For 2008, Subaru has significantly re-vamped its full-size Tribeca crossover SUV. The original Tribeca, released in 2005, was puzzlingly called the “B9 Tribeca” and featured what looked like an upside-down Alfa Romeo grille. For those of us with a sympathetic eye toward daring design, the car was fine the way it was. But we don’t make up the bulk of automotive consumers, and the Tribeca had to change.
The “B9” is gone, as is the original grille. The Subaru Tribeca now has a conventional front end that resembles a Chrysler Pacifica or even the Saab 9-7X. The profile and rear end are mostly unchanged (save a slight re-working to round off the tail lamps), with good reason: they looked great in the first place. The new car has larger mirrors, and the severe kink in the rear side glass panels has been re-worked for a more conventional look. Subaru knew they needed to fix some things, but they left the good stuff alone.
The original interior was very cool, and has even spawned some imitators from other Japanese marques. So it, mercifully, carries on unchanged. The dash is fashioned in the cockpit style that is growing in popularity, and is clustered with controls and buttons that are easy to read and operate. The climate-control buttons themselves are pretty neat, with a digital display inside the knob itself on both driver and passenger sides.
Our ‘Limited’ test car came in Satin White Pearl, with a very inviting two-tone interior, featuring cream-colored leather with black accents. And it wasn’t short on storage. The center console features two large cup holders, with two roomy cutouts attached to them. They would work well for candy, cell phones (they are raised a bit so as to avoid spillage from the cup-holding portion), or a pack of cigarettes.
You can also watch the 2008 Subaru Tribeca Video on YouTube.
The second row also features an abundance of storage – a large drawer in the back of the driver’s armrest – and cup holders: one in each door, and two in the center armrest. The second row also features considerable sliding and reclining adjustment, as well as excellent access to the third row.
Our Tribeca was a five-passenger model, so we didn’t get a chance to experience the third row. It is rumored to be one of the tighter fits in the class, but since third rows are typically used for seating small children, this may or may not be a sticking point for any given customer. Instead of the third row, we got a handsomely executed under-floor storage system. Aft of that is the storage area for the jack and spare tire, which is very neat and not conducive to losing items placed in it.
The Tribeca has taken a jump in performance, due to the larger engine. The old three-liter horizontally opposed six is gone, replaced by a 3.6-liter version with 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. That’s a jump of eleven and thirty-two respectively, and it has a noticeable effect on this SUV’s performance. Fuel economy is essentially unchanged, with EPA estimates of 16 city and 21 highway for 2008. But the new motor runs on regular fuel, whereas the old lump required premium. More power, unchanged mileage, and cheaper gas? Yes, please.
The idea of the Tribeca is to give Subaru buyers something to buy when their Outbacks are just too small. The Tribeca preserves much of the Subaru character – the Boxer motor and the Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive that directs 55% of power to the rear wheels under normal conditions – but delivers it in a much larger package. True to Subaru form, our tester was filled with optional equipment, like heated seats and a touch-screen navigation screen.
The Tribeca is competitively priced for this segment. A base price of $34,995 got us a very well equipped vehicle – another hallmark of buying a Subaru. As with the Outback we tested recently, there were very few optional features added. We got a cargo convenience group, another convenience group with some lighting features, and a popular equipment package that added a crossbar kit and splash guards. These small-ticket items, as well as a $645 destination charge, added less than $2,000 to our grand total of $36,758.
As always, Subarus appeal to a select group of consumers that value substance over style, and want a vehicle that is unflappable in poor road (or off-road) conditions. This SUV will capture that demographic and then some, as its more conservative looks and heartier powertrain are sure to win some buyers away from Honda, Toyota, and Nissan.