A person looking for a stylish, funky looking SUV with a good ride and comfortable interior.
Comparable cars in this class:
Acura MDX, BMW X3, Ford Explorer, GMC Envoy, Infiniti FX35, Jeep Commander, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Lexus RX330, Mercury Mountaineer, Mitsubishi Montero, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota 4Runner, Volvo XC90
If youve been following the company over the years, you just had to know that Subarus newest version of the sport-utility vehicle would not travel down the same well-worn road used by other manufacturers.
After all, this is the company that uses horizontally-opposed engines instead of the traditional in-line and V-shaped powerplants. It's the company that sells only all-wheel-drive vehicles and basically invented the passenger-friendly crossover vehicle when most other companies were cranking out hard-edged sport-utility vehicles.
Now comes the B9 Tribeca, so lets start off with a little question-and-answer session to get our bearings.
What is a B9 Tribeca? Its the companys new flagship, an all-wheel-drive five- or seven-passenger vehicle which executives at Fuji Heavy Industries, Subarus Japanese parent, see as a logical step up from its popular Outback sport-utility wagon.
It looks and acts much like a typical sport-utility vehicle, with a high seating position, a generous 8.4 inches of ground clearance and lots of room for cargo in the back. But there are a couple of notable differences. Its more comfortable and agile than many truck-based SUVs and it is primarily engineered to handle bad weather rather than bad roads. Yes, that makes it a crossover vehicle, just like the Outback and Forester. Obviously, Subaru sees its customers as on-road people.
How did it get that unusual name? The B designates the six-cylinder boxer engine that supplies the power. The 9 is an internal code designating the vehicle. The B9 does not, as some have joked, convey a subliminal message about Subarus benign attitude.
And, Tribeca? Thats the name of a trendy New York City neighborhood and the Subaru folks do hope that its reputation as a center of progressive art and style will help to define the personality of their newest vehicle.
Whats the story on that front end? Unquestionably the most controversial aspect of the B9 Tribeca is its styling. The new nose derives from the companys aircraft heritage. If you see a fuselage flanked by wing-shaped grilles you have a better eye for design than I do. Anyway, like it or not, Subaru says it will be the face of new vehicles to come.
Now, lets get down to business. The B9 Tribeca is built on a longer, wider and more rigid version of the platform which underpins the Legacy and Outback. Its three-liter, horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine generates 250 horsepower and 219 foot-pounds of torque and is the same one used in upscale versions of the Legacy/Outback.
The power flows from the engine through a five-speed automatic transmission which features a manual override to make the most of the engines available thrust.
To improve the vehicles controllability in normal driving conditions, the symmetrical all-wheel-drive system distributes torque 45 percent to the front wheels and 55 percent to the rear wheels. When the road turns slippery, the system automatically transfers power to the wheels with the most traction.
The newest Subaru also features stability control, which detects when the B9 Tribeca is about to go into a skid and then redistributes power and applies the antilock brakes as needed to keep it on its intended path.
In addition, the vehicles stiff platform restricts unwanted body movements, the revised independent suspension improves ride comfort and handling and the power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering provides a fair amount of feedback from the road.
Add all of the B9 Tribecas sophisticated ingredients together and the result is an enjoyable, car-like experience for driver and passenger alike.
In a week with the vehicle, my travels took me over commuter-crowded urban highways, through the heart of Manhattan and into the hilly, two-lane ski and resort areas of northern New Jersey.
The B9 Tribecas excellent visibility kept me alert to the aggressive shenanigans of motorists in and around New York and the vehicles responsiveness and efficient four-wheel antilock disc brakes kept me out of harms way. There was minimal body roll through the twists and turns of the back roads and there was no undue ride harshness when the road turned rough.
Although the boxer engine was quiet and refined, there were times when I felt the 4,200-pound vehicle could have used a little more power. The manual-shift capability helped, but safe-passing opportunities in hill country proved few and far between. On the other hand, I averaged between 17 and 23 miles per gallon of gas at a time when prices were near their peak. Fuel efficiency for power was a welcome trade-off.
The test vehicle was a five-passenger B9 Tribeca Limited. Inside, it continues the aircraft theme with a sculpted twin cockpit dashboard and aluminum trim. The center console contains a seven-inch screen that displays time, outside temperature, fuel mileage and sound-system settings. A rear-seat entertainment system is optional on five-and seven passenger vehicles, but a navigation system is an extra-cost feature only on the top-of-the-line seven-passenger model.
The front bucket seats were comfortable and supportive. The 60-40 fold-down rear bench was not quite as user-friendly, but it could accommodate up to three passengers, short and tall, with its eight inches of fore and aft movement and reclining seatbacks.
A total of 37.6 cubic feet of cargo space is available behind the second row. Fold the 40/20/40 second-row seatbacks into the floor and the rear hatch will open to a generous 74.4 cubic feet.
The new Subaru has received a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration for frontal and side-impact crashworthiness. Passive safety features include dual front and side-curtain airbags, front-seat side-impact airbags, active front-seat head restraints, child-seat anchors and daytime running lights.
Base price of the five-passenger B9 Tribeca Limited is $32,295, and that includes a nine-speaker sound system with 6-cd player and MP3 capability, dual-zone climate control, leather-trimmed upholstery, cruise control, heated outside mirrors and a windshield wiper deicer. Add a few minor options, factor in the $625 delivery charge, and the total comes to $33,513.
A final note: I inspected, but did not drive a seven-passenger Tribeca. The third row tightens passenger space behind the front row considerably and reduces cargo space to 8.3 cubic feet. This is not the vehicle to carry seven adults. Families with growing children should keep the future in mind
That said, the Subaru B9 Tribeca offers an appealing combination of utility, practicality, comfort and driving ease. For those whose needs are in line with the vehicles size, its a worthy step up from the Legacy/Outback and Forester.