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2006 Subaru B9 Tribeca

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San Francisco: With gas prices passing the $3 mark in America and heading upwards, interest in gas-guzzling behemoth SUVs is waning precipitously. What better time for Subaru to introduce an alternative to the old-fashioned SUV?

The B9 Tribeca is not the first car of its kind, but it is a logical move for Subaru, the company that essentially invented the sport utility wagon with its successful line of Outbacks. As its new flagship product, the B9 Tribeca combines the comfort and amenities of a nice sedan with additional height, greater utility, and, most importantly, available seven-passenger capacity of an SUV.

It is certainly a stunning vehicle. The new nose has its share of detractors, but I think the Tribeca’s design is attractive and unique. The new narrow grille with wings may remind some of an Alfa Romeo, a 1960’s Saab, or even an Edsel. Subaru is gradually applying this new look to its entire product line in hope of differentiating their cars from the competition.

Giving this car the name of an area of Manhattan indicates the Tribeca’s mission in life. It is meant for adventures on road, which is where nearly all SUV’s stay anyway. Of course, as a Subaru, it comes standard with symmetrical all-wheel-drive, which moves grip to the wheels that have something to latch onto, automatically. Subaru’s lightweight AWD mechanicals sit quietly under the car and go about their business when you need them.

My Titanium Silver Metallic test car was a Limited model, the top of the Tribeca lineup. It also had the optional third row seat, which folds away beneath the cargo floor when you’d rather carry cargo. Five-passenger cars use that seat space for a handy hidden storage bin. Niceties of the limited include heated leather seats and a nine-speaker AM/FM stereo with six-disc CD changer. My tester also had a couple of fine options, the GPS navigation system and a rear seat DVD entertainment system.

Every Tribeca enjoys a 250-horsepower six-cylinder engine, in the horizontally opposed format for which Subaru is famous (as is Porsche). Putting this power to the wheels is a five-speed automatic with SPORTSHIFT, which lets you select the gears yourself if you feel the need, with no clutch to operate. This combination earns EPA ratings of 18

City and 23 Highway, but as usual, my real world numbers were towards the lower end, in this case 18.3 mpg over a 362-mile week. Those numbers are not sensational but they are significantly better than those for standard midsize truck-based SUVs.

All Tribecas also provide four-wheel-disc brakes with anti-lock and electronic brake force distribution for maximum benefit when you stomp on the pedal. A tire pressure monitoring system lets you know if you’re heading for a flat. For safety, you get front and side airbags for the front and outboard second row passengers. The front passenger airbag shuts off automatically if the seat is empty or occupied by a child.

Subaru spared no effort making the interior inviting and interesting to the eye. The two front passengers enjoy a gloriously exuberant dash and console that swoop up, down, and out. The center stack puffs out its chest proudly, and the metallic vest it wears leads directly into a generous matching console with hidden cupholders and handy bin storage. The gray and tan matte finish surfaces look and feel expensive, and the river of silver that separates gray from tan adds luster and richness. The high mounted navigation and information screen contains the only right angles in the interior. Judging from the way the trim looked when the car arrived, it has an unfortunate tendency to pick up scratches. I especially liked the gauges at startup, which playfully bounce their needles to their endpoints before returning them to where they belong. 

Based on everything I had heard and seen about the B9 Tribeca, I recommended the car to a colleague who was looking for a family SUV. She and her husband were so happy with the car that they bought it. I hadn’t even tested it yet, but a week’s worth of driving has confirmed my original recommendation. The Tribeca takes everything that is good about the Outback wagons and makes it more roomy, comfortable, and interesting to look at. It avoids the rough ride and poor aerodynamics of the truck-based SUVs, while providing decent, if not hybrid-level mileage.

My Limited came in at an eye-opening $38,320 while base price Tribecas start at $30,695. Above 30K is new territory for Subaru and they are starting to build cars that can compete with the luxury brands, and doing it very well too.  By Steve Schaefer   © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Column Name: 
 Subaru is building cars that compete with luxury brands
 The 2006 Subaru B9 Tribeca
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 The 2006 Subaru B9 Tribeca
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Subaru Internet Media
Series #:   2006 - 09

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