Overview & Reviews
The Tribeca, Subaru's first midsize sport-utility, is a relatively recent addition to the crossover SUV segment. Bigger and taller than the company's other utility vehicles, it's meant to be a viable alternative to established Japanese crossover competitors as well as other more upscale sport-utilities.
The Subaru Tribeca (originally known as the B9 Tribeca) succeeds in that regard. However, there's not much to push the Tribeca beyond that "alternative" status. Though premium in look and feel, the vehicle's interior is a little cramped when compared to some competitors. Earlier models also suffered from mediocre acceleration.
Overall, the Tribeca's faults are significant enough that we think most shoppers will be happier with other top crossover SUVs. Only if you're a dedicated Subaru fan looking for something out of the mainstream will it be worth adding to your consideration list.
Current Subaru Tribeca
The Subaru Tribeca is a midsize SUV based on a widened and stretched version of the platform Subaru uses for its previous-generation Legacy and Outback. There are three trim levels -- Premium, Limited and Touring -- and all seat up to seven passengers.
Convenience and safety features are pretty comprehensive on the Premium model, as 18-inch alloy wheels, tri-zone automatic climate control and power front seats are standard. Stepping up to the Limited gets you leather seating, heated front seats, front-seat memory presets, Bluetooth and a 10-speaker audio system with CD changer and satellite radio. The Touring's additional highlights include xenon headlights, a sunroof and a back-up camera. Big-ticket options like rear-seat entertainment and a navigation system with rear parking camera are optional.
The Subaru Tribeca is powered by a 3.6-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine producing 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. All models also come with Subaru's signature traction-boosting all-wheel drive that splits the power 45 front/55 rear under normal circumstances, and redistributes power on the fly as needed. A five-speed automatic transmission with a Sport and manual-shift mode is standard.
The Tribeca's cabin has a distinctly sleek and upscale look, but the dash is slathered in hard plastic, and some controls are awkwardly arranged. On the other hand, we like the central screen that displays climate control and audio information -- and this feature comes along for the ride whether you order the navigation system or not.
Legroom is sparse for third-row passengers, and even those in the second row might feel a little cramped -- a rear-facing infant seat barely fits. Fortunately, cargo room with the seats folded is a bit more generous, with up to 74 cubic feet available, though it lags behind some rivals.
Once under way, the current Subaru Tribeca feels reasonably quick and certainly better than earlier models. The engine can sound a little noisy and rough when it's working hard, however. On the other hand, the Tribeca's highway ride is smooth and the cabin remains quiet.
Used Subaru Tribeca Models
The Subaru Tribeca midsize SUV debuted for the 2006 model year, though it was originally known as the B9 Tribeca. The "B9" was dropped for 2008. Named for New York City's fashionable and affluent TriBeCa neighborhood, it became Subaru's first U.S. vehicle to feature a controversial (and short-lived) new design expression consisting of a stylized triangular grille and rounded bodywork.
This look was poorly received by the public, hence the current model's generic front-end treatment, which bowed for the '08 model year. The following year saw a Special Edition model joined the original base and Limited trims, though for 2010 it was gone when the Touring trim debuted and the formerly optional third-row seat became standard across the board.
Used-vehicle shoppers should note that prior to 2008, the Tribeca's six-cylinder engine was a little underpowered. Displacing 3.0 liters, it made 245 hp and 215 lb-ft of torque. Subaru Tribecas with this engine can feel considerably more sluggish when accelerating than 2008 and later models.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 119.00
Great value in a crossover - 2008 Subaru Tribeca
By Pepe_V - October 9 - 9:20 pm
I've driven nearly 3,000 miles on my new Tribeca. I previously drove a Cadillac STS, and wanted a comfortable, sporty ride, that didn't require me to sit so low to the ground. My Tribeca is very comfortable, sporty (for this kind of vehicle), and versatile with the room in back and fold down seats. The nav system is inconsistent - sometimes it's great, others, like a trip to central OH last week, it wants to send you 100 miles out of your way. Gas mileage could be better. The 2008 model is good looking, with a smooth engine and terrific all wheel drive at a nice price. It also has lots of storage, cup holders and power ports for family use. Put this on your short list!
Sucks gas, eats headlight bulbs and the doors won't unlock - 2009 Subaru Tribeca
By tommymight - September 26 - 3:02 am
I had my 2009 Tribeca Limited for 2 1/2 years and I just traded it on a new non-Subaru vehicle. More negatives than positives for me. Issue #1 is the fuel economy. I got 15 mpg around town in good weather and 12-13 mpg in winter. The car is great in snow, especially with Hakapelitta snow tires. On the highway, it was a miracle to get 21 mpg. The fuel tank is small - 16 gallons and I was filling it up constantly. Navigation system was weak, a $300 Garmin blew it away. This car EATS headlight and brake bulbs. I installed headlight bulbs 3 times in 2 1/2 years and brake bulbs twice. Dealer parts department told me they sold a ton of bulbs. The remote key unlock took 4 clicks to open all doors
Amazing experience - 2008 Subaru Tribeca
By aftervolvo - August 21 - 3:33 pm
This is my first Subaru and I am very happy with it. After 3 months test driving Lexus, BMW, Toyota, Acura, and Honda SUVs I finally decided for the 2008 Tribeca. Two months after my purchase, I am still very happy with my choice.
A great vehicle, but don't get the nav - 2008 Subaru Tribeca
By APM - August 18 - 3:10 pm
This is my 4th Subaru. They are a very reliable car, and great in winter weather. The fit and finish of the car is superb. The interior is quite roomy both front and rear, and I like the styling. I looked at BMW and Lexus, and I bought the Subaru. To my taste, the exterior looks just like every other crossover. It's nice, but not distinctive. The interior has high style and comfort. It handles very well, and has just the right amount of power. Braking is spectacular. I am not comfortable with the way the transmission shifts, particularly on hills.
don't do it - 2008 Subaru Tribeca
By dissappointed - August 2 - 10:53 pm
I had a forester before the tribeka. Loved it and decided to stay with subaru. I have been so very disappointed with the tribeka. Sure it rides well and is easy to handle, but the small gas tank is a BIG problem!!! i have to fill the gas tank every two or three days and find myself almost running out of gas on a regular basis. I have had the car for 2 years and i still cant get used to this.This is a major design flaw. At 18 mpg (ouch) the tank should be a 2 gallon and not 15.
Great car - 2009 Subaru Tribeca
By scott2s - June 30 - 1:36 am
I really like this SUV. It drives like a car, handles excellent in the rain and snow and has enough seating for our family. The gas mileage is average for a SUV of this size with AWD but with it would be better. My teen age son prefers to sit in the rear seat and has plenty of space, so not sure why the 3rd row seat gets the bad rap in the Edmonds reviews. This isn't a Suburban and I don't think anyone should expect caverns of storage and lay out seating in a SUV of this size. This is just right for the daily driver and the ocational family road trip. When I need extra storage space I use a $60 hitch mounted storage shelf that I store totes on. Works great to put extra gear.
Have had them all, and now? - 2008 Subaru Tribeca
By Marty - June 16 - 1:36 pm
Have had Tribeca 3 weeks and put 1500 miles on. A few defects found, but probably from Dealer roughness. Car rides nice, fairly quite and smooth. Have had WAY TOO many vehicles,and just traded in a Hyundai Santa Fe Limited. There are trade-offs, but I would put the Santa Fe first for now. Still happy with the choice, but time will tell. Getting 19 MPG so far. Rate a BUY for good value!
Did not meet expecations - 2008 Subaru Tribeca
By Briofny - May 22 - 6:00 pm
I purchased the car in April of 08, and just hit 27k miles. Small gas tank, but mileage not bad for an SUV. The fit of the interior of the car is disappointing, loose pieces every where, & the rear hatch is not designed to strategically close when packing. Also, what is the point of the rear blower if I can't control it from the front, my kids cant reach it. The look of the car is great, but I can't justify the looks versus the quality I expect for the prices. A+ on the handling and engine (although Subaru wants me to change the tranny fluid already)! C on interior quality and pointing out as another post did, who scans on the radio any more, let me change my presets from the steering wheel
When is leather not leather? - 2008 Subaru Tribeca
By Wil12345 - March 31 - 12:33 am
We have had this car for about a year and a half. It rides well, drives well and has been reliable. Only two complaints. Windshield is very poor quality and breaks with the slightest touch of a pebble. Leather interior is mostly vinyl. After a small tear, I found that the only part of the seat that is leather is the small section in the middle of the seat surface. The entire rest of the seats including the bolsters on the seat surface are made of vinyl. No happy about paying for leather and not even getting full leather seating surfaces! Contacted Subaru and they told me that customers like vinyl better. Sounds like a way for Subaru to save money!
Somewhat Disapointed in Tribeca - 2008 Subaru Tribeca
By jpdinnj - March 9 - 3:40 pm
Current mileage 2000. Transmission clunks hard into first gear downshifting to a stop; A/C is not cold enough for a cabin of this size - dealer said it was overcharged; suspension clunking sound made from the front wheels when hitting slightest of bumps reminds me of bad ball joints in an old car; acceleration at cruising speed not smooth, instead feels out of balance; gas cap rests on exterior paint during refuel, need telescoping steering wheel; back seats wobble and make noise as does the rear seat belt from the ceiling; exhaust makes tinny vibration sound when accelerating hard. Expected more from this vehicle.