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2006 Subaru B9 Tribeca

The company that pioneered the blending of sport utility traits with the nimble ride and handling of a car more than 10 years ago in the original, all-wheel-drive, Subaru Outback, has a new crossover vehicle that could very well move Subaru upscale.

The all-wheel-drive, six-cylinder-powered, 2006 B9 Tribeca is the largest Subaru passenger vehicle and the first to offer seven seats. It’s also styled, inside and out, to stand out from the growing crowd of SUV crossovers.

2006 Subaru B9 Tribeca

Indeed, for some folks who liked the Tribeca’s bold styling, my test vehicle drew comparisons with Nissan’s Murano as well as the luxury Lexus RX 330 - something that I’ve never heard from consumers before about a Subaru.

The comparison with Lexus’ top-selling luxury crossover SUV whose starting price, including destination charge, is more than $36,000 may not be farfetched. The Tribeca has a starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, of just over $31,000, but prices can run to more than $38,000 for the top-of-the-line Tribeca Limited.

The Tribeca’s fuel economy rating is mid-pack among today’s SUVs and crossovers at 18 miles a gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. This is the same federal government rating for the 2005 Subaru Baja, however, and means the Tribeca joins the Baja as the poorest in Subaru’s lineup for fuel economy.

Different views about the styling

Be ready to hear strident opinions about the Tribeca’s appearance.

During my time with the vehicle, I found some consumers loved it and felt it was upscale and cool. While some folks pulled off the road to park and get out of their cars to peer into every window of the Tribeca. Other consumers instantly disliked the styling and felt the Tribeca looked ungainly.

The point of contention is the front of the Tribeca, where Subaru is showing off the styling it plans to use on future vehicles. It’s a departure from the past, for sure. Subaru officials said the grille’s wing-like design is inspired by Subaru’s history as an aircraft manufacturer. But some auto critics wonder how much of the Alfa Romeo similarity stems from Subaru’s hiring of a new chief designer who formerly worked in Europe.

No matter the styling outside, everyone seemed to agree the interior of the Tribeca is a hit. The focus of attention is the graceful, well organized, flowing dashboard that’s functional but not overwhelming in its controls. Subaru did a good job of selecting materials for the interior that have an upscale look and feel, too.

Need to drive it

Styling doesn’t prepare consumers for driving the new Tribeca, however. The vehicle’s 3-liter, horizontally opposed, boxer, six-cylinder engine is used capably by the Outback, and in the Tribeca provides 250 horsepower and 219 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,200 rpm. Note the required fuel is premium for maximum performance.

The Tribeca moves eagerly forward and merges into traffic without fuss, or any rash surge of power. There’s just a feeling of sprightly acceleration that’s well matched to the vehicle. Meanwhile, the Tribeca, which rides on a platform that’s modified from Subaru’s Outback and Legacy vehicles, handles nimbly and easily.
B9 Tribeca Grill

This is a nicely sized vehicle that’s just 1.1 inches longer, overall, than today’s Subaru Outback wagon. It’s also some 5 inches taller - it’s the first Subaru to come with standard 18-inch wheels and tires - and 4.2 inches wider, so while it’s Subaru’s biggest vehicle, it’s nowhere near the size of a HUMMER.

Ground clearance for the Tribeca is a healthy 8.4 inches, like that of many other SUVs, so riders sit up some from the pavement for good views out. But everyone can get inside and settle on the first and second row seats with ease and without scrambling upward.

And here’s a key to the Tribeca’s exceptional road handling: The boxer engine’s low profile allows the Tribeca’s center of gravity to be lower than in some other SUVs. Subaru estimates the Tribeca’s center of gravity is 1.5 inches lower than that in a BMW X5.

Combined with precise steering, the Tribeca moved with grace and agility on mountain trails, without a bit of tippiness or discomfort. It’s also a comfortable highway cruiser, as its McPherson strut front suspension and double-wishbone rear suspension soaked up many of the bumps in the road. And the Tribeca’s good brakes and stable feel made emergency maneuvers seem well controlled.

Shifts through the five-speed automatic transmission in the tester were smooth, and it’s worth noting the Tribeca’s transmission includes a shift-it-yourself mode for drivers who prefer to elicit a sportier performance from their engines.

Odds and ends

Subaru smartly offers the Tribeca in both five- and seven-passenger models, rather than forcing every buyer to take on two extra rear seats. And frankly, I disliked those rearmost, two-passenger seats for use by anyone but pre-teen children.

Even then, I fretted about the possibility of carsickness because the seat cushions in the Tribeca’s third row appear to rest right on the floor of the Tribeca, between the wheel wells. This positioning can convey vibration and noise. I do, however, like how the second- and third-row seats fold flat nicely for a commendable 74.4 cubic feet of cargo space.

All-wheel drive is standard and doesn’t require any input from the driver. Power shifts automatically to the wheels that need it in slippery conditions.

Standard safety features on the Tribeca are plenty and include three-point belts and head restraints for all passengers, a well-reinforced frame structure that’s on other Subarus, stability control, curtain airbags, seat-mounted side airbags, antilock brakes and tire-pressure monitor.

Standard amenities are in good supply, too. Even the base Tribeca comes with dual-zone, automatic climate control, power-operated, glass moonroof, leather-wrapped steering wheel, eye-catching, electroluminescent gauges, power front seats, second-row seats that can move forward and back on their tracks and AM/FM stereo with CD- and MP3-playing capability. But I found that the Tribeca’s air conditioning, like that in other Subarus, could feel weak on intensely hot days, and I had to have the A/C cranked up all the way in 90-degree weather.

The steering takes only a light touch - maybe a bit too light for my tastes. Also, be sure to take care around the matte silver-colored plastic cover that hides the two cupholders in the Tribeca’s center console. On the test vehicle, this already showed scratches.

Towing capacity is 3,500 pounds - more than what a compact SUV with four-cylinder engine provides but far less than the 7,000-plus-pound capacity of V8-powered, large SUVs.

Subaru officials call the Tribeca a catalyst for their brand.

“We already have a very loyal group of owners,” said Tim Bennett, advertising director at Subaru. “We want to expand on that.”

With the Tribeca, it looks as if Subaru is well on its way.

For more information visit the Subaru website here.


2006 Subaru B9 Tribeca
Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV)
Model options:

B9 Tribeca
B9 Tribeca Limited


3.0-liter DOHC horizontally opposed SUBARU BOXER engine with Active Valve Control and Active Valve Lift Systems

5-speed adaptive electronic direct-control automatic with SPORTSHIFT manual control

Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive

Engine-speed-sensitive power-assisted rack-and-pinion

4-wheel ventilated disc, front & rear
4-channel, 4-sensor ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution

Air bags:
2 (fr) 2 (side) 2 (roof)
Fuel economy city/hwy:

18/23 mpg
(16.9 gallon tank)


Tribeca starting at $30,695
Tribeca Limited starting at $32,295