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2007 Subaru B9 Tribeca Limited 7-Passenger

A most unusual Crossover

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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2007 Subaru B9 Tribeca Limited 7-Passenger

Sorry, B9 Tribeca -- you're ugly.

Photo © Jason Fogelson
It's not just the name that's odd. Meet the 2007 Subaru B9 Tribeca Limited. Part SUV, part minivan, part futuristic transport, the 2007 Subaru B9 Tribeca Limited carries a base price of $37,695 ($39,336 as tested), a 3 year/36,000 mile basic warranty, a 5 year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty and an EPA estimate of 18 mpg city/23 mpg highway. If the B9 Tribeca transferred into your high school, it would have had a hard time fitting in at first; once the kids got to know it, I wouldn't be shocked if B9 was elected Student Council president. It's that kind of vehicle.

First Glance

There's no polite way to say it -- the B9 Tribeca is ugly. It's not slipshod, design-by-committee, Pontiac Aztek ugly, but it is ugly nonetheless. So ugly it's cute.

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.

Continued below...

In the Driver's Seat

Despite the totally modern, cutting edge look of the dash, the instrument panel is still very simple and traditional.

Photo © Jason Fogelson
If you think that the B9 Tribeca is bold on the outside, you ain't seen nothing yet. Subaru threw out the book when it designed the interior of the B9, and started with a clean sheet design. The dashboard is a gorgeous, flowing sculpture, trimmed with brushed aluminum-look accents and high quality tactile plastics. Control arrays follow the flow of the dash on the center stack, highlighted by big simple rotary knobs for climate control.

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

B9 Tribeca's front seats are incredibly comfortable, firm and supportive leather-trimmed buckets with a ton of adjustability. The second row is also a pleasure, a 60/40 split bench that's cushy and roomy. The high beltline gives a feeling of cocooning and safety, though shorter passengers may have trouble enjoying the scenery out of the small side windows. The B9 Tribeca Limited 7-Passenger's third row is easy to access, but too small for comfortable adult transport. At least there's a DVD entertainment system standard in the vehicle. Maybe the unfortunate ones who have to sit back there get to pick the movie as consolation. Using the third row for seating leaves only 8.2 cubic feet of luggage space in back, hardly sufficient for seven passengers on a road trip. Leave the stuff at home, or plan on adding a roof rack, a trailer or a chase vehicle.

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.

Journey's End

The 2007 Subaru B9 Tribeca is a real departure for Subaru in some ways, and a logical extension of their lineup in other ways.

Photo © Jason Fogelson
The 2007 Subaru B9 Tribeca is a real departure for Subaru in some ways, and a logical extension of their lineup in other ways. Subaru has always been a company willing to go its own way, carving out a specialty niche and letting form follow function. Nobody praises the Outback or Forester for their beauty, but each vehicle has a loyal following because of how well they do the job. B9 Tribeca may have a bit more of a hill to climb -- form doesn't exactly follow function here. That front end and that tailgate are examples of form for form's sake, and have proved to be quite polarizing.

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."

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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