Full 2010 Subaru Tribeca Review
What's New for 2010
The Subaru Tribeca is only available in seven-passenger form for 2010, and a new top-of-the-line Touring model adds a variety of luxuries. Also, Bluetooth is standard on the Limited and Touring trims. A new back-up camera for models without the navigation system and minor equipment reshuffling round out the changes.
The 2010 Subaru Tribeca takes its name from the artsy New York City neighborhood, and indeed, this Subaru has a little avant-garde in its genes. Boasting standard all-wheel drive and a futuristic dashboard design, the Tribeca would seem to be aimed at those who appreciate a daring departure from the norm. Beyond these elements, however, the Tribeca turns out to be a surprisingly forgettable midsize crossover SUV. It's not bad, but it's also not as good as many rivals.
Taken on its own merits, the Tribeca is a perfectly competent vehicle. Seven-passenger seating is standard for 2010, and the now-familiar 3.6-liter flat-6 joins forces with the standard AWD system to deliver solid year-round performance. The Tribeca is also a bit smaller than the average midsize crossover, making it a boon for those who navigate crowded streets and parking lots on a regular basis. Moreover, the Tribeca's ride is smooth and quiet -- unusually so for a Subaru.
Alas, shortcomings abound. The third-row seat is little more than a token gesture for marketing purposes, as there's no way an adult or even a growing child could fit back there comfortably. The driving position is inadequate for taller drivers due to the lack of a telescoping steering wheel. Despite Subaru's reputation for above-average handling, the Tribeca feels soft and uninvolving from the helm, so those who want a sporting flavor should look elsewhere. Another downside is cargo capacity, which checks in at 74 cubic feet, a low number for a midsize crossover.
Attractive three-row options are plentiful at this price point. The Ford Flex is an excellent choice, as are the Buick Enclave/Chevrolet Traverse/GMC Acadia triplets, Hyundai's Veracruz, Mazda's CX-9 and Toyota's Highlander. All of the above offer more expansive interiors, and many of them cost less, drive better and even boast higher-quality cabins. The 2010 Subaru Tribeca's avant-garde credentials are questionable at best, and it's not that good at being mainstream, either.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
A midsize crossover SUV, the 2010 Subaru Tribeca comes in Premium, Limited and Touring trim levels, each with standard seven-passenger seating. The Premium comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, tri-zone automatic climate control, a tilt (but not telescoping) steering wheel, heated power front seats, full power accessories, cruise control, a six-speaker CD/MP3 sound system with an auxiliary input jack, a 7-inch display screen and keyless entry.
Stepping up to the Limited adds leather upholstery (vinyl for the third row), three-mode heated front seats with driver memory, Bluetooth, a 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system with a six-CD changer and satellite radio and additional interior ambient lighting for the console. The Touring tacks on exclusive 18-inch alloys, a monotone exterior paint scheme, xenon headlamps, silver roof rails, a sunroof and a back-up camera with a small display in the auto-dimming rearview mirror.
The Touring's roof rails, back-up camera and sunroof are available on the Limited as the Moonroof package. Optional on both Limited (Moonroof package required) and Touring is a Navigation package that includes a navigation system, a back-up camera (with the camera display migrating to the navigation screen) and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. These models are also eligible for a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Subaru Tribeca's 3.6-liter, horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine produces 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. The sole transmission is a five-speed automatic with a manual shift mode. All Tribecas use an all-wheel-drive system that sends 55 percent of the power to the rear wheels in normal driving.
Performance is respectable, with the 0-60-mph sprint requiring 7.8 seconds. Fuel economy is unimpressive, however, at 16 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined.
Every 2010 Subaru Tribeca comes with antilock brakes (with brake assist), traction control and stability control with a rollover sensor. Front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints round out the safety features.
In government crash tests, the Tribeca scored a perfect five stars for both front and side impact protection. It also received the top rating of "Good" in frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Tribeca's interior is its most distinctive feature. The dashboard's dramatic curves are a rarity in today's automotive landscape, adding a welcome dose of character to this otherwise bland Subaru. However, materials quality is average at best -- plastics are hard and even a bit coarse in places. We like the central display screen that shows climate control and audio information, a feature found on the Tribeca whether or not the navigation system is ordered. However, the arrangement of some controls is awkward, and the air-conditioner struggles to keep the cabin cool on hot days.
The Tribeca's front seats offer fine comfort, but the rear compartment isn't so pleasant. While the second-row seats offer nearly 8 inches of adjustable travel, they're still a bit short on legroom, and hiproom is also at a premium. As for the third row, it's simply too cramped for all but small children -- most competitors in this price range offer superior third-row accommodations. Maximum cargo capacity is just 74 cubic feet.
Subarus tend to be entertainingly quirky vehicles to drive, but the 2010 Subaru Tribeca bucks this trend. Its milquetoast character is apparent in its ho-hum handling and numb steering, though the ride is uncharacteristically smooth and quiet for a Subaru. Acceleration is respectably quick from the 256-hp flat-6.