2006 Subaru B9 Tribeca Limited Review
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.
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.
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.
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.
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