The Tribeca is a well-thought-out car, but hampered by its inherited drivetrain. If it had a good diesel engine it would be a serious contender
28 July 2006

What is it?

Could the Subaru Tribeca be the manufacturer's answer to the Porsche Cayenne? The car that will finance the continued development of the enthusiasts’ models?

The similarities look uncanny: new corporate face rather ungainly grafted onto SUV body; a reliance on petrol power and an unwillingness to deviate for the brand’s core requirement for taught handling.

What is it like?

Other than the rather indiscreet face the most noticeable thing about the Tribeca is its length: it's longer than anything in the class except the preposterously large Audi Q7.

Yet the packaging disappoints: the driver sitting so far back in the cabin that space and access for the optional third row seating is no better than average. Elsewhere, the cabin is a marked improvement for Subaru, both in design and build quality.

Subaru set the BMW X5 as the benchmark against which the Tribeca should perform, a target they've made more than a reasonable job of achieving. Steering weight and directional stability at speed are a little weak, but considering its size the Tribeca changes direction with little inertia and good control.

With no diesel engine – a fact that seems to frustrate Subaru as much as it will prospective buyers – the only option is the 3.0-litre six-cylinder boxer from the Legacy.

While 241bhp might sound impressive, 219lb ft of torque is the crucial figure – and it’s not high enough, especially given the only transmission option is a five-speed auto gearbox. Despite well-chosen ratios and reasonably rapid responses, the somewhat unharmonious noise of the engine disrupts what is otherwise a reasonably refined experience.

Should I buy one?

At £28,995 for the cloth-upholstered, but otherwise well-specified, entry model the Tribeca undercuts petrol rivals from BMW and Volvo. But that price puts it worryingly near the Nissan Murano and diesel Discovery.

The Tribeca looks like a well-engineered new product hamstrung by an inherited powertrain. In the US it might make more sense but in the UK, where admittedly Subaru is only looking to sell 1000 units, the car desperately needs a decent modern diesel.

Jamie Corstorphine

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