2006 Subaru B9 Tribeca Limited Review


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DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2006 Subaru B9 Tribeca Limited

From Subaru, the company that brought you Outback and Forester, names connoting the uninhabited wilderness, comes Tribeca. Tribeca is a fashionable district in New York City - the ``triangle below Canal Street - hardly verdant unspoiled acreage. But it is a completely appropriate name for a contemporary SUV.

Trendy urban districts are far more the natural habitat of the modern crossover SUV than are back-of-beyond logging trails - although Subarus are quite competent in such an environment - and the B9 Tribeca is Subaru's first seven-passenger crossover SUV. It's also the largest and most expensive Subaru ever offered for sale in the U.S., and the company's new luxury flagship.

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As such, the Tribeca stands above the Legacy and Outback lines, and was meant to provide existing Subaru owners, any anyone else, with a larger, more upscale vehicle that was previously in the company's lineup. The Tribeca is built in Lafayette, Indiana on a stretched and widened Legacy/Outback platform. With a 189.8 inch overall length on a 108.2 inch wheelbase, 73.9 inch width (excluding mirrors), and 66.5 inch height, it's only an inch longer longer than an Outback, but the three inches extra wheelbase, four inches more width, and six-plus inch greater height add up to considerably more interior space. By EPA volume measurements, the Tribeca has 141.8 cubic feet to the Outback wagon's 97.4. Power is from the 3.0-liter, 250-horsepower boxer six also found in the Outback 3.0 R, and it gets to all four wheels by means of a five-speed automatic transmission with ``sportshift'' manual mode and Variable Torque Distribution (VTD) all-wheel drive.

Befitting its premium status, the Tribeca is well-equipped in standard trim, and available in two-row, five-passenger or three-row, seven-passenger form. For more luxury, there are Limited models in both seating configurations, adding an upgraded audio system, leather for the first two rows of seats, and available available navigation and rear-seat entertainment systems.

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I've just gotten out of a seven-passenger Tribeca Limited with the navigation and entertainment systems. It's a fine example of a modern city-oriented luxury SUV, with just enough positive quirkiness to make it different from anything else on the road. The Tribeca's interesting exterior styling is complemented by an equally-unusual interior that still places comfort and function first. There is plenty of front seat room, and a reasonable amount in the second row. Like other mid-size seven-passenger SUVs, though, if all seven positions are full, the rear two rows had best be filled with small or medium-sized people. The navigation system has one of the best interfaces I've used, and the DVD entertainment system works well. Best of all, the Tribeca has the comfort and surefooted handling of a Subaru, not a truck.

APPEARANCE: It's different. It's distinctive. Subaru's new look debuted on the Tribeca, and has also found its way to the Impreza this year. Previewed a few years back on the B11S Coupe and B9 Scrambler concept cars, the rounded central air intake flanked by twin horizontal grilles is meant to hint at Subaru's aircraft heritage - the boxer engines have been used in light and ultralight aircraft, and parent Fuji Heavy Industries has manufactured small private and agricultural aircraft under the Aero Subaru moniker. Unusual and complexly-shaped headlights at the top corners of the fenders complete a slightly whimsical face - no traditional SUV macho aggressiveness here. The rest of the body is more conventionally-styled for the Urban Utility Vehicle genre, with a steeply-sloped windshield, slightly-curving roofline, and gently-contoured two-box body shape highlighted by a prominent shoulder line that bulges into elliptical taillights. A visor-like spoiler is found over the backlight, and 18-inch wheels shod with car, not truck, tires fill the wheel arches.

COMFORT:

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Inside, the Tribeca looks to be more sports coupe than sport utility, at least in front. The ``twin-cockpit'' treatment of the dash and console is both stylish and functional, as the center stack is placed closer to the driver and front passenger for ease of use of the LCD information and navigation display and audio and climate-control systems. Both front seats are power-adjustable, and leather-covered in the Limited, and the driver gets wonderfully-visible electroluminescent instruments. Comfort and support levels are high, and visibility is good. The second row is wide enough for three people of moderate size. The cushion is split 60/40, with each part adjustable fore-and-aft, while the back is split 40/20/40, so the center section may be lowered to carry long items, and the outside section backs are adjustable for angle, improving comfort. Headroom is good, legroom less so. If someone over six feet is in front, second-row space will be tight. As is typical in three-row midsize SUVs, the third row is suited to occasional use by people under five-six, and access is on a par with a small sports coupe. Rear ventilation is very good, and the ceiling-mounted DVD screen is readily visible. With the third row stowed, cargo space is very good, and decreases considerably with the seat in place - also typical of a midsize three-row vehicle.

SAFETY: The B9 Tribeca has high levels of both passive and active safety. Its ``Ring Frame Reinforced'' structure surrounds occupants with a strong safety cage and controlled crush zones. Dual-stage front, front seat-mounted side, and front and second-row side curtain air bags are standard, as are good four-wheel vented antilock disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution and the Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) stability system. It has received a five-star rating in frontal and side-impact tests by NHTSA.

RIDE AND HANDLING: As with other Subarus, chassis design and use of a horizontally-opposed ``boxer'' engine help keep the Tribeca's center of gravity low even with 8.4 inches of useful ground clearance. Its fully-independent suspension uses MacPherson struts in front and double wishbones in the rear, and is calibrated moderately firmly for good ride comfort with minimal body motion. With a 4,200-lb weight, it's no WRX, but it's no truck, either, and is stable and secure even in gusty winds and heavy rain. Credit the all-wheel drive traction of the VTD system for that.

PERFORMANCE: Under the Tribeca's stylish hood is Subaru's largest-displacement engine, a 3.0-liter horizontally-opposed aluminum alloy six-cylinder with dual overhead cams, variable valve timing, and variable valve lift. It makes 250 horsepower at 6600 rpm and 219 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm, and delivers that to the wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission. The engine likes to rev, and, although low-end power is okay, it really needs to be revved for maximum acceleration. In standard mode, the transmission shifts early, for fuel economy. Need to get going a little quicker? Simply move the shift lever over to the ``sportshift'' manual mode gate. Without moving the lever forwards (for upshifts) or back (for downshifts), the transmission is now in ``sport'' mode, and delays shifts for improved acceleration. It works as well there as in manual for that little extra needed when merging into high-speed highway traffic. The VTD AWD system splits torque 45/55 between the front and rear wheels statically, varying it as necessary. The VDC stability system is electronically integrated with the VTD system to distribute torque to each wheel on each axle depending on tire slip, steering angle, yaw, and lateral acceleration.

CONCLUSIONS: Subaru moves into new territory with 2006 Subaru B9 Tribeca, its first mid-size SUV.

SPECIFICATIONS

2006 Subaru B9 Tribeca Limited

Base Price			$ 37,695
Price As Tested			$ 39,148
Engine Type			dual overhead cam 24-valve
				 horizontally-opposed  6-cylinder
				 with variable valve lift and timing
Engine Size			3.0 liters / 183 cu. in.
Horsepower			250 @ 6600 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 			219 @ 4200 rpm
Transmission			5-speed electronically-controlled
				 automatic with sport and
				 manual-shift modes
Wheelbase / Length		108.2 in. / 189.8 in.
Curb Weight			4225 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		16.9
Fuel Capacity			16.9 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires				P225/55 HR18 Goodyear Eagle LS2
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / vented disc,
				 ABS and EBD standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent double wishbone
Ground clearance 	8.4 inches at exhaust pipe
Drivetrain			longitudinal front engine,
				 all-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		18 / 23 / 19
0 to 60 mph				9.0  sec
Towing capacity			2000 lbs standard, 3500 with tow
package

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Aero crossbar				$ 210
Protection Group 2 - includes:
  all-weather floor mats, bumper cover,
  front bumper underguard		$ 325
Popular Equipment Group 3 - includes:
  auto-dimming mirror with compass, 
  security shock sensor 		$ 293
Destination and delivery		$ 625

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