Larger than a compact sport/utility and equipped with third-row seating, the Tribeca is truly the underdog of the midsize SUV class.
I took our 2008 Tribeca to my parent's house for a weekend visit. My folks are loyal Toyota buyers. They currently own a 1995 Corolla and a 1999 Matrix. All my life, my mom has driven and owned nothing but Toyota trucks and sedans. I got my first vehicle when I was in high school: the 1987 Toyota pickup, Mom had driven before buying her 1991 Corolla. I think you get the point.
I spent the weekend grocery shopping and hauling Costco-size loads to and fro with ease in the Tribeca. My parents examined the vehicle from top to bottom, playing with every button and knob on the dash as we drove around town. I took them for a spin around the block and let them have a test drive for themselves. And they truly loved it. I think I've found a vehicle that might make them stray away from buying another Toyota.
They were impressed by the rear backup camera and nav system. They've seen a nav work before; I have one in my Mini. Nonetheless, the Tribeca nav was a hit with its integrated on-board computer that features the audio, clock, and fuel economy and outside temperature indicators. The deal breaker for my mom was the dual-zone automatic climate-control system. I've never seen her get so excited for a feature in a vehicle.
I've always had a thing for the overlooked Tribeca. When it first came out, the SUV didn't get much attention from buyers due to its oddly shaped front end, which is a shame because the Tribeca had one of the best-looking twin-cockpit interior designs on the market. Now that Subaru has revamped the front grille to a more likeable one-piece look, this midsizer might make buyers take a second look. The interior has remained much the same for 2008 with minor new touches such as second-row seat with a tilt-and-slide control for driver- and passenger-side access.
Our Tribeca featured the third-row seating. While I didn't get the chance to sit in the third row, I was able to cram a couple friends back there for a late-night run to a local diner for the early bird breakfast special. The third row is a nice touch for a last-minute need to make sure all passengers have a ride, but it's a tight fit and there's not much legroom. A bit of twisting was required to get in and out. I wouldn't recommend a long trip back there.
The new 256-horsepower, 3.6-liter engine handles traffic and highway driving and averaged 17.7 mpg. The new engine replaces the 3.0-liter of the previous model and allows the use of regular-grade gas to save some money. The five-speed automatic transmission has been upgraded for lighter and more responsive performance that provided fast pickup and less shift-shock. The ?beca felt much more like a sports car on the road and less like an SUV with tight steering and stiff suspension due to minor bushing upgrades.
The Tribeca remains on my top-five list of SUVs to own. Its new exterior is more eye-pleasing and sleek, which has lost its funky personality from the pervious gen. The interior is in a world of its own with class, comfort, and convenience. Performance and handling has only gotten better for this SUV.
On a Scale of 1-to-5
(1=bad, 5 = good)
What once was its best feature, now has an exterior that complements it well. It still remains award-winning.
This is no longer the vehicle "with a face only a mother could love." It's a nice new face that's pleasing and stylish. But will people miss its old nose?
The midsize SUV that feels like a sports car.
The optional rear-seat DVD entertainment system is a nice touch, but is available only with the third-row seven-passenger seating option. The touch-screen audio/nav system is easy to navigate and use. And the sound quality is good, too.
*The 2008 Subaru Tribeca is rated as a mid-size SUV according to the Motor Trend Buyer's Guide