2009 Subaru Tribeca Reviews

2009 Tribeca New Car Test Drive


The Subaru Tribeca is a midsize crossover SUV with available 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, in other words. Properly equipped, the Tribeca can tow up to 3,500 pounds. In fact, the Tribeca is fully competitive in this class, especially given its lengthy list of standard features. 

Starting with all-wheel drive, the Tribeca is loaded with technology, giving drivers the latest in all-weather safety and performance. The 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. The Tribeca has also been named a Top Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). 

The Tribeca first appeared in 2006, powered by a 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine. It was an attractive vehicle with the exception of its grille design, which was certainly distinctive but controversial at the time and hasn't grown on us as we hoped it might. The 2008 model year brought revised styling that gave it a more conventional look. We find the revised looks pleasing if not distinctive. The 2008 lineup also brought a larger, more powerful 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine and other mechanical refinements. 

For 2009, Subaru has expanded the model lineup, inserting a new mid-range SE trim level between the base model and the upscale Limited. 

We find the Tribeca a joy to drive, with a roomy, comfortable cabin that has an upscale feel. It's a practical vehicle with lots of nice features. The bigger engine has given the Tribeca the power it needed. Subaru is a leader in all-wheel-drive technology so the Tribeca boasts one of the best such systems in this class, making it a superb choice for foul weather. In short, we list the Tribeca as a buy. It's comparable to the Highlander and Murano, and that's high praise indeed. And we no longer have to offer excuses for the styling. 


The 2009 Subaru Tribeca comes in five- and seven-passenger versions, each available in standard, SE, or Limited trim. All are propelled by the same 256-horsepower, 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine driving all four wheels full time through a five-speed SportShift automatic with a manual shiftgate. 

The base Tribeca ($29,995) comes with five-passenger seating, cloth upholstery, 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 an auxiliary input jack. Other standard features include cruise control, an interior air filter, fog lights, remote keyless entry, power windows, power heated outside mirrors, and power door locks. The steering wheel, which tilts and has radio controls, and shift knob are covered in leather. And there's an information center displaying audio settings, time, fuel economy and outside temperature. The standard tires are P255/55HR18 Goodyear Eagle LS2 all seasons on alloy wheels. The seven-passenger Tribeca ($30,995) adds a third-row seat split 50/50 and an auxiliary rear air conditioner fan control in the second seating row. 

Tribeca SE, or Special Edition, is available with five-passenger ($31,295) or seven-passenger ($31,595) seating; both come with leather upholstery; rear air conditioner fan control; heated front seats; memory driver's seat; and an upgraded nine-speaker, 160-watt sound system with a 6-CD changer. 

Tribeca Limited five-passenger ($32,595) and seven-passenger ($33,595) models add a sunroof, a universal garage door opener, and roof rails. Touch-screen navigation ($2,400) is offered only on the Limited model, and it includes a rearview camera and XM satellite radio. A rear-seat DVD system ($1,800) is available on seven-passenger Limited models with navigation. 

Options 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 ($156), cargo tray ($70), and cargo organizer ($60). Sirius or XM satellite radio are available as stand-alone options ($398). A tow package ($514) allows the Tribeca to tow up to 3,500 pounds. Additionally, a long list of accessories and accessory packages are offered, allowing buyers to add simple extras such as floor mats, an auto-dimming inside mirror, reading or puddle lights, and various bumper-protection and roof-rack systems set up specifically for kayaks, bicycles, etc. 

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 Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), and Brake Assist. Front seat occupants are protected by dual-stage front 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 seats. A tire-pressure monitoring system is standard. Safety options consist of the aforementioned rearview camera and rear park assist. 

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