Full 2011 Subaru Tribeca Review
What's New for 2011
The 2011 Subaru Tribeca carries over unchanged from the previous year.
People champion excellence, not mediocrity. After all, you won't see a bumper sticker touting, "My child is a C+ student at Middling Jr. High." So we find it hard to rally around the 2011 Subaru Tribeca. While there's nothing about this vehicle that makes us cringe, it simply pales in comparison to other SUVs, which seem to do everything just a little better.
From the outside, the Subaru Tribeca was originally styled to be bold and innovative, but indifferent customer reaction has led Subaru to make it less distinctive, so now it looks too much like an artist's rendition of a generic SUV -- neither inspiring nor offensive. Even the Tribeca's performance is simply middle-of-the-road. The interior shows some signs of life with a futuristic dash design, but it comes at the expense of some usability.
On the plus side, the Tribeca's all-wheel-drive system delivers the assurance of solid footing in a variety of climates, a feature that sets it apart from the usual front-wheel-drive crossovers. Maneuvering in tight city confines is made easier by the Subaru's smaller dimensions. At the same time, a certain lack of interior space is noticeable. The second-row seats slide fore and aft, but all the way back is the way you'll use them. The third-row seat is for part-time convenience, not long-distance trips. Most important, taller drivers will bemoan the lack of a telescoping steering wheel.
Since there are no truly awful midsize crossover SUVs, it might be that benign doesn't add up to a compelling proposition. The Tribeca compares in size to the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox and 2011 Ford Edge, while it's a bit smaller than the 2011 Mazda CX-9 and 2011 Toyota Highlander. And when it comes to price, dynamics and overall appeal, the Tribeca gets lost between these vehicles.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Subaru Tribeca is a seven-passenger midsize crossover SUV that is offered in Premium, Limited and Touring trim levels.
The Premium trim starts 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), heated front seats, driver-seat 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 will get you exclusive 18-inch wheels, 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 2011 Subaru Tribeca is powered by a 3.6-liter, horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine that produces 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic with a manual shift mode is the only transmission offered. Every Tribeca features an all-wheel-drive system that sends 55 percent of the power to the rear wheels in normal driving.
In recent Edmunds testing, the Tribeca accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds, which is about average for this class. Fuel economy is below average, however, at an EPA-estimated 16 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined.
Standard safety features for the 2011 Subaru Tribeca include antilock brakes (with brake assist), traction control, stability control with a rollover sensor, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints.
In recent Edmunds brake testing, a Subaru Tribeca required 121 feet to come to a stop from 60 mph, which is slightly shorter than its competitors.
The Subaru Tribeca has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash-testing procedure. Its 2010 rating (which isn't comparable to 2011 ratings) shows that 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 Subaru Tribeca's interior offers a taste of excitement, as the sweeping wraparound dash features complex organic shapes that blend smoothly into the center console. Unfortunately, most buttons on the dash are difficult to read and the curved panel shape hampers operation as the console bends away from the user. Most materials are either soft to the touch or well textured, and various panels are tightly fitted.
The Tribeca's front seats provide decent comfort for the average-sized driver, but the lack of a telescoping steering wheel compromises seating for taller adults.
The second-row seats offer nearly 8 inches of adjustable travel, but they don't slide far enough to the rear for us to get comfortable. Access to the third-row seats is hampered by a narrow opening and only the smallest passengers will feel comfortable once they get back there. Most competitors in this price range offer superior third-row accommodations. Maximum cargo capacity is just 74 cubic feet.
Unlike most other Subaru vehicles, which tend toward fun and lively, the Tribeca takes a step back. Though its all-wheel-drive system does impart a sense of confidence, this Subaru feels lethargic. The transmission is also a bit slow to react, but selecting Sport mode will sharpen things up.
Around town, the Tribeca is easily maneuvered into tight parking spots thanks to feather-light steering effort. Bumps and ruts in the road are readily absorbed, maintaining composure and delivering a calm and smooth ride quality. Once again, the 2011 Subaru Tribeca proves itself to be able-bodied, but lacking in spirit.