2007 Subaru B9 Tribeca Reviews and Ratings

Utility 4D 5-Passenger Limited AWD

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2007 Subaru B9 Tribeca
New Car Test Drive

TriBeCa is a trendy, upscale neighborhood between New York's Soho and Lower Manhattan districts. It isn't cheap real estate. Nor is the Subaru B9 Tribeca cheap transportation. Tribeca is a mid-size SUV with optional seating for seven. Its overall dimensions put it in the same class as the Toyota Highlander and Nissan Murano; it's nearly as big as a Ford Explorer. Properly equipped, the Tribeca can tow up to 3500 pounds. Tribeca is fully competitive in this class, especially given its lengthy list of standard features.

Subaru is becoming a premium brand. It isn't Mercedes-Benz or BMW, nor does it intend to be, but the technology underneath, the stuff you can't see, is cutting edge, giving drivers the latest in all-weather safety and performance. Last year, Tribeca earned the highest possible rating in NHTSA federal crash tests, with five stars in the frontal and side-impact tests for both the driver and front-seat passenger; and a four-star rating in the tests for rollover resistance. (No SUV to date has earned five stars in the rollover test.)

For 2007, Subaru has built more safety into every Tribeca, adding a rollover sensor that automatically activates the seatbelt pre-tensioners and deploys the standard side-curtain airbags. To help avoid accidents, Brake Assist joins Tribeca's extensive array of dynamic handling technology, which already included four-channel anti-lock brakes, Vehicle Dynamics Control and four-wheel traction control. An ultrasonic reverse-parking assist is now available on all models; and models with navigation now come with a backup camera.

Also for 2007, Tribeca's front and rear suspensions have been revised to deliver a smoother ride. All models are now pre-wired for XM Satellite Radio, and the auxiliary jack for connecting iPods and other MP3 units has been relocated to the center console. Top-of-the-line Limited models add a two-position memory sensor for the front seats. A new remote starter option allows the owner to start the vehicle from up to 800 feet away. A window-shade-type retractable rear cargo cover is now available as well.

In case you haven't noticed, all Subaru models are somewhat pricey, but we think they offer a lot of value in terms of technology, handling, foul-weather capability and dependability. And Tribeca is no exception. Extensive mileage in Northern California revealed the Tribeca to be a joy to drive, comfortable and practical. In short, we'd list it as a buy. It's comparable to the Highlander and Murano, and that's high praise indeed. Model Lineup
The 2007 Subaru B9 Tribeca is available in base and Limited trim, each in a five- or seven-passenger configuration. All are propelled by the same 250-horsepower, 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine driving all four wheels full time through a five-speed SportShift automatic.

The base Tribeca ($29,995) comes with five-passenger seating with an eight-way power adjustable driver's seat and a four-way power passenger's seat, both with manual lumbar adjustment. The second row of seats is almost as flexible as the two front seats, with a 40/20/40-split reclining seatback and a 60/40-split seat bottom adjustable fore and aft. Dual-zone automatic air conditioning is standard, as is a 100-watt, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with six speakers and a new auxiliary input jack. Cruise control is standard. So are power windows, outside mirrors and door locks. The steering wheel, which tilts, and shift knob are covered in leather. And there's an information center displaying audio settings, time, fuel economy and outside temperature. Standard wheels are 18-inch aluminum alloys with low-profile, all-season tires.

The seven-passenger Tribeca ($31,995) adds a third-row seat split 50/50 plus heated front seats and an auxiliary rear air conditioner fan control in the second seating row.

Tribeca Limited in both five-passenger ($32,495) and seven-passenger ($33,495) versions, replaces the standard cloth upholstery with a choice of smooth or perforated leather, and adds a memory feature to the power seats. The stereo is upgraded to a 160-watt system with a in-dash CD6 changer and nine speakers, including a sub-woofer in the rear cargo area. Touch-screen navigation ($2,000) is offered only on Limited, and now includes a rear vision camera. A rear-seat DVD system ($1800) is available on seven-passenger Limited models with navigation.

New options for '07 include ultrasonic reverse parking assist ($270), a remote starter ($335) that allows you to start your Tribeca from up to 800 feet away, and a shade-type retractable rear cargo cover ($149). Also new for '07 is a Special Edition package ($1,295) that combines an exclusive mesh grille, chrome-finish wheels and XM Satellite Radio. XM Satellite Radio ($398) is also available as a stand-alone option. A tow package ($628) combines a trailer hitch and transmission oil cooler. Several accessory packages are offered, allowing buyers to add simple extras such as floor mats, an auto-dimming inside mirror, reading and puddle lights, a shock sensor for the security system, and various bumper-protection and roof-rack systems set up specifically for kayaks, bicycles, or whatever your recreational needs may require.

Safety features on all models include Subaru's Vehicle Dynamics Control, Variable Torque Distribution all-wheel drive and all-wheel traction control to help the driver maintain control. Brakes are vented discs with antilock (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), and Brake Assist systems. Front seat occupants are protected by dual-stage frontal airbags, seat-mounted side impact airbags and active head restraints, which automatically push forward and up in rear-impact collisions. Curtain airbags insulate the front and second row seats in side impacts. All seating positions get adjustable head restraints, and outboard seats have height-adjustable anchors for seatbelt shoulder straps. Child safety seat anchors (LATCH) are provided for the rear seat(s). A tire-pressure monitoring system is standard. Walkaround
The first thing you're likely to notice about Tribeca is its peculiar, three-part grille, which we are told suggests the nose and wings of an oncoming aircraft, and therefore reminds us of parent company Fuji Heavy Industries' heritage as an aircraft manufacturer. Only not everyone who looked the '06 Tribeca square in the snout saw an airplane, necessarily; instead we've heard it compared to all manner of things. The Tribeca front end looks to us like a poorly executed knockoff of a classic Alfa Romeo (a design said to be inspired by medieval heraldry).

Undoubtedly aware of this difficulty, for 2007 Subaru has changed the Tribeca's grille from body color to black, claiming that the resulting contrast will better define an aircraft silhouette. Well, if they say so, but we still don't particularly like it. Of course that's a personal opinion. Some of our colleagues do like the Tribeca design. Others found it grew on them with time. Of course, we have better taste than they do. In any case, we don't consider the Tribeca's grille a deal breaker.

Overall, there is an undeniable aero-sleekness to the flow of the various surface planes and sculpting. Headlights are integrated into the leading edges of the front fenders. In plan view, the front end's curvature can be seen to ease the movement of the Tribeca through the air. The steeply raked windshield and A-pillars pull the eye up and over the tall glass house to a spoiler laid atop an acutely angled back window.

Body side panels are mostly vertical, not quite slab-like; their expanse broken by mild fender blisters circling properly proportioned tires and wheels. Beginning at the trailing edge of the front door and even with the door handles, a soft crease grows as it moves rearward, giving the rear portions substance before ending in the wraparound taillights. An understated character line etched into the doors and running between the wheel arches draws attention to the matte-black rocker panels and subtly reminds the observant of the Tribeca's 8.4-inch ground clearance.

As unsatisfied as we are with the Tribeca's front end, the back end leaves us wondering what exactly the theme was supposed to be there as well. The top half, above the continuation of the waist-high side crease, comprising the rear window and spoiler and looking rather light and airy, looks as if it came from a different vehicle than the bottom half, comprising most of the liftgate, the license plate surround, the bumper and lower trim panel and looking somewhat ponderous. Perhaps it's a consequence of having to package sufficient interior room for a third-row seat, but like the front end, it's a departure from the Subaru look we've come to know and will require some acclimation. And as fondly as we recall the previous century's hot rod era, the dual exhausts don't quite fit.

By the way, the B9 designates the platform. Why did Subaru find it necessary to plug this into the name? We didn't have much luck getting that out of them. So we'll just call it the Tribeca, a name that goes well with Forester, Outback and Impreza. Interior
In sharp contrast to its controversial exterior, the 2007 Subaru Tribeca's interior is a stunning styling statement. Visually, and ergonomically, it's a delight. It's been a long time since we've felt so immediately comfortable climbing into a new car for the first time. A little more time behind the wheel revealed that it's not perfect, however: the front seat cushions could be deeper for more thigh support, and back support isn't great, either.

Right off, we didn't have to climb up into it, despite its positioning as a hybridization of wagon, minivan and sport utility. Rather, we simply opened the door and sat down. The relatively high seating position allowed us to check traffic several cars ahead, and outward visibility is marred only by seemingly overly thick A-pillars. More than once, we overlooked a pedestrian or another car at an intersection because the pillar blocked our vision. We expect, though, that this is something we'd learn to work around.

Once buckled in, all the controls fell right to hand, and the gauges and panels tasked with communicating important information did so quite naturally. Well, maybe the fuel and coolant temperature gauges weren't completely intuitive, tucked away in the lower outboard corners of the instrument cluster and utilizing LEDs in lieu of the analog style. But we found it hard to imagine ways to improve the remainder, including the large, easily scanned tachometer and speedometer.

Beyond the bits and pieces, the organic, almost-wholesome sweep of the dash as it flows into the door panels creates cocoon-like comfort zones for front seat occupants. Arms and hands rest naturally on nicely textured surfaces with the requisite buttons and levers where they should be. Steering wheel-mounted supplemental controls are styled into the sweep of the wheel's spokes. The shift lever's SportShift slot, which allows the driver to manually select the desired gear, is properly placed to the driver's side of the primary gate.

The rounded center stack extends into the cockpit for easy access to its controls and features. The primary audio control knob is centered within ready reach of the driver and front-seat passenger. The heating and ventilation controls are really cool, with big knobs that feature digital readouts. The front passenger's air conditioning temperature control knob is thoughtfully positioned facing the passenger. The stereo handles MP3 media, and for '07 Subaru has added an input jack in the center console. An elaborate information screen and (optional) navigation system display is centered in the upper half of the dash with controls that are accessible to both the driver and front passenger.

Getting in and out of the third row on seven-passenger models isn't easy.

The second row is more comfortable than it looked at first, which we discovered on a day-long, round trip between California's Central Valley and the Bay Area. The seatbacks can be reclined. Indeed, we never even thought about comfort while riding in the back seat for more than an hour, indicating it was roomy and quite comfortable. The second row is one of the most flexible we've seen in terms of configurations and range of adjustments, as we learned on routine trips to the grocery store, the post office and just generally running around town for a week.

The glove box offers enough space for the owner's manual, cell phones, and garage door remotes. Two cup holders are concealed beneath a well-damped cover in the center console aft of the shift lever. Rearward of this is the padded center armrest covering a respectably sized storage bin. Two more cup holders can be found in the fold-down middle seat center armrest. Space for a water bottle is molded into map pockets on the four doors and into the quarter panels in the cargo area. Storage nets are stitched into the back sides of the front seats. There are four power points: two in the front center console, making for a bit of a stretch for radar detector cords, and two in the cargo area. The sound-insulating subfloor in the cargo area has several, different-sized bins molded into its top side. A bin-with-net in the left-side quarter panel in the base model's cargo area gives way to the subwoofer in the Limited.

Tribeca impressed us in routine, daily use. Flipping up the tailgate and dropping the third-row seat to load up a week's groceries or purchases from the neighborhood hardware store for a weekend's chores became almost second nature. Climbing in and out of the third-row seat wasn't the most graceful exercise, but we've disgraced ourselves more doing the same thing in vehicles costing much more than this one. Driving Impressions
The more time we spent with the Subaru Tribeca, the more we liked it. Not that it didn't impress us from the get-go, which was south of Market Street in San Francisco. From there, through the streets and across the Golden Gate, up U.S. 101, then over to the coast and up to the eastern shore of Tomales Bay, the Tribeca never disappointed. Actually, it quite impressed. Multi-lane, divided highways passed under its impressively quiet tires as smoothly and as rapidly as did winding, switchback-laden two-lanes.

Subaru revised nearly all the suspension settings on the 2007 Tribeca, including spring rates and strut valves front and rear, and the thickness of the rear anti-roll bar, all with the goal of smoothing the ride and improving after-shock damping on rough surfaces.

Still, credit for much of the Tribeca's smoothness belongs to the high degree of refinement Subaru's engineers have achieved in development of the horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine. Credit for the Tribeca's nimble handling goes to the relatively low center of gravity that comes with that essentially flat engine placed low in the chassis. The Tribeca is no lightweight at 4,400 pounds, and it feels bigger than it looks, and in reality it is bigger than it looks, but it handles surprisingly well. By way of comparison, the Tribeca's track, which is the distance between the tires side to side, is fully two inches narrower than that of the relatively wide Nissan Murano. Yet they're the same height. And the Tribeca tracked through the same series of tight, left-right-left transitions as the Murano with less body lean and at measurably higher rates of travel. The steering is accurate, though a little slow.

The Tribeca offers responsive power. Only slight pressure on the gas pedal brings up sufficient power for passing. Shifts up and down were managed almost invisibly; even when executed manually through the SportShift there was only the slightest interruption in the energy flow. Speaking of the manual characteristics of the SportShift, the Tribeca will shift up a gear at engine redline; it will not, however, drop down a gear without the driver tapping the lever forward.

Fuel economy isn't a standout feature, however. The Tribeca earns an EPA rating of just 18/23 mpg City/Highway.

Brake Assist has been added for 2007. A useful safety feature, Brake Assist analyzes the force and stroke velocity on the brake pedal and increases hydraulic boost to provide enhanced emergency braking. Brake feel was not ideal, or at least not to our liking; it wasn't truly linear, but somewhat spongy. And the steering column was offset a smidgen to the right, toward the centerline of the vehicle. A lot of vehicles have imperfectly located steering wheels, but we were surprised to find this in a Subaru.

Of course, the Tribeca comes standard with all-wheel drive, and Subaru is a leader in this technology. Subaru's all-wheel-drive system makes the Tribeca an excellent choice when the weather turns foul or conditions become slippery, whether it's snow or ice, or a muddy, unpaved road, or a rainy, oily backroad or on-ramp. However, this system acts as an active safety feature even on dry pavement, helping to reduce skidding in corners and aiding the driver in controlling the vehicle. Subaru's all-wheel drive is your friend.

The available touch-screen navigation system includes a rearview camera, a great safety and convenience feature. When the driver shifts the transmission shift into Reverse, the navigation system's center LCD display shows what the color camera detects within its field of vision behind the vehicle. Reference lines help guide the driver. In everyday use, rearview cameras make parallel parking easier and quicker. A rearview camera can help alert the driver to hazards that are difficult to see otherwise, such as a child sitting on a tricycle behind the vehicle. Also available are Reverse Assist Sensors, which use ultrasonic sensors mounted in the rear bumper to detect objects behind the vehicle and emit an audible beep that increases in frequency as the vehicle gets closer to the object behind it. Our preference is to have both features, both for convenience and safety reasons. Parking is tight these days and no one needs to add a tragedy to life.

When our time with the Tribeca came to an end, we were sorry to see it go. We could see ourselves owning the Tribeca and being quite content with life as a one-car household. Summary
The 2007 Subaru B9 Tribeca has all the right feel of control and dexterity, plus impressive hauling capacity for people and things. The technology is thoroughly debugged and proven. All that's left to prove is whether people will pay what the Tribeca costs and whether they can get used to that face.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from San Francisco, the coastal roads north of the Bay Area and California's Central Valley, with Mitch McCullough reporting from the wine country.

Model as tested
Subaru B9 Tribeca 7-Passenger Limited ($33,495)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Lafayette, Indiana
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
rear-seat, DVD entertainment system with auxiliary audio and video inputs ($1800); GPS navigation system ($2000)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Subaru B9 Tribeca 5-Passenger ($29,995); B9 Tribeca 5-Passenger Limited ($32,495); B9 Tribeca 7-Passenger ($31,995); B9 Tribeca 7-Passenger Limited ($33,495)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual-stage front seat airbags; front seat-mounted side impact airbags; front and middle seat side-curtain airbags with rollover sensor; active front seat head restraints; rear seat child safety seat anchors (LATCH); tire pressure monitors; safety brake pedal system; antilock brakes with EBD and Brake Assist
Safety equipment (optional)
3.0-liter double overhead cam 24-valve six-cylinder
5-speed automatic with SportShift

Specifications as Tested
dual-zone automatic air conditioning with auxiliary middle-seat control; cruise control; tilt steering wheel; power windows, outside mirrors and central locking; 8-way driver and 4-way front passenger power seats; heated front seats; 160-watt, AM/FM/MP3 stereo with 6-disc in-dash CD changer and nine speakers, including rear sub-woofer; front and middle seat leather seating surfaces; leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; power tilt/slide moonroof; information display for audio, clock, fuel economy and ambient temperature

Engine & Transmission
3.0-liter double overhead cam 24-valve six-cylinder
Drivetrain type
all-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
250 @ 6600
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
disc/disc with ABS, EBD, Brake Assist
Suspension, front
independent, MacPherson strut with L-shaped lower arms, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rear
independent, double wishbone, coil springs, stabilizer bar

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

J.D. Power Rating
Overall Quality 2 / 5
Overall Quality - Mechanical
3 / 5
Powertrain Quality - Mechanical
3 / 5
Body & Interior Quality - Mechanical
5 / 5
Features & Accessories Quality - Mechanical
3 / 5
Overall Quality - Design
2 / 5
Powertrain Quality - Design
3 / 5
Body & Interior Quality - Design
2 / 5
Features & Accessories Quality - Design
2 / 5

Overall Dependability 2 / 5
Powertrain Dependability
3 / 5
Body & Interior Dependability
3 / 5
Feature & Accessory Dependability
2 / 5

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J.D. Power Rating Legend
Among the Best
5 / 5
Better than Most
4 / 5
About Average
3 / 5
The Rest
2 / 5

* The J.D. Power Ratings are calculated based on the range between the car manufacturer or car model with the highest score and the car manufacturer or car model with the lowest score. J.D. Power generates a rating of a five, four, three, or two. If there is insufficient data to calculate a rating, “Not Available” is used in its place.

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