2013 Subaru Tribeca

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Review: 2008 Subaru Tribeca

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2014.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

The Tribeca goes more mainstream styling and a larger engine.
Pros:
  • More power
  • Roomy
  • Standard all-wheel drive
Cons:
  • Less distinctive styling
  • Annoying radio controls
  • Tight available third seat

Mainstream styling and extra power promise to give the 2008 Subaru Tribeca midsize crossover vehicle greater appeal.

The Tribeca was introduced in early 2005 as a 2006 model. That was a late start because Subaru helped launch the crossover market with its all-wheel-drive 1995 Legacy Outback.

The Tribeca (Triangle Below Canal) is named for a hip section of downtown Manhattan, but probably leaves folks in most parts of the country wondering what it means.

However, Subaru has dropped the even more obscure "B9" designation from the Tribeca's name. (The "B" stood for the "boxer" engine with its horizontally opposed pistons that move toward each other like boxing gloves, and the "9" stood for the model series.)

The first Tribeca had controversial styling because its front end was reminiscent of racy Italian Alfa Romeo sports models, not sold in America for years. Many thought the styling didn't fit the Tribeca because crossovers are mostly mainstream vehicles with conventional styling.

Livelier Highway Performance
The Tribeca also wasn't helped by lazy performance above 65 mph, although it otherwise was pretty accomplished and was offered with a kid-sized third-row seat. The 2007 model added an optional remote starter and rearview camera, along with a standard roll sensor, brake assist system and a revised suspension for a smoother ride.

Subaru was well aware of styling resistance from the public and media and thus the 2007 model's grille inserts went from chrome to matte black to tone down the controversial front end, and some got mesh inserts.

However, major changes to the early 2008 Tribeca should make it even more competitive in the growing crossover market.

Mainstream Styling
For one thing, it has a new, rather generic front end with a wider, taller grille that could be from a Chrysler Pacifica, new front fenders, and a new hood design. A raised hood line, deeper front valance and new headlights visually widen and heighten the Tribeca, providing it with what Subaru calls "more road presence."

Also new are rear three-quarter windows and larger, reshaped outside mirrors. There's different rear styling with a new valance below the tailgate and wider taillights.

Two Trim Levels
The Tribeca comes in Base and upscale Limited trim levels, each providing 5- or 7-passenger seating. Prices go from $29,995 to $33,595.

The Limited has items including power front seats, leather upholstery and a power tilt/sliding glass sunroof. But even the Base trim level is well-equipped with a good amount of comfort, convenience and safety items, including front-seat side airbags and front- and second-row side-curtain airbags.

Included among options are a navigation system, rear vision camera, remote starter and satellite radio. The 7-passenger version has an optional DVD entertainment system.

More Potent Engine
Replacing the 3.0-liter 245-horsepower 6-cylinder engine is a 3.6-liter 6-cylinder with 256 horsepower. It's got the same low, compact design that has pistons laid flat in horizontal opposition.

The smoother new engine has more torque and a flatter torque curve that rises more quickly at the low end. The result is faster, more responsive acceleration, especially at highway speeds. The engine also has improved response, thanks to variable valve timing on intake and exhaust valves.

With higher fuel prices, it's nice to know that the engine can run on 87-octane gasoline instead of the premium gas that the old engine required.

The EPA's lower fuel economy numbers for 2008 vehicles are 16 mpg in the city and 21 on the highway for the Tribeca. Its weight of 4,129-4,182 pounds holds down economy.

The engine is mated to a revised, responsive 5-speed automatic transmission with a new control unit for smoother, faster shifts. There's also a manual shift feature.

Driving Fun
The power steering is quick and appropriately firm, but feels rather artificial. Stable handling helps allow driving fun. It's helped by large 18-inch wheels and Subaru's accomplished all-wheel-drive system. That system is enhanced by variable torque distribution, vehicle dynamics control and traction control. Also, the compact boxer engine's low height helps the Tribeca maintain a low center of gravity.

A recalibrated rear suspension with new bushings helps allow a better ride, and the anti-lock brakes with a brake assist feature provide short, responsible stops.

Easy entry and exit is helped by a low floor. Even the back doors open wide, so awkward moves aren't needed to get in or out.

Sitting High
Occupants sit high in the roomy interior, although the center of the back seat is uncomfortably hard, as it is in most vehicles. However, the second-row seat slides fore and aft on both sides now—not just the passenger side—to allow easier entry to the available third seat.

Front seats are generally comfortable but need more side support when the Tribeca is snaking through curves.

Racy Interior
The quiet interior looks both racy and upscale, with a twin cockpit design featuring a flowing, sculpted dashboard and center console. Electroluminescent gauges can be easily read and ambient interior lighting illuminates front and rear footwells, console and cupholders. Front cupholders have an unusual split cover. All doors have storage pockets, but the covered console bin isn't very deep.

The windshield is big, but has thick posts that partly obstruct vision when turning corners. Climate controls are large, but it takes too long to use the audio controls with the dashboard screen.

Large Cargo Area
The cargo opening is low and wide. With two seating rows, the cargo area is spacious, and seatbacks can be flipped forward for more space. Cargo room is marginal with the third seat in its normal position, although that seat folds flat into the floor.

The hood operates smoothly on twin struts, and the engine compartment has easily reached fluid filler areas.

The new Tribeca no longer will stand out in parking lots with its more subdued styling, but otherwise it's a better vehicle than its predecessor.

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BB03 - 7/27/2014 10:16:36 PM