2012 Subaru Tribeca Review
By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating:
What's New for 2012
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.
You'll Like This Car If...
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.
You May Not Like This Car If...
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 the Tribeca
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.
2012 Subaru Tribeca Details
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.
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.
Under the Hood
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
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