- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2007

Subaru has dramatically altered its 2008 Tribeca in this crossover SUV’s third model year, clearly responding to criticism over styling that polarized faithful Subaru fans and other prospective buyers. When this five-passenger vehicle originally debuted for the 2006 model year, it carried the moniker “B9 Tribeca,” but Subaru has dropped the B9 nomenclature — along with the model’s controversial front grille design — for the 2008 model year. Instead, the front clip bears a much closer family resemblance — and more traditional crossover styling.

Also new is a larger displacement six-cylinder engine upping horsepower by 11 (now 256) and torque by 32 foot-pounds (now 247). The 3.6-liter boxer engine also runs on regular unleaded gasoline, whereas the previous 245-horsepower, 3.0-liter engine required higher-grade fuel; a change to the engine’s cooling system allows the use of 87 octane.

Subaru also emphasizes the addition of low-end torque, an attribute that enhances the driving experience in many circumstances. The active valve control system (AVCS) varies the valve timing on both exhaust and intake valves on the new engine; the previous 3.0-liter unit employed the technology on the intake side only.

Subaru also promises better fuel economy in “real-world driving situations,” but has not released exact numbers yet. For reference, the last Tribeca achieved EPA-rated fuel efficiency of 18 miles per gallon city and 23 highway — numbers generated under the old and less stringent fuel economy rating system. For the 2008 model year gas mileage will be adjusted down across the board thanks to new testing parameters, meaning that the 2007 B9 Tribeca would achieve 16 city and 21 highway mpg if tested under new conditions, according to fueleconomy.gov.

An updated five-speed automatic transmission is more advanced than the previous unit, but lighter in weight than the outgoing gearbox.

Subaru says the drivetrain is nearly 10 pounds leaner. A new lock-up torque converter and control unit provides fast, smooth shifts.As with all Subaru models, symmetrical all-wheel drive delivers torque to the wheels with optimal traction. Supporting systems include vehicle dynamic control (VDC), variable torque distribution (VTD) and traction control. The Tribeca continues to lead in the safety department, having earned five-star ratings in both front- and side-impact collisions according to the New Car Assessment Program conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration It earned a respectable four-star rating in the rollover test.

Safety features responsible for its performance are the Tribeca’s full network of air bags (front, front side, front/rear curtain), active head restraints, ring-shaped reinforcement frame structure, roll sensor system, tire-pressure monitoring and anti-lock brakes with brake assist.

Standard amenities include eight-way power driver’s seat adjustment, four-wheel power passenger seat adjustment, manual lumbar support adjustment, leather trim on the steering wheel and shift handle, leather upholstery on Tribeca Limited models and a power glass moon roof on Limited trims. A nine-speaker audio system includes a six-disc in-dash CD player, subwoofer, steering-wheel controls and auxiliary audio jack.

Options such as touch-screen navigation, satellite radio, a rearview camera, rear-seat DVD entertainment and a remote starter are available. The DVD system includes a 9-inch wide-screen monitor, wireless headsets, auxiliary input and wireless remote.

Many analysts characterized the sales results of the B9 Tribeca as disappointing, so Subaru hopes that the face lift will boost the crossover’s appeal. This Japanese carmaker has certainly made a name for itself thanks in part to its supercapable station wagons, so developing a crossover/SUV that hints at the wagon lineage makes sense. Subaru says the wider and more upright grille, taller hood line and revised headlights contribute to “greater road presence with a more SUV-like appearance.”

Other exterior modifications are slight. Larger side-view mirrors, new three-quarter rear windows, wider taillights and a revised rear valance redefine the Tribeca subtly but significantly.

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