Subaru's first sports-utility vehicle is good to drive, for an SUV, and good value, but it's crying out for a diesel engine

What is it?

Available as either a five- or seven-seater, the Subaru B9 Tribeca is Subaru's first SUV in the modern sense of the word. We tried the SE5 which has – you've guessed it – five seats.

What is it like?

Rather brutal to look at, although we have to concede it's better in the metal, where it also shows up the not-exactly-pretty Porsche Cayenne. Things improve considerably when you get in (and not just because you can't see the front from inside).

The interior is a real step forward for Subaru – it's plusher than the recently tweaked Legacy's cabin. There's also a lot in the plush interior – all models, from the £28,995 S5 to the £33,995 SE7 come with dual-zone air-con, powered front seats, front, side and curtain airbags and a six-disc CD changer, plus you also get a five-speed automatic gearbox, 18in alloys and front fog lights. SE trim adds leather upholstery, heated memory seats, a sunroof and full-colour sat-nav with a reversing camera.

The SE7 also has two extra seats, extra rear air-con and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. What you may have noticed among all that, however, is that there is no choice of drivetrain – the 3.0-litre 242bhp, 219lb ft flat-six engine (as used in the Legacy Spec B) is your only option. That's no bad thing for performance, which is respectable at 9.3sec 0-60mph and 121mph flat out, but it isn't great for fuel economy, at 23mpg combined.

Still, that flat six makes for a low centre of gravity that's noticeable in the B9's respectably restrained body roll. This is one of the more enjoyable SUVs to drive, although the steering isn't as feelsome or direct as we might like. Then again, if you really want something roomy and good to drive, buy an estate car instead.

Should I buy one?

The B9 Tribeca looks compelling value next to, say, a BMW X5 or Volvo XC90, but what you save on purchase price you may well end up spending on fuel. In this class, you need a diesel engine, and Subaru hasn't got one. Then again, that hasn't stopped Nissan's Murano SUV from selling well. If you can live with the bills, the B9 is well worth a look.

Rory Lumsdon

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Penny9966 12 September 2008

Re: Subaru B9 Tribeca 3.0 SE5

Why oh why are Subaru UK still selling this shape Tribeca. I have swapped my Forester with my brother in law's Tribeca for a month just because we were interested in each other's cars. I had a quick look at the UK Subaru website and its the same shape as the 'old' model. Down under we now have the 'face' lifted and the 'heart transplanted' car.


Different front and rear end, different engine (3.6 rather than 3.0 litre) and gearbox, and different suspension set up. I would be interested to know what version people prefer as the press have said it has lost a little character. After 24 hours with the car I can report that while not as fun as the Legacy, or as characterfull as the Impreza, it is still a very good car, and makes no mistake at otherwise being an SUV. Yes the interior still doesn't have the soft touch plastics, but three years down the line it will still look rather tidy.

Rant over sorry.