chance would have it there was one at a nearby dealership when my POS Pontiac bit the big one. The price was under blue book and it was love at first drive.

The problems started when I did the timing belt at the recommended 105K miles. The head gaskets were leaking oil and coolant, and even though it wasn't getting into the cylinders and the car was running great I figured it was a good time to do it. Since then I've done head gaskets three times.

The lastest problem is when the "piston slap" that the car has had since I bought it (and was assured by a Subaru mechanic that "they all do that" devolved into spun rod bearings one day.

I love my Baja, I have a used motor coming for it and I will completely rebuild the old one to have on hand just in case. I will keep fixing and driving it until I can no longer get parts for it, but this is the very first and very last Subaru I will ever own.

Reviewed: 2003 Subaru Baja

4dr SUT 165-horsepower 2.5L H4 5-speed manual AWD

Why the 2003 Subaru Baja?

Exterior styling

I love the styling of the Baja because it's the best of both worlds, it's enough of a truck when I need one and enough of a car when I don't. I have owned pickup style vehicles on and off since I started driving (first one was a 67 Chevy C10) and whenever I don't have one I am surprised at how much I really miss not having it.

Powertrain performance

Here's where the mixed review comes in. The Subaru is smooth and quiet and runs great...when it runs. However the boxer 4 has a deserved evil reputation for eating head gaskets, I've replaced three sets in the ten years I've owned the vehicle. This motor is also reknowned for its noise making abilities, the darn thing sounds like a diesel. I was told "piston slap" forever, but no...it was impending rod knock. Currently the motor is down hard for spun rod bearings. To add insult to injury, what is a 50 dollar part on other cars is a 500 dollar part for a Subaru.

Why Not the 2003 Subaru Baja?

Powertrain performance

Head gaskets! Anyone who owns a Subaru knows what I'm talking about. And that noise you are hearing, the one that everyone tells you is piston slap and "they all do it", keep an eye on it. My "piston slap" evolved into spun rod bearings.

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