2009 Subaru Tribeca Review

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Subaru Tribeca model years
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Edmunds' Expert Review

  • Serene ride quality, smaller size means added maneuverability, handsome interior design, top safety scores.
  • Cramped second- and third-row seats, limited cargo capacity, uncomfortable seating position for taller drivers, modest handling limits, more spacious rivals available for less money.

Although it provides pleasant, all-weather capable transportation, the 2009 Subaru Tribeca is generally outclassed in terms of space, comfort and, at times, price.

Vehicle overview

When it debuted three years ago, the Subaru B9 Tribeca seemed like your typical offbeat Subaru. Oftentimes, being different is good -- nothing wrong with a little individuality, right? But this midsize crossover's styling was heavily criticized, and its sluggish performance and relatively cramped cabin didn't help matters, either. The 2009 Subaru Tribeca (the "B9" part of the name was dropped for 2008), however, carries over last year's well-advised changes that included new front and rear styling, a more powerful engine and revised suspension tuning. But the Tribeca still has many inherent faults that make it a lackluster choice for a midsize crossover.

Subaru's Tribeca isn't without some charm. With class-competitive performance and a somewhat smaller size than most of its midsize rivals, the Tribeca is peppy enough and fairly easy to maneuver in crowded parking lots and on city streets. Of course, the standard all-wheel drive also provides confidence when driving in foul weather. And though its slow steering and soft suspension mean the Tribeca is no athlete, it compensates with a smooth and quiet ride.

The chief downside of the Tribeca is its tight seating, something that couldn't be remedied with the recent reskin and power boost. Although the second row is acceptable for kids, taller teenagers and adults will find leg- and hiproom lacking. And the third-row seat is essentially a token gesture to the marketing team, as it accommodates only the smallest of small fries. Even tall drivers will find the seating position uncomfortable due to the lack of a telescoping steering wheel.

For families that typically use all three rows, the 2009 Tribeca falls short and thus is hard for us to recommend. We'd instead steer you toward more spacious mid-to-full-size crossover SUVs such as the Buick Enclave/Chevrolet Traverse/GMC Acadia/Saturn Outlook triplets, Hyundai Veracruz, Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Highlander. These competitors offer more expansive interiors, and some of them cost less and handle better, too.

2009 Subaru Tribeca models

A midsize crossover SUV, the 2009 Subaru Tribeca comes in base, Special Edition (SE) and Limited trim lines, each available in five- or seven-passenger versions. Base five-passenger models come with 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt steering wheel, power front seats, full power accessories, cruise control, a CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary input jack, a 7-inch display screen and keyless entry. The Tribeca SE adds leather seating, heated front seats, a driver seat with memory settings, a six-disc audio system and rear air-conditioning. Stepping up to the Limited adds a moonroof, roof rails and HomeLink. Seven-passenger versions add a 50/50-split third-row seat (cloth on base, vinyl on others) and rear climate controls.

Notable options include satellite radio, a remote start system, a navigation system with a rear parking camera, and on seven-passenger models only, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.

2009 Highlights

After last year's revamp, the Subaru Tribeca heads into 2009 with just one significant change, the addition of a value-themed Special Edition model. Filling the gap between the base and Limited trims, the SE provides luxuries such as leather seating, heated seats and rear air-conditioning.

Performance & mpg

The 2009 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 near the front of the midsize crossover pack, with a 0-60-mph time of just 7.8 seconds. Fuel mileage estimates come in at 16 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined.


Every 2009 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 five (out of five) stars for both front and side impact protection. In addition, it received the top rating of "Good" in frontal offset and side impact crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.


In contrast to the rugged, fun-to-drive character found in most Subarus, the Tribeca's personality is more subdued and maybe even a little disappointing. Handling limits are low due to the Tribeca's softly tuned suspension and ride-biased all-season tires, and the steering, although accurate, is slow and light on feedback. For these reasons, Tribeca drivers will likely prefer to take corners at a modest pace. The upside, however, is that Subaru's SUV delivers a very smooth and quiet ride. Additionally, the 2009 Subaru Tribeca provides respectably quick acceleration for a midsize crossover SUV.


The Tribeca's interior has an upscale look that's high on style. 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, even in seven-passenger models with the auxiliary rear blower.

Although the Tribeca's front seats offer great comfort, it's downhill from there. The second-row seats slide fore and aft nearly 8 inches, but even then they lack the legroom and hiproom needed by larger, taller adults, or even teenagers. The third row is just too cramped for anyone but very small children -- most competitors in this price range offer superior accommodations. Folding all the rear seats results in 74 cubic feet of cargo space, which is below average for the midsize crossover segment.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2009 Subaru Tribeca.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

5 out of 5 stars
Enjoyed my Subaru
Limited 5-Pass 4dr SUV AWD w/Nav (3.6L 6cyl 5A)
Had my 2009 Subaru for 5 years and I really enjoyed it. It drove more like a sedan with the horizontally opposed engine which is one of the reasons I bought this car over the Lexus or highlander. Great in snow, and fun to drive. Peppy off the start. Technology was way behind (nav useless). In fact all the tech in the car was below average, but if you don't care about that kind of stuff it's not a deal breaker. Never had any problems with the car. Gas mileage was low. 13 around city. Long trips I'd average 21mpg. Small tank hurt its range. Couldn't get 300 miles without worrying about where the next gas station was.
4.63 out of 5 stars
After three Lexus Rxs This is a real gem
Jim D,09/09/2009
Special Edition 7-Pass 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 5A)
Having leased Lexus RX vehicles for seven years, and enjoying all of them. I took advantage of the opportunity to buy a low mileage Tribeca. While it doesn't have all the features (integrated bluetooth/Nav, express up/down windows, power rear hatch release/keyless entry etc.) it is an extraordinary vehicle that I have come to enjoy very much. Multiple trips to the North woods of Wisconsin have become my second hobby because of the Tribeca. Fit & Finish, features, quality of workmanship, power/safety/great 4x4, Ipod connectivity, great seats, and best of all; it has Japanese quality control, but is assembled in Indiana. I love the car, and it may be my last new car purchase.
3.25 out of 5 stars
Sucks gas, eats headlight bulbs and the doors won't unlock
Limited 7-Pass 4dr SUV AWD w/Rear Seat DVD, Nav (3.6L 6cyl 5A)
I had my 2009 Tribeca Limited for 2 1/2 years and I just traded it on a new non-Subaru vehicle. More negatives than positives for me. Issue #1 is the fuel economy. I got 15 mpg around town in good weather and 12-13 mpg in winter. The car is great in snow, especially with Hakapelitta snow tires. On the highway, it was a miracle to get 21 mpg. The fuel tank is small - 16 gallons and I was filling it up constantly. Navigation system was weak, a $300 Garmin blew it away. This car EATS headlight and brake bulbs. I installed headlight bulbs 3 times in 2 1/2 years and brake bulbs twice. Dealer parts department told me they sold a ton of bulbs. The remote key unlock took 4 clicks to open all doors
4.75 out of 5 stars
Great car
Special Edition 7-Pass 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 5A)
I really like this SUV. It drives like a car, handles excellent in the rain and snow and has enough seating for our family. The gas mileage is average for a SUV of this size with AWD but with it would be better. My teen age son prefers to sit in the rear seat and has plenty of space, so not sure why the 3rd row seat gets the bad rap in the Edmonds reviews. This isn't a Suburban and I don't think anyone should expect caverns of storage and lay out seating in a SUV of this size. This is just right for the daily driver and the ocational family road trip. When I need extra storage space I use a $60 hitch mounted storage shelf that I store totes on. Works great to put extra gear.


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 2009 Subaru Tribeca

Used 2009 Subaru Tribeca Overview

The Used 2009 Subaru Tribeca is offered in the following submodels: Tribeca SUV. Available styles include Limited 5-Pass 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 5A), Limited 7-Pass 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 5A), Limited 7-Pass 4dr SUV AWD w/Nav (3.6L 6cyl 5A), Limited 5-Pass 4dr SUV AWD w/Nav (3.6L 6cyl 5A), 5-Pass 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 5A), Limited 7-Pass 4dr SUV AWD w/Rear Seat DVD, Nav (3.6L 6cyl 5A), 7-Pass 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 5A), Special Edition 5-Pass 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 5A), and Special Edition 7-Pass 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 5A). Pre-owned Subaru Tribeca models are available with a 3.6 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 256 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2009 Subaru Tribeca comes with all wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 5-speed shiftable automatic. The Used 2009 Subaru Tribeca comes with a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. basic warranty, a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. powertrain warranty.

What's a good price on a Used 2009 Subaru Tribeca?

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Which used 2009 Subaru Tribecas are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2009 Subaru Tribeca for sale near. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2009 Subaru Tribeca.

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Should I lease or buy a 2009 Subaru Tribeca?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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