Subaru B9 Tribeca 3.0 (2006) review

Published:15 December 2006

Subaru B9 Tribeca 3.0 (2006) review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

Is this the ugliest car on sale?

I like a man who gets straight to the point. The Tribeca’s certainly an acquired taste - it’s difficult to look at either end without wanting to vomit. But at least it’s distinctive, and viewed in profile it’s actually fairly handsome. But yes, this does look like a car that’s got some chromosomal abnormalities going on.

So apart from being the world’s ugliest car on sale, what’s the Tribeca hoping to achieve?

It’s hoping to steer you away from established premium SUVs like BMW’s X3 and into the hands of your Subaru dealer. The press material even mentions the X5 as a rival and in fact the Tribeca is longer then the outgoing X5. But the B9’s lack of badge and polish make it difficult to believe that anyone would opt out of the BMW, and that’s before you’ve turned a wheel.

So why does Subaru think it has a chance?

Because the range kicks off at a competitive-sounding £29,097 which makes the Tribeca significantly cheaper than any of its rivals, at least on paper. And because the cabin is the company’s best yet.

Anything quirky going on, apart from the Bugatti grille?

Well the interior is engine is straight from the Starship Enterprise, and although it looks better than it feels and the steering column adjusts only for height and not reach, it’s mostly impressive. What else? The 3.0-litre is a flat six, as used in the Legacy 3.0R, rather than a V6 which most of its rivals will use. There’s no diesel, which may not be a problem in the US, but it certainly won’t help the Tribeca win many friends in Europe, not when it manages just 23mpg on the combined cycle.

So it must be pretty brisk then?

That’s the other quirky thing: it isn’t. It’s not exactly dog slow but 9.3sec to 60mph is nothing to write home about when even BMW’s 2.5-litre X3 – half a litre and 27bhp down remember – can do it in 8.5sec. Ultimately though, the performance is adequate but the standard auto box – there’s no manual alternative – spoils the driving experience. It only has five forward gears and is forever trying to kick down, seeming unwilling to let the engine’s torque do the work. Perhaps that’s because while the 219lb ft torque figure doesn’t look too undernourished the engine has a very short stroke and prefers to wind round to the red line than slog away in the mid range. It’s not the quietest of engines either. Which is a shame because the Tribeca handles quite tidily, feeling soft but controlled like a sub-WRX Impreza. The steering could be meatier though and the flat seats don’t hold you firmly enough in corners. And though it handles large undulations happily, the suspension struggles with smaller irregularities.

What’s the package like for people in the back?

They don’t have to worry, there’s plenty of room for two or three in the back. Both head and legroom is good although as is often the case the floor doesn’t really drop away enough so you don’t end up getting enough under-thigh support. The bottom two of the three available trim levels - £28,995 S5 and £31,995 SE5 (adds leather and sat nav) – are five seat only but for £33,995 you can have the SE7 which gets a small third row of seats and a rear-seat DVD entertainment package. We don’t know how much room there is back there because our test car was only a five-seater, but we can’t imagine it’s particularly generous.

Verdict

This is brave new territory for Subaru but the Tribeca is only a partial success. Although roomy and distinctive, it’s spoiled by an irritating gearbox and the lack of a diesel engine option. And while the base price looks temptingly low, significantly undercutting rivals , Nissan’s faster, better-looking, better equipped and no thirstier Murano is actually the better value propostion.

Specs

Price when new: £29,097
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 3000cc 24v flat six, 242bhp@6600rpm, 219lb ft@4200rpm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Performance: 9.3sec 0-62mph, 121mph, 23mpg, 291g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1920kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4857/1878/1686

Rivals

Photo Gallery

  • Subaru B9 Tribeca 3.0 (2006) review
  • Subaru B9 Tribeca 3.0 (2006) review
  • Subaru B9 Tribeca 3.0 (2006) review
  • Subaru B9 Tribeca 3.0 (2006) review
  • Subaru B9 Tribeca 3.0 (2006) review
  • Subaru B9 Tribeca 3.0 (2006) review
  • Subaru B9 Tribeca 3.0 (2006) review

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

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