All car companies want to keep their customers. That’s why Subaru created the Tribeca three years ago. The kids who bought WRXs and Outbacks were finding themselves with families and needed something that could hold seven people.
Our 2008 Tribeca Limited was pure Subaru: boxer engine, all-wheel drive, safety-conscious, and built with the spirit of a rally car. The Tribeca is faithful to the Subaru’s ideals, which means the loyalists will love and leave others scratching their heads.
The Tribeca received its first facelift since its introduction in 2006, and it was absolutely needed. The first mug this car showed up with was compared to the Ford Edsel in that it looked like a normal car sucking on a lemon. The new face of the largest Subaru is downright attractive. Subaru’s minimal use of chrome on the exterior mutes the impact of the SUV, and so the car will stick out less than last year’s model. The design is more mainstream, but it also has aggressive touches like a lower kick plate that is inspired by rally cars.
The rest of the body is a carryover from the previous years, which is a good thing. Subaru built this car to look like a smaller machine. The rear doors are surprising large. This not only provides good access to the third row of seats, but also hides the car’s 191-inch length.
The interior of the Tribeca is up for debate. Multiple staff members commented on the “space age” look of the dual cowl, silver instrument cluster. The debate came with the tone they said it in: love it and hate it. Regardless of how it looked, it was agreed that almost everything was laid out in a logical order. The biggest functional complaint was the touch-screen sat-nav was a too far away. Its placement at the top of the long dash meant that it was easy to see but sometimes a distracting reach.
The rest of the Tribeca is pure rally car. The driver’s seat is firmer than some of the other similar cars we’ve recently had like the Hyundai Santa Fe or Ford Flex. We’re not sure how this will translate on long hauls, but it does keep our butts planted in the twisties. The steering wheel continues the rally car idea. It’s small, three-spoke that is grippie and almost feels like it wants to encourage aggressive driving.
If the wheel was suggesting a spirited drive, then the drivetrain was screaming it like a drill sergeant. The steering is heavy and responsive in a way that would be more expected from a sporty sedan than an SUV. The Tribeca is based on the Legacy platform, and the car base helps make this seven passenger tall wagon feel like a much smaller car.
The all-wheel drive is promoted as a safety feature, but it also insures that grip is not lost whether going through puddles or going around corners too fast. Although it doesn’t find much advantages in the city, those who like to go on a weekend adventure may appreciate the extra grip.
The road noise was not a big issue in our Tribeca. The car did not cushion out the outside as well as some of our other vehicles like the Ford Flex , but this car is meant to be less isolated. Some of the driving experience would have been lost if the small roar of the engine was not heard.
Our Tribeca was powered by a 3.6-liter six-cylinder boxer engine. Unlike most cylinder engines that will have two opposing sides that are shaped in a “V”, a boxer engine will have the cylinder horizontally opposed in at 180 degrees. This creates a lower center of gravity, which may help lend to the Tribeca’s car-like feel. This is the engine of choice for Porsche as well as Subaru. Our Tribeca benefited from this boxer engine by delivering 256 horses that always felt peppy. Our acceleration felt brisk and seemed to keep up with comparable SUVs.
The $37,326 price tag for our loaded tester is running on the high end among stiff competition. The Tribeca brings some unique items to the table that may justify the premimum.
People who drive Subarus are loyal fans. The car has a different interior, a different engine, and a full-time all-wheel drive that is good enough for a mountain pass. If this doesn’t excite you, then maybe your not a Subaru person. But before you make the final decision, it’s worth giving the Tribeca a test drive to find out who you really are.