August 2006

Subaru B9 Tribeca SE5

Subaru grille is common to the entire range

August 2006

picture of car from the frontpicture of car from the rearpicture of car interiorpicture of car in detail

Overall rating

3.5 out of 5 stars


  • Good handling and ride balance
  • Engine is smooth and musical
  • Attractive interior design
  • High specification as standard


  • Gearbox is awkward in automatic mode
  • Front seats lack sufficient padding
  • Exterior styling has narrow appeal
  • Running costs likely to be high

Subaru is marching boldly into a whole new segment with its B9 Tribeca, the first full sized SUV to come from the Japanese firm. It combines familiar styling cues with the tried and tested mechanical layout, and aims straight at the key players in this highly competitive market.

Despite its all-new body and the first SUV from the firm, the Tribeca is instantly recognisable as a Subaru, mainly thanks to the prominent grille, designed to echo Subaru's aeronautical heritage. A prominent crease runs down the flanks to the rear where it flows into the rear lights, and while it is certainly a distinctive design, it may not find favour with all buyers.

Inside the Tribeca benefits from an all-new cabin, and one that should easily meet the expectations of a luxury SUV buyer. On SE versions the cabin is finished in good quality leather, and a mix of light colour fabrics and silver plastics creates a welcoming environment. The Tribeca is also very well specified, with a comprehensive range of equipment even on the entry level version.

Mechanically the Tribeca sticks to the same template that underpins the rest of the Subaru range. A flat configuration engine, in this case the flat six seen the in Legacy, is mounted low in the engine bay for good weight distribution, and is mated to a permanent four wheel drive system. The standard five-speed automatic gearbox has also been retuned for this application, and comes with a manual mode enabling the driver to control the shift points.

A vital feature for the Tribeca is the option of a seven-seat model, called the SE7. It adds an additional pair of seats at the rear of the vehicle, and access to these seats is through the rear doors. Five seat versions carry three passengers across the rear row of seats.

Our verdict on the Subaru B9 Tribeca SE5

The Tribeca is a strong overall package, with its good design, high specification and quality finish. However, details such as the exterior styling and the mismatched engine and gearbox may put some buyers off. However, the Tribeca has a lot to offer and is worth considering by any buyer in the market for an SUV of this size.


The Tribeca is likely to be a relatively expensive car to run, thanks to the vehicles high purchase price, worse than average fuel economy and insurance costs.

Space and practicality

The Tribeca is longer than most of its rivals, with the result being good levels of space. Legroom is very generous both front and rear, while the boot space is also very good. There are also a number of storage areas in the front of the cabin.

Controls and display

The layout inside the Tribeca is very good, with a set of clear and attractive instruments, easy to use controls and uncluttered design. All the buttons and switches operate with smoothness and quality too, giving a strong impression of quality.


This is a high priority for an SUV, and the Tribeca achieves a good standard. Noise levels are low, even at higher speeds, and unless extended the engine is quiet too. The ride quality is good if not exceptional, soaking up most road imperfections. The front seats felt a little short on padding in the test vehicle however, and may not suit all passengers.

Car security

Standard security features on the Tribeca include remote central locking, an alarm system and an engine immobiliser. It also has useful storage area under the boot floor for valuable items.

Car safety

The Tribeca comes with a comprehensive safety equipment list, which includes a high strength safety cell, six airbags as well as a rollover detection system and ABS brakes.

Driver appeal

The Tribeca's mechanical layout should give it an advantage over its rivals, thanks to a lower centre of gravity, and while it feels stable and secure, it does not flow through bends with the same composure as the smaller models in its range. Another issue is the marriage of petrol engine and automatic gearbox. Although pleasingly sporty, the flat-six engine is relatively short on torque, leaving the gearbox constantly hunting between ratios to find the right one. At a steady cruise however, this is not a problem, and the Tribeca is quiet and relaxed.

Family car appeal

As a family car the Tribeca has a lot going for it, especially in SE7 form. In this trim level it has seven seats as standard, plus a DVD entertainment system in the rear. With plenty of room for passengers and luggage along with high comfort levels, it should meet the needs of most families.

First car appeal

The Tribeca is unlikely to make a good first car, thanks to its size, power and expense. It may well be too intimidating for an inexperienced driver even if they could afford to purchase it.

Quality and image

Subaru has a reputation for good quality vehicles, but the Tribeca moves that on a stage further. The finish and quality of the cabin is very impressive, and certainly the best quality that the firm has produced to date. Its image is more of a wonder however, as Subaru's other cars are less premium than the Tribeca. However, the high specification and good finish do help to push its premium image.


Access to the Tribeca is easy, thanks to the high floor height and wide opening doors. In seven seat versions, access to the rear row is a little more difficult. The boot floor is set at a convenient height, and the tailgate opens and shuts with ease.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

All Tribecas are fitted with a 6-disc CD autochanger and radio as standard, with MP3 compatibility. The sounds quality is excellent, thanks to the nine speakers, and the controls are easy to use.

Colours and trim

Tribecas fitted with leather trim have a smart tan finish with aluminium effect detailing, which gives the cabin a bright and airy feel. The quality of the materials used is also good, with only the top of the dashboard finished in hard plastics.


The Tribeca has good all round visibility, and despite its size is relatively easy to park. The power steering and automatic transmission are labour saving, while SE models gain a reversing camera, which is a useful safety aid.

Spare wheel

Full size spare wheel mounted underneath the rear of the car.

Range information

One engine option: 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol (242bhp) mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Trim levels are S5, SE5 and SE7, with SE models gaining DVD navigation and a leather interior. SE7 models have seven seats.

Alternative cars

BMW X5 Revised version is smarter and great to drive

Lexus RX350 Capable and discreet SUV, well specified

Audi Q7 Well built and attractive, excellent on road

Volvo XC90 Practical and stylish, good value for money

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