2006 Subaru B9 Tribeca

Subaru’s First SUV

By Kate McLeod

What, you mean there is an automobile manufacturer out there who hasn’t built an SUV until now?  Unbelievably, it is true. Subaru did their best to offer up alternatives but the popularity of SUVs/Crossovers and the need to expand their lineup to include a 3-row vehicle convinced the planners to offer their own interpretation of the SUV – the B9 Tribeca. 

The B9 has stirred up quite the debate over its looks: they are different and polarizing.  I spent hours over the last few days staring deep into its headlights, trying to decide thumbs up or thumbs down. Here’s what I think: These headlamps atop this grille are different—what’s wrong with different?  The nose in the middle of the grille rudely interrupts its line, but after a long stare, I accepted the look.  The bump of the rear is a little shocking at first, but in the end not unpleasing.  I really liked the side angle—which is the one I would see if I owned the car.  I do think the design is unresolved, as if more than one person had their way with it.  And while Subaru is incanting their aircraft origins I know of no plane with headlamps and a grille. Like it or not, this is a direction for all new Subaru models.  We’ll see more of this design.

One gripe with the vehicle, other than the cost (our Limited, 7-passenger test car came in at $39,538 including destination charge), is the engine, which might be fine for a lighter vehicle, but has trouble moving 4,251 lbs., especially up hills. The 3.0-liter, 6-cylinder engine delivers 250 hp and 219 lb.-ft of torque, which is fine with normal loads and normal driving but it strains on hills. The official mileage figures are 18 city/23 highway and I got 20.5 highway over a 300-mile drive.

 The B9 comes with Subaru’s trusty AWD and a smooth 5-speed automatic with a manumatic included.  The manumatic shifting felt a little off—premature–so I reverted to automatic for the rest of the drive.  The independent suspension is nicely tuned for a comfortable ride.  Steering is very responsive making the B9 a fun-to-drive hauler – as long as you aren’t Speed Racer. I did some mild off-roading with the vehicle and it handled well, but even with good ground clearance, an enthusiast will look to other vehicles.

The list of safety equipment is as long as the line at Starbucks in West Hollywood. In addition to the AWD, it includes ABS, electronic brake force distribution (EBD), dual front and side curtain airbags, front side impact airbags, active head restraints, 3-point seat belts with pretensioners and force limiters, Homelink with 24/7 roadside assistance and a tire pressure monitoring system. 

Inside the Tribeca the controversy pretty much ends.  The sweeping contours of the dash and brushed aluminum lines that goes from door-to-door give the cabin a feeling of movement.  Leg and headroom in the twin cockpit is generous, adding to the airiness.  The instrument cluster is easy to read with gauges for gas and temperature framing the tach and odometer like single quote marks.  The center stack carries the audio, HVAC and shifter beneath a navigation screen. If you choose not to have the navigation system, the screen still provides trip and maintenance information, a calculator and a calendar.  Cabin materials include leather, plastic and brushed aluminum. The overall look is sleek and natty but I would vote for softer plastics on the next incarnation.

The Tribeca comes with either 5-passenger or 7-passenger seating.  The third row of seats is predictably snug, but theatre seating—stepped up from row to row—makes it more tolerable for small friends or kids. All passengers in the rear get to watch the DVD, which Subaru proudly claims as the largest DVD screen in the industry.  Third row seats have a 50:50 split fold down when using the space for storage.  With the third row folded, you’ve got 74 cubic feet of hauling capability – perfect for antiquing or the trip to Home Depot.

I wish Subaru well with the Tribeca. Subaru’s Forester saved my partner’s life a few years ago in a bad single car accident.  Love it or hate it the Tribeca is going to get noticed, which means you’ll be noticed. This, depending on the person, is a good thing.

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