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2009 Subaru Tribeca Limited

Add the Tribeca to the list of vehicles I completely forget about, but actually like once I'm behind the wheel. This has to be Subaru's nicest interior, and the 3.6-liter boxer-six provides plenty of power. I'd complain that the looks of the Tribeca are just as bland as the rest of Subaru's current lineup, but bland is much better than the Tribeca's previous design, which was universally chastised.

The Tribeca never feels quite as large as it is, which is a good thing on country roads. It's not nearly as athletic as the cars in the Subaru family, but that's to be expected. I like the seating position and there's pretty good visibility.

Looking at the price and fuel economy for this Tribeca, my interest starts to wane. My main complaints about the Ford Flex are the price and fuel economy, but the fuel economy for the Tribeca is virtually the same as an AWD Flex and this tester's $37k sticker pushes it almost to the price of a luxury vehicle, which is certainly not how I'd describe the Tribeca. Not that the Tribeca is a bad choice, it just works better when you're not optioning it to the max.

Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor

I had a brief fling with the Tribeca last night, much to my good fortune, because it snowed two inches overnight and was still snowing when I pulled out of my country lane of a driveway. The rearview camera was a welcome feature in this highback ute. So was the incredible traction of its unique symmetrical all-wheel-drive system and 18-inch mud and snows. I blasted out of the drive and hot-footed down the snow-blown north-south road, with nary a wiggle. Freeway snow removal was only partial, but the Tribeca had no problems negotiating the bad lanes. This is when all-wheel drive is a beautiful thing. Figuring out your fuel economy is when it is not.

But fuel economy and price, as Phil Floraday notes, are not Tribeca selling points, and there is a LOT of competition in this class. I could live without the optional Convenience Group 1's "puddle lights" and rear dome/reading light for a $314 savings. I'd also skip the $60 all-weather mats and go with Weather Tech's super nice floor mats (which I bought at full retail for my Suburban).

Jean Jennings, President & Editor-in-Chief

Love, love, love the brown paint on our test vehicle. It is similar to a brown that Porsche recently has offered on the 911 and which is available on the Maserati Quattroporte. So, as road test editor Marc Noordeloos pointed out to me this morning, that's another thing the Tribeca has in common with the famous Porsche. The main thing, of course, is that both are powered by horizontally opposed, six-cylinder engines. In the Subaru, the 3.6-liter unit makes 256 hp, which ain't exactly Porsche territory, but it sounds good when you leg it and it really is about all the power you need here. Seems to be well-mated to the five-speed automatic.

I agree with Phil Floraday that this is a very well-done interior, with a very handsome instrument panel. The temperature and fan-speed controls annoy me as they always have, as you have to twist, twist, twist again for every incremental change in temp or fan setting. A simple rotating knob would be so much preferable. Also, let it be noted that the third-row seat in the Tribeca is strictly for children. In the Ford Flex that Phil mentions, adults can actually sit for a reasonable amount of time in the rearmost seat without feeling like they want to scream.

Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor

The Tribeca is a nice crossover but I couldn't help thinking about the Mazda CX-9 as I drove the Subaru. Sure, the Tribeca goes down the road decently enough and the 3.6-liter flat-6 makes pretty good power, but the Subaru isn't as sharp to drive or as well screwed together as our now departed Four Seasons CX-9. I heard a surprising amount of squeaks and rattles coming from the cargo area of the Subaru. Add in the more usable 3rd row seat in the Mazda and it seems to be the better choice.

Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor

I was happy to see the Tribeca in our fleet, as we've suffered an unusually cold and snowy winter so far and an all-wheel-drive crossover is perfect for those conditions. It often takes several days for the snow to be plowed from my street, during which time it can be a struggle to make it up the snow-covered incline that leads out of my neighborhood. Happily, the Tribeca covered the terrain with no muss and no fuss. If it weren't for the fact that the seat heaters were turned on, I might not have even noticed it was winter outside.

Like Marc and Joe, I'm perplexed as to why Subaru felt the need for the extremely small and cramped third row. For buyers who really need a 7-passenger vehicle, the Tribeca's rear seat is unacceptably small and hard to access, especially compared with vehicles such as the CX-9 that Marc wrote about. The Tribeca makes more sense as a five-passenger vehicle (although perhaps the company feels that it already has that segment covered with the Forester). Maybe Subaru should take a cue from Cadillac, which ditched the third row with the new SRX, and do likewise.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

Base Price (with destination): $36,660Price as tested: $37,081

Options: Rear Cargo Net - $47Puddle Lights, Rear Dome/Reading Light - $3145 All Weather Mats - $60

Fuel Economy: 16 / 21 / 18 (city/hwy/combined)

Engine: Size: 3.6L Horizontally Opposed DOHCHP: 256 @ 6,000 rpmTorque: 247 lb.-ft. @ 4,400 rpm

Safety Ratings (in stars, 1-5): Frontal Crash Driver: 5Frontal Crash Passenger: 5Side Crash Front Seat: 5Side Crash Rear Seat: 5Rollover: 4

Transmission: 5 Speed Automatic

Weight: 4,190 lbs

Wheel/Tire Info: - P255/55 R18 M+S Radial Tires (size) - 18 x 8.0 JJ aluminum-alloy