Subaru decided to enter into the mid-size 4x4 crossover market in 2005 with the release of the Tribeca, named after a neighbourhood in New York City. The Tribeca was built on the architecture of the Subaru Legacy and available in either 5- or 7-seat configuration.
The original design released in 2005 had a steeply raking windscreen and fat pug-nosed front end, leading to harsh appraisal of its look. Emergency facelifts were planned, and in 2006 and 2007, the Tribeca received a more refined bonnet, new grille shape, and a less sharply sloped windscreen.
The rear also came in for some redesign with the heavily accented rear light rig softened and a smaller rear window included. The flowing interior shape, however, was a hit and remained unchanged. It was conceived to place all important controls and dials within easy reach, leaving the driver free to concentrate on the road ahead.
The 5- or 7-seat version can have all rear seats folded flat to make a large cargo area; however, the two third row seats are not spacious and more suited to children than adults.
The Subaru Tribeca originally came powered with a 3.0L EZ30 Boxer engine, and many felt this was somewhat underpowered. Later, in 2008, when the car received its facelift, the shell was updated and power was increased by installing the larger 3.6L 36EZ petrol engine. This was coupled with an easy shifting, 5-speed, automatic gearbox and AWD to ensure plenty of grip on the road.
The Tribeca has a look of a family car but the handling and stability of a more rugged off-road vehicle. With the addition of its many safety features, this five-star, ANCAP-rated car is a pleasure to drive. The 3.6L Boxer puts down 190kW of power and has 350Nm torque, accelerating from 0-100 km/h in 8.3 seconds while its combined fuel consumption is 11.6L/100km, emitting 275g/km of CO2.
For travelling around town and the odd long distance highway trip, the Tribeca�s 3.6 engine is perfectly adequate. Casual, family drivers who are not expecting to take on rough terrain or break speed records will find it a pleasant, comfortable car. Its handling is agile, and it holds the road well. From the high driver�s position, there is a commanding view of the road ahead.
The Tribeca comes in three trims elsewhere; in Australia, it's only available in the Premium trim, so you find it comes as an all-or-nothing deal. The car is completed in leather trim, with 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, duel zone climate control, cruise control, cloth upholstery, heated front seats, and a rear view camera. There are HID headlights, auto-dim rear view mirror, moon roof, satnav, dash screen camera view, and an enhanced rear-seat 9-inch DVD entertainment screen package.
The interior is not a traditional Subaru design, and with its central instrument cluster and sweeping lines, it makes a striking sight. The on-board computer makes keeping tabs on the car�s performance straightforward, and the duel zone climate control means you can make sure everyone is kept at a comfortable temperature.
The Subaru Tribeca in the 4x4 class has competition from all sides, including the mid-size Ford Edge and Nissan Murano, and the likes of the entry-level Audi Q5, Mitsubishi Pajero, or Holden Captiva 7. There are also Subaru�s own Outback and Forester vehicles operating in the same marketplace. Although there is criticism of the Tribeca�s fuel economy, you will find it consumes less than a petrol-driven Ford Territory; simply, a 3.6L engine pushing nearly 2 tonnes is always going to find itself thirsty.
The Subaru Tribeca is a competitive car and seems to have been the engineer of its own misfortune. Initial comments about the design of the body shell and power have hung over it. While Subaru has created a softer, less aggressive-looking car and increased its engine size, there are still questions. It could do with the option of a cheaper-to-run diesel, and a variety of trim levels would be nice.
These things aside, the Tribeca is an interesting car stylistically, and it is well provisioned. It is safe, handles well, and provides a comfortable ride. Figures also show that Subaru vehicles tend to have good residual values and hold their own well in the second-hand market.