B9 Tribeca's front fascia has been the subject of a lot of criticism. The three big front openings are organically shaped, and wear heavy wire mesh grilles. The shape of the openings influences all of the shapes around them, from the bumper, to the fender to the hood, resulting in a somewhat bulbous front end. Bulging fenders ride high over big 18" polished aluminum alloy wheels. The windshield is steeply raked, meeting the high, delicately arching roof line. B9 Tribeca's rear end is even more odd than its nose. Picking up on a shoulder high bulge that starts at the middle of the body's side, the tailgate bulges out below the horizontal oval fixed rear glass. Studied from the side, the tailgate has a kind of abstract feminine shape. The resulting proportions of the whole vehicle are closer to minivan than SUV to my eye, even more than other Crossover vehicles nowadays.
I had a weird reaction to the B9 Tribeca's looks. The fit and finish were excellent, with great paint quality and an all-around feeling of quality. Focusing on the details, the B9 Tribeca is a winner. But taking in the whole picture -- it's awkward and ugly. Like a Welsh Corgi -- it's a great dog with beautiful expressive eyes, cute ears, a great coat. Just don't look down at those stumpy little legs, or you'll laugh in its face.
In the Driver's Seat
Despite the totally modern, cutting edge look of the dash, the instrument panel is still very simple and traditional. Two big round analogue gauges, a tachometer and speedometer, occupy chrome-bezeled side by side pods above the steering wheel flanked by digital fuel and temperature gauges. B9 Tribeca comes standard with a GPS Navigation system with a big touch-screen that sits at the top of the center stack behind a set of flat air vents that form a little stage in front of the screen. I guess it makes sense from a circulation standpoint to have a few vents that face the roof -- but the placement seems troublesome. During my week with the B9 Tribeca, I was very tempted to put my cell phone and sun glasses on the little stage, where they inevitably got jammed into the vents. D'oh!
On the Road
Subaru has a well-deserved reputation for performance, and B9 Tribeca brings some of the lineup's character to the game. Under the hood, a 3.0 liter six-cylinder boxer with double overhead cams cranks out 245 hp and 215 lb-ft of torque (where's the turbo, Subaru?) through its five-speed automatic transmission with "Sportshift." Like all Subarus, the B9 Tribeca has symmetrical all-wheel drive, the merits of which cannot be overstressed. Tribeca is sure-footed and stable, with a nimbleness that belies its size and 4,130 lb curb weight. Four-wheel independent suspension, four-wheel anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, vehicle dynamics control and traction control are standard.
You should also consider Crossover vehicles from other manufacturers. The Crossover segment is the hottest part of the SUV marketplace right now, and there are some great vehicles out there. Take a look at the Ford Edge/Mercury MKX and Saturn Outlook/Buick Enclave/GMC Acadia for starters, some of the boldest design from US manufacturers in years. The Chrysler Pacifica and Ford Freestyle are different takes on the theme, closer to the station wagon than the SUV. The Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot are both excellent vehicles, and the Hyundai Veracruz is very promising. The Acura RDX is a hot new entry, and the Lexus GX is a luxury take on the theme. Don't overlook the BMW X5, the Volvo XC90 and the Infiniti FX45 if you're inclined to spend a bit more dough.
I wish the Subaru B9 Tribeca luck. I'm not sure that it gets my vote as "Most Likely to Succeed," but I'll certainly cast my ballot for "Most Unusual in the Class."