MOTORNET: By a nose - Subaru Tribeca

Published: Tue 27 May 2008 01:11 PM
By a nose - Subaru Tribeca
SCOOP MOTORNET with Karl Ferguson
Images by Neil Mackenzie -

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It’s unfortunate, but inevitable, that many will remember the first iteration of Subaru’s Tribeca, not for its smooth six cylinder motor, or its seven seats – a first for Subaru – but instead for its rather unfortunate front end.
Personally, I didn’t find it overly offensive and some later examples, which included a mesh grille and styling package actually looked pretty sharp. But public reaction was such that Subaru quickly rushed a facelift through and the result – not much more than a year since its original launch – is a new look Tribeca.
The good news for the previously offended is that the front-end of the revamped Tribeca is now so innocuous as to be a little bland. Hopefully, that in itself won’t be offensive. Even so, its large chrome grille is reasonably handsome and while few will find the overall look of the Tribeca to be stunning, most would describe it as pleasing. New wheels and a revised rear-end complete the exterior makeover.
Under the bonnet, the Tribeca sports a larger more powerful motor, capacity increasing to 3.6 litres. Numbers are impressive, with the Boxer flat six producing 190kW and 350Nm of torque. Nail the throttle and the Tribeca fairly leaps into action. Acceleration is strong, and comes complete with the Boxer’s distinctive engine note so familiar to regular Subaru drivers. NZ Autocar recorded a 0-100km/h sprint of 9.1 seconds, and in real world driving, it seems even quicker. The acceleration also feels very car-like, unlike most SUVs which are increasingly coming fitted with high torque diesels – great in many respects, but often not quite so responsive.

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Fuel consumption is also improved, down from 12.4 litres to 11.6 per 100km, and it will also run on the less expensive (but still pricey!) 91 octane meaning recent diesel converts could be swayed in its direction.
Ride is generally good too, and while some will find it on the firm side, the upshot with a sporty SUV is that you can still get around corners without overly dramatic roll or a sense that you might end up tipping over!
And handle well it does, Subaru’s largest passenger vehicle benefiting from a relatively low centre of gravity, which ensures not just easy entry and egress, but predictable handling traits as well. While it doesn’t turn in the way the Outback does, for example, typically running wide on corners if allowed, it’s pretty well controlled given its size and sizable kerb weight of around 1900kgs. Similarly, road holding is good and body roll generally not noticeable in most real world conditions.
The steering is a touch too light for my liking, and it doesn’t offer quite the feedback that most Subaru drivers will be used to, but it still does the job, and the small – again car like sized – wheel will appeal.

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As per Mark 1, the Tribeca comes in one spec level only and that’s fully loaded. The interior is swathed in acres of leather, there’s a standard electric sunroof, rear DVD player for the kids and plenty of gadgets, chief amongst them is a touch screen on the centre console. Unfortunately, the Tribeca’s US origins show through somewhat as the central console – resembling something akin to the control station in Dr Who’s Tardis – rather aims and fails to be new and different, feeling more like an after thought. The controls aren’t that intuitive (the touch screen quickly loses ‘gee whiz’ factor after the first couple of plays) and the bright blues and silvers are a little on the garish side.

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On the plus side, it feels generally well put together save for the odd annoying rattle from a poorly attached rear belt. Interior packaging is well thought through ensuring all seven seats can be used when needed, and useful load spaces abounding when the seats are stowed flush with the floor.

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More positively again is the price. At a fraction under $68k, the Tribeca is nearly a full four thousand less expensive than its predecessor, no doubt due in some part to the Kiwi dollars consistently good performance against the Greenback. That makes it a genuinely competitive alternative to some of the more established Japanese brands, and well worth a look, especially if a recent arrival means your Outback suddenly seems a little short on seats.

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