By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 6.5
With a number of 7-passenger SUVs on the market, what's so special about the 2012 Subaru Tribeca? For starters, every Tribeca is equipped with an advanced and capable all-wheel-drive system, a comforting thought for those whose daily commute sometimes includes snow, rain or even dry, curvy roads. Subaru's unusual boxer-engine design lowers the vehicle's center of gravity and improves vehicle stability, and the Tribeca rates well in the government's front- and side-impact crash tests. The Tribeca's roomy interior coddles its passengers and stimulates its driver with loads of features. And while the same enthusiasm is harder to generate for the styling of this largest Subaru ever, it's pleasantly attractive, thanks to rhinoplasty in 2008 to address the snout with which it came to market.
If you're a Subaru devotee whose family is too large for an Outback or Forester, the 7-passenger Tribeca is the logical choice. First-time Subaru buyers will find the Tribeca's good fuel economy, confident handling, strong resale and proven reliability very inviting.
If you need room for seven adults, the Tribeca's child-sized third-row seating falls short, and the Tribeca's side-curtain airbags do not extend to protect the third-row passengers.
Other than a revised head-restraint design, the Subaru Tribeca sees no major changes for 2012.
Driving Impressions A few minutes behind the wheel and it becomes evident the Tribeca is not your run-of-the-mill SUV. The handling is responsive, and the steering firm and linear. Driving...into sharp curves yields some mild body lean, but overall it's evident that the low center of gravity of its unique drivetrain enhances stability and confidence. The all-wheel-drive system splits power in a 45/55 proportion that favors the rear wheels. If a tire loses grip, power is immediately transferred to the wheels with a better handle on the situation. The 3.6-liter "boxer" engine delivers good performance, while improved shift points programmed into the automatic transmission result in less gear-changing when climbing hills or moving through varying traffic.
Split/reclining/folding 2nd-row seats
Beyond the expected 60/40-split tumbling feature, the second-row seatbacks fold down individually in a 40/20/40 configuration, allowing the narrow middle section to make way for skis or divide a pair of arguing kids. In addition, the seats slide fore-aft nearly eight inches, and the seatbacks recline, making this one of the most versatile seats in its class.
Dual-zone climate control and rear-cabin a/c
While abundant safety features are a given in a Subaru, the Tribeca's generous luxury exceeds any Subaru to date. Dual-zone climate control for the front cabin features air filtration, while a separate system for the back rows helps make almost any seat in the house an agreeable one.
Excellent fit and finish, appealing materials and an uncommon dash design are the hallmarks of the 2012 Subaru Tribeca interior. The wave-shaped dashboard visually delights, but its severe curve places some radio and heating controls at odd angles from the driver. Digital readouts for fuel economy, temperature and information are housed in a large, recessed binnacle properly set at eye level. Convenient tilt-and-slide second-row seats combine flexible comfort with easy third-row access. We applaud the ample distribution of cup holders and wide front seats, which also feature adjustable lumbar support for both driver and passenger. Useful features include an auxiliary audio input jack, as well as optional GPS navigation, rearview camera and second-row DVD entertainment system.Exterior
The original 2006 Tribeca's face was unique, if not beautiful. A quick refresh in 2008 brought about the more palatable, if somewhat generic, front end it wears today. The 2012 Subaru Tribeca's grille features horizontal slats below the familiar Subaru star-cluster badge flanked by large headlights and front fenders that impart a strong road presence. Large side mirrors and windows, along with narrow roof pillars, help with outward vision. Around back, the Tribeca touts wraparound taillights and a sporty rear valance under its large liftgate. Standard 18-inch alloy wheels, a taut rear suspension and an impressive 8.4 inches of ground clearance lend it a confident stance that its handling backs up.
The entry Tribeca 3.6R Premium features a 3.6-liter 6-cylinder engine, 5-speed automatic with SportShift manual function, Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC), 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, 18-inch alloy wheels, front side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags for the first and second rows, heated power side mirrors with integrated turn signals, heated power front seats (8-way driver/4-way passenger) with lumbar adjusters, 60/40-split/reclining/sliding second-row seats, 50/50-split third-row seats, four power windows, remote keyless entry, 6-speaker stereo with MP3-compatible CD player, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear-cabin air conditioning and privacy glass. The 3.6R Limited adds leather, 10-speaker harman/kardon audio, Bluetooth and satellite radio. The top Touring trim adds xenon headlights, moonroof and a rearview camera.
In typical Subaru fashion, the entry-level trim, Tribeca 3.6R Premium, offers nearly no options, but it's well-equipped to begin with. Upgrades available on the midline 3.6R Limited include a moonroof package with a rearview camera (the latter is also available by itself), a touch-screen navigation system, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. With the moonroof package standard on the top-level 3.6R Touring, its only options are the navigation and rear-seat entertainment. Subaru dealers also offer a large selection of accessories, from cargo carriers to a remote-start system.
Subaru offers a single drivetrain combo in the Tribeca, a 3.6-liter 6-cylinder boxer engine producing 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque, and symmetrical all-wheel drive. With its low profile and naturally balanced design, in which the pistons lay flat in a horizontally opposed configuration, the boxer engine and all-wheel drive provide a confident feeling of stability even when taking corners, unusual for a 7-seater SUV. Power is more than sufficient for such a heavy vehicle, while fuel economy is surprisingly good.
256 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
247 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/21
By Driverz (OH) on Sunday, December 01, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 121,000overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "Comfy, great AWD"
Cons: "Mechanical quality/reliability questionable"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Bought this in 2010 when it was two years old. Loved it till 2011 when, just after the 3 year warranty ran out,the nav unit died. Was told by the dealer it would be $1000 to replace. Found out this was common problem. A month ago the transmission died. Dealer said 5 grand for a rebuilt tranny. Found this transmission has had a lot of documented problems as well. Oil cooler gasket wears out on most of these which causes you to steadily leak motor oil till you replace it (after two years?? come on Subaru) This is one of the most comfortable cars we have owned. The AWD works great. The bells and whistles are great(when they work)Gas mileage is terrible. Overall I don't think this vehicle is worth the price they are asking for it, especially considering the serious reliability issues which can be found with a little research. As someone else said this is a high maintenance vehicle."
By dkerch99 (WI) on Wednesday, November 27, 2013
I owned and sold this car
Reason: Wanted upgrade. - My approximate mileage is 47,500
Pros: "Just okay."
Cons: "Cramped back seats, small gas tank, touch screen."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 3
"Bought this vehicle new, had to take in twice for service because of engine jerking when going from 2nd to 3rd gear. Interior is decent looking, but very cramped back seats, never should offer with a 3rd row. Touch screen is ok, but hard to see the screen when it's sunny out. Feel like we had to fill the gas tank constantly, only a 15 gallon tank. Gas mileage is pretty weak. Drives pretty smoothly and decent acceleration."
By kitty on Thursday, October 17, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,000overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Cons: "too many to list"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"the design leave almost no storage space, the glove box only has room for the owners manual. the headlights need to be on high to see far enough ahead to be safe. the auto on the AC/heat has the AC on all the time. There are not enough outlets and are in places that are not convient. I was told when I bought it that the headlights come on automatically, but they don't. The headlights turn off with the engine so if you are in a dark place you don't have the couple of min of headlights most cars have. The list is way too long to give all the things I hate about this car. I pray everytime I get in it that someone will hit me and total the car. I wouldn't even care if I was hurt."
3 people out of 12 found this review helpful
By Shadetree (IA) on Monday, September 30, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 105,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great ride very comfortable, handles great"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Great car I really like it , gets good MPG 23 on highway at 70 mph, have alway changed oil & serviced as recommended, tire have 14,000 miles on them."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By killjoy (MI) on Wednesday, August 07, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "its great"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"All I ever see about this vehicle are bad reviews on Yahoo or some other internet rag saying the styling is outdated, it is unoriginal, etc. All I see are other vehicles that have taken the same styling cues from the Tribeca that is supposedly such a bad vehicle. Sure, it only gets between 18-21mpg, but what other SUVs get better? I feel that the AWD feature of all Subarus is superior to anything that other manufacturers have and it has been very dependable. The engine is based on an industrial model so it will last a very long time. The only issue I had is with the power steering unit leaking and they repaired it under warranty. I have driven this in all types of weather and across all terrains from sand to mountains. This is the second Subaru that I have owned, and I would be willing to buy another when this one finally wears out (not for a long time!!) In my opinion, all you have to do is keep up with regular maintenance and change the transmission fluid regularly (do not take it to get flushed!!!)."
7 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By KD (GA) on Monday, August 05, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 150,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Handles very well on the road. Very reliable"
Cons: "wished it got better mileage"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Very reliable. I like it's size for an suv, not too big and not too small. Feel safe when driving. Handles the road very well."
7 people out of 8 found this review helpful