2012 Subaru Tribeca Test Drive and Review

61 Rating


The Subaru Tribeca was ahead of its time when it was introduced in 2005 as the Subaru B9 Tribeca. Other than a few cosmetic tweaks, the Tribeca has stood pat -- which is the same as moving backward in the highly competitive world of crossover vehicles. The 2012 Subaru Tribeca Touring carries a base price of $35,895 ($40,670 as tested), with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty and EPA estimates of 21 mpg city/27 mpg highway.

Let's drive.

Guide review

When I first drove the Subaru Tribeca back in 2007, I was blown away by its space age cabin design. I am still impressed with the wrap around dashboard in the Tribeca, which brings to mind aerospace design. Even though there are lots of controls and buttons, Subaru has arranged them in such a logical, attractive way that I'm totally comfortable in the driver's seat. Every new passenger I carried during my week in the Tribeca complimented the dashboard design, and fell in love with the interior. Even my very critical friends (you know who you are). I was a little less impressed with the lack of a few key, cutting edge features, most notably streaming Bluetooth audio, which is becoming a common feature among competitors. Even the 2012 Subaru Forester that I recently reviewed has streaming Bluetooth Audio as an option, so Subaru definitely has its hands on the feature. Too bad.

Subaru has a deserved reputation for handling on and off of the road. Like the rest of the Subaru lineup (except the rear-wheel drive sportscar BRZ), the Tribeca comes with standard all-wheel drive.

8.4" of ground clearance will help out on dirt roads, but Tribeca isn't really intended for rough service -- this is more of a grocery-getter/family-hauler than hill-hopper. In typical Subaru style, the Tribeca is fun to drive, with sharp cornering, brisk acceleration and smooth shifting. For a two-ton crossover, it delivers a lot of delights.

Tribeca's exterior design is still effective, and has aged very well over the years. Other manufacturers have adopted the swoopy, muscular style of the Tribeca, so it doesn't stand out in the crowd quite as much as it used to. Fit and finish are excellent, as I have come to expect from Subaru.

There's plenty of competition in the three-row crossover field, and most if not all better Tribeca's 16 mpg city/21 mpg highway, which is a problem in these fuel-conscious times. Among the stronger competitors are the General Motors crossovers (Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave); the Toyota Highlander; the Honda Pilot and the Kia Sorento. Hyundai is readying a three-row Santa Fe for 2013, replacing the outgoing Veracruz. Ford has both the Explorer and the Flex in their arsenal. In other words, there are lots of choices facing the potential Tribeca buyer.

Tribeca made its mark as the biggest, most expensive Subaru ever when it first hit the roads. It still holds those crowns, but it may be time to rethink the formula.

  • Standard all-wheel drive.
  • Space-age cabin.
  • Spunky performance.

  • Poor fuel economy.
  • Heavier than expected for a Subaru.
  • No Bluetooth streaming audio.

Details and specs:
  • Base prices: $30,595 (Premium); $32,595 (Limited); $35,895 (Touring)
  • Engine: 3.6-liter horizontally-opposed Boxer 6-cylinder
  • Horsepower: 256 @ 6,000
  • Torque: 247 @ 4,400 rpm
  • Transmission: 5-speed automatic with all-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 16 mpg city/21 mpg highway
  • Wheelbase: 108.2" Vehicle Length: 191.5" Width: 73.9" Height: 66.4"
  • Curb Weight: 4,173 - 4,256 lbs
  • Cargo: 8.3 cubic feet behind third row; 37.6 cubic feet behind second row; 74.4 cubic feet behind first row.
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles basic; 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain
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