The Tribeca is not aging well. It’s loose and rattly and coarse and rough-riding. The boxer engine has sufficient power but doesn’t sound great. The navigation system is positioned too far away from both the driver and the passenger. The interior is cramped for both front-seat and middle-seat passengers, not to mention the extremely cramped third-row seat. There is absolutely no driving joy to be had here, utility is severely compromised, and it’s not pretty, so all you’re left with are Subaru reliability and the benefits of standard all-wheel drive. These are nice things to have, but there are way too many other seven-passenger crossovers that have not only those attributes but also some performance, some crispness, some ride quality, and some visual pizzazz.
Subaru has come up with winner after winner recently –witness the Impreza, the Forester, and the new Legacy/Outback — but it’s time for them to completely revamp the Tribeca, which is simply no longer in the game.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
The tall sides make the Tribeca look like an honest minivan from some angles. Other views remind me of those early-minivan boxes like the first Mazda MPV that awkwardly crammed three rows of seats into a small space. The Tribeca certainly isn’t small, but the curved dash intrudes on knee space for the sake of style. The driving position is also unnecessarily high, placing the steering wheel in your lap and adding to the minivan feel. The Tribeca also shows a shocking amount of body roll, which might have passed as acceptable ten years ago.
I will say that I prefer this navigation system much more than that in the Outback and the Legacy. In the Tribeca, it’s much more clear how to access all the functions, helped by the fact that the system relies more on hard buttons rather than touch-screen interactions. The Tribeca still retains some touch-screen functions that you’ll occasionally want to use, but it takes a long lean and reach to access them.
Through October, the Subaru brand has continued to impress us with a year-to-date sales increase of 13 percent and impressive new products like the Outback and the Legacy. Here’s the kicker: Subaru has been managing those gains while sales of the Tribeca have dropped by 43 percent (from 9648 to 5545 vehicles). Seems to me like it’s time for Subaru to cut the dead weight.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Like many vehicles that debut with radical styling, the Tribeca has had most of its controversial parts carefully removed. The Edsel-like front fascia has long since been replaced with a perfectly bland square grille, and while the Tribeca is no longer ugly, it’s certainly not pretty.
Beauty aside, the Tribeca is a pretty old vehicle at this point, although it still has some redeeming qualities. In particular, I think Subaru was on the right track with this car’s HVAC controls and navigation unit, which makes me wonder why some of the newer models like the Forester and the Legacy don’t have them. Although it’s no WRX in sheep’s clothing, the Tribeca still isn’t bad to drive, with decent power and maneuverability. That said, there are other seven-seat crossovers that provide more space and better styling.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
Yes, the front fascia is more conservative, but the Tribeca is still full of quirks. Want to turn on the parking lamps? There are two – two! — switches for that; one on the headlamp switch stalk, and the other on top of the steering column (the latter isn’t disabled by the ignition switch). There’s also the matter of the antiquated navigation display, the stratospherically high seating position, and the add-on Bluetooth module hanging from the overhead console.
What disappoints me most is having sampled the Tribeca after driving the recently revamped Forester and the all-new 2010 Outback. I walked away from both of those models impressed with their comfortable interiors and pleasant nature on the road, but I never found a comfortable seating position behind the wheel of the Tribeca (part of this stems from the high seating position and the lack of a telescoping steering column), and the firm ride lent few favors to my daily commute, which regularly crosses some of the worst asphalt in the state.
Subaru can build outstanding crossovers — they have two of them in their portfolio already — but as Joe DeMatio said, it’s time to start with a clean slate when they redesign the Tribeca.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
2010 Subaru Tribeca Touring
Base price (with destination): $36,490
Price as tested: $38,690
Side and side curtain airbags
Daytime running lights
Tire pressure monitoring system
18-in. aluminum alloy wheels
Dual-zone automatic climate control
385-watt Harmon Kardon 9-speaker sound system
Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
Heated front seats
XM satellite radio with 3-month subscription
Power driver seat with memory
Options on this vehicle:
Navigation – $2200
Key options not on vehicle:
Navigation and rear seat entertainment – $4000
18-in. chrome wheels – $1295
Rear parking sensors – $270
Remote engine start – $335
16 / 21 / 18 mpg
Size: 3.6L DOHC H-6
Horsepower: 256 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 247 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Weight: 4256 lbs
18 x 8-in. 7-spoke aluminum alloy wheels
255/55 all-season tires