The Tribeca, Subaru's first midsize sport-utility, is a relatively recent addition to the crossover SUV segment. Bigger and taller than the company's other utility vehicles, it's meant to be a viable alternative to established Japanese crossover competitors as well as other more upscale sport-utilities.
The Subaru Tribeca (originally known as the B9 Tribeca) succeeds in that regard. However, there's not much to push the Tribeca beyond that "alternative" status. Though premium in look and feel, the vehicle's interior is a little cramped when compared to some competitors. Earlier models also suffered from mediocre acceleration.
Overall, the Tribeca's faults are significant enough that we think most shoppers will be happier with other top crossover SUVs. Only if you're a dedicated Subaru fan looking for something out of the mainstream will it be worth adding to your consideration list.
Current Subaru Tribeca
The Subaru Tribeca is a midsize SUV based on a widened and stretched version of the platform Subaru uses for its previous-generation Legacy and Outback. There are three trim levels -- Premium, Limited and Touring -- and all seat up to seven passengers.
Convenience and safety features are pretty comprehensive on the Premium model, as 18-inch alloy wheels, tri-zone automatic climate control and power front seats are standard. Stepping up to the Limited gets you leather seating, heated front seats, front-seat memory presets, Bluetooth and a 10-speaker audio system with CD changer and satellite radio. The Touring's additional highlights include xenon headlights, a sunroof and a back-up camera. Big-ticket options like rear-seat entertainment and a navigation system with rear parking camera are optional.
The Subaru Tribeca is powered by a 3.6-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine producing 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. All models also come with Subaru's signature traction-boosting all-wheel drive that splits the power 45 front/55 rear under normal circumstances, and redistributes power on the fly as needed. A five-speed automatic transmission with a Sport and manual-shift mode is standard.
The Tribeca's cabin has a distinctly sleek and upscale look, but the dash is slathered in hard plastic, and some controls are awkwardly arranged. On the other hand, we like the central screen that displays climate control and audio information -- and this feature comes along for the ride whether you order the navigation system or not.
Legroom is sparse for third-row passengers, and even those in the second row might feel a little cramped -- a rear-facing infant seat barely fits. Fortunately, cargo room with the seats folded is a bit more generous, with up to 74 cubic feet available, though it lags behind some rivals.
Once under way, the current Subaru Tribeca feels reasonably quick and certainly better than earlier models. The engine can sound a little noisy and rough when it's working hard, however. On the other hand, the Tribeca's highway ride is smooth and the cabin remains quiet.
Used Subaru Tribeca Models
The Subaru Tribeca midsize SUV debuted for the 2006 model year, though it was originally known as the B9 Tribeca. The "B9" was dropped for 2008. Named for New York City's fashionable and affluent TriBeCa neighborhood, it became Subaru's first U.S. vehicle to feature a controversial (and short-lived) new design expression consisting of a stylized triangular grille and rounded bodywork.
This look was poorly received by the public, hence the current model's generic front-end treatment, which bowed for the '08 model year. The following year saw a Special Edition model joined the original base and Limited trims, though for 2010 it was gone when the Touring trim debuted and the formerly optional third-row seat became standard across the board.
Used-vehicle shoppers should note that prior to 2008, the Tribeca's six-cylinder engine was a little underpowered. Displacing 3.0 liters, it made 245 hp and 215 lb-ft of torque. Subaru Tribecas with this engine can feel considerably more sluggish when accelerating than 2008 and later models.