In-depth reviews

Subaru Tribeca (2006-2010) review

The Subaru was a disappointment. The cabin and 3.0-litre engine showed promise, it's let down by economy, transmission and body control.

Overall Auto Express Rating

1.0 out of 5

Driving: Power for the Tribeca comes from the same 3.0-litre boxer engine used in the Legacy spec.B. It has a healthy power output of 241bhp, but it's a little short of torque - 297Nm isn't great in a 1,920kg vehicle. In short, it's a performance car motor that's been put to use in a heavy off-roader, with disappointing results. It's also let down by the five-speed auto, which hunts for gears, particularly under hard acceleration. So it's no surprise the Tribeca struggled in our acceleration tests; its 9.2-second 30-70mph time is unexceptional. But the biggest letdown was the handling. With Subaru's rally heritage, we had high expectations for the Tribeca, yet it didn't deliver. The steering is vague and cornering provides too much body roll, making it uncomfortable for passengers. Grip is adequate, but the car doesn't turn in precisely - it's much happier as a motorway cruiser, thanks to the decent ride and low noise levels.

Marketplace: According to Subaru, the B9 Tribeca is named after a fashionable quarter of New York. That may explain its long-winded badge, but doesn't quite account for its looks. Fashionable is not the first word that springs to mind when it comes to the styling. This car has the Marmite effect on people. Then again, Subaru should at least be applauded for producing a car that stands out. The large centre grille and bonnet bulge dominate the front, while the high waistline, small glass area and flared wheelarches hide its SUV proportions well. It's the rear that raised the most eyebrows though. The lights are placed high up, but it all gets a little fussy and the smooth lines are ruined. Three versions are available, all with a 3.0-litre boxer petrol engine and five-speed auto box. Trims are S5, SE5 and SE7 - the latter with a third row of chairs, plus leather and sat nav. Rivals include the Nissan Murano, another model without the all-important option of a diesel engine, plus more mainstream versions of the VW Touareg, BMW X3 and Hyundai Santa Fe.

Owning: The top-spec Tribeca may have seven seats, but access to the third row is very tight, and accommodation is poor - head and elbow room are limited, and there is virtually no leg space. Subaru admits these seats are for young children, but at £2,000 (including a rear DVD player), they're an expensive option. With the seats folded, load space isn't bad, while a wide, square opening means loading bulky objects is simple. The middle row of seats slides as well, but again head and legroom aren't as good as you would expect in a car of this size. Things improve up front. It's clear this is an area the designers have concentrated on - the swooping dash has a prominent sat-nav and information screen, which even includes a useful calculator and unit converter. The silver-painted console detracts from the quality somewhat, but overall the finish is excellent. However, the Tribeca, despite its extensive equipment list, is expensive, while we averaged a poor 19.5mpg. The range is disappointing, too - a 64-litre tank gives just 276 miles between fill-ups. Residuals are unlikely to be brilliant, either.

Engines, performance and drive

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MPG, CO2 and Running Costs

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Interior, design and technology

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Practicality, comfort and boot space

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Reliability and Safety

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