The unusual Subaru Tribeca grows on us |

The unusual Subaru Tribeca grows on us

Andy Stonehouse

A year and a half ago, I got my initial chance to drive Subarus first entry into the full-sized SUV market, the odd-looking but mostly likeable B9 Tribeca. At the time, I wasnt sure if the car-buying public would cotton to a vehicle whose head-up design is well, to be diplomatic, just a little weird looking, compared to the regular stable of standard SUVs out there.Since then, Ive seen plenty of Tribecas out on the road and heard from plenty of people who are absolutely thrilled with the versatility, drive and generally car-like dynamics of the five- or seven-passenger machine.The jury is still out on the Tribecas frog-eyed headlamps and air conditioner-with-wings styled grille treatment a design thats filtered down to many of Subarus other new models but if you like what you see, youll be more than impressed by the rest of the package.

Spending another week in the saddle, I was once again impressed by the Tribecas futuristic, wrap-around interior (they call it a double cockpit design), the ease of the controls, and the comfortable ride.Built off an expanded version of the Subaru Outback platform, the 108-inch wheelbase Tribeca looks like a whole lot more vehicle, but shares much of the same driving dynamic as its smaller car cousins. Symmetrical all-wheel-drive and a 245 horsepower six-cylinder boxer engine keep the Tribeca safely grounded and adequately powered.The 07 version of the Tribeca features re-tuned suspension for a slightly smoother ride and seemed to have plenty of juice on the road. Id complained that the debut model felt a bit underpowered for its size (4,200 pounds, approximately) and had an engine that was noisy and high-revving; things have improved significantly in the new iteration of the automobile.The interior perks continue to be high-class Subaru, all the way, including (on the Limited edition) leather seating, an easy-to-use touchscreen navigation system with an in-screen backing camera, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a 160 watt, nine-speaker audio system with a new direct plug-in for your iPod or MP3 portable.New options include sonic reverse assist sensors, XM Satellite radio and even a remote starter, good for those frequent cold mornings in the mountains.

Expanded safety technology inside the Tribeca includes a rollover sensor system it is still a taller vehicle than your standard Subie, so thats a good idea plus enhanced emergency brake assist. The vehicles already solid and safe construction helped earn it a top safety pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety; outfitted with that much-respected all-wheel drive system, the Tribeca is a genuinely good family vehicle.18-inch alloy wheels and 8.4 inches of ground clearance also make it a marvel in the snow and a decent medium-duty trail machine. Mileage is rated between 18 city and 23 highway.An eight-way adjustable drivers seat puts you in command of the road with a comfortable, leather-wrapped steering wheel; reaching the navigation screen is still a bit of a stretch and can prove to be slightly distracting. The brightly-lit, glass-windowed climate control knobs feature digital displays inside them and are still a nice visual touch.Third row seating is best left for the kids, although the second row does slide (and recline) to allow a big more space for passengers.

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