2008 Subaru Tribeca

The crossover segment is hotter than a kitchen fire at Buffalo Wild Wings, so Subaru could ill afford to wait to update its Tribeca, which landed with a thud two years ago when it was launched with a strange face, an overworked powertrain, and a pointless B9 prefix.

Deep slashes from the styling surgeons' knives have resulted in a more conventional mug that's now more Chrysler Pacifica than overgrown cicada. Larger sideview mirrors and rear quarter windows, new taillights, and a modified rear valance complete the face-lift. Only the doors, the roof, and the rocker panels carry over. The handsome interior is essentially unchanged, although it's now easier to climb into the still-cramped third-row seats.

The new front end permits better cooling for the bored-and-stroked engine that has gained a significant 631 cubic centimeters of displacement. The boxer six also features new variable valve timing, and--even though it now slurps regular 87-octane gasoline instead of premium--output has been bumped to 256 hp (up from 245 hp) and 247 lb-ft of torque (up from 215 lb-ft). The engine's torque curve is flatter and rises more quickly at the low end, so the Tribeca hustles more readily when the tach isn't pegged.

The increased spice is optimized by a five-speed automatic transmission that no longer downshifts at the slightest brush of the gas pedal. And since the gearbox shifts more quickly and blips the throttle automatically on downshifts, Ferrari-style, driving the Tribeca briskly on challenging roads is even more satisfying than before.

The original Tribeca couldn't take the heat, but Subaru is wise to step back into this raging kitchen with a crossover that will please more people.

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