2010 Subaru Tribeca Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
December 5, 2009

With the 2010 Subaru Tribeca, first-class safety credentials and excellent all-weather handling ensure your precious ones are looked after, but if you need more than five seats, we suggest going with a bigger vehicle.

TheCarConnection.com has driven the 2010 Subaru Tribeca and brings you this succinct Bottom Line, with pros, cons, hands-on observations, and how it matches up versus rival models. Then TheCarConnection.com also researched available road tests on the Tribeca, bringing you highlights in a comprehensive Full Review.

The Subaru Tribeca underwent a major overhaul for 2008 with new styling, a more powerful engine, and retuned suspension, and for 2010 the updates have been kept to a minimum. There is one major shakeup in the Tribeca lineup; the five-passenger versions are no longer offered, so all models now have three rows of seats for seven-passenger capacity.

Once again, the 2010 Subaru Tribeca’s sole engine option is a 3.6-liter flat-six engine with 256 horsepower and 247 pounds-feet of torque on tap. Drive is sent to all four wheels via a five-speed automatic transmission and a symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. Performance from the flat-six engine is respectable, but it’s no match for competitors like the Ford Edge or Honda Pilot. Fuel economy is neither poor nor especially good for this class, with the Tribeca returning 16 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway; best of all, it runs on regular unleaded fuel rather than the previous generation’s super unleaded requirement. Handling is one of the best attributes of the Tribeca; push hard into a corner and the Tribeca has good body control and better steering than most other vehicles of this type. The 2010 Subaru Tribeca’s 8.4 inches of ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive may scream off-road prowess, but this mid-size crossover is better suited to the suburban environment. Real off-roading isn't the goal here—just all-weather performance.

The Tribeca has a firm but smooth and controlled ride, and an interior that’s a step quieter than what we’ve become accustomed to from Subaru. The interior of the 2010 Tribeca has a futuristic theme with flowing lines that wrap around the driver and front passenger. The design, while unique, does limit front seat roominess, especially around the knees.

Review continues below

The 2010 Subaru Tribeca is also one of the safest vehicles in its class, scoring full marks in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) crash tests. On top of that, the Tribeca boasts a ton of standard safety features, including side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags for first- and second-row passengers but not for third-row passengers. TheCarConnection.com advises opting for the rearview camera, which makes those pesky reverse parking maneuvers a breeze.

A new Touring model has also joined the lineup, featuring a moonroof, a navigation system, and a reversing camera all as standard. Whichever trim you choose in the lineup—Premium, Limited, or Touring—fog lights, 18-inch wheels, power driver and passenger seat, heated front seats, and third-row seating are standard equipment.

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2010 Subaru Tribeca

Styling

The Tribeca’s more conservative face may not win many fans for its distinctness or creativity, but the look is clean, pleasant, and ideal for those who don’t want to be noticed.  

After the major styling overhaul in 2008, the Subaru Tribeca took on a much more conservative look in order to appeal to a wider audience. For the uninitiated, the Tribeca originally launched with a hideous front end that only a mother could love (OK, a few more people, including at least one editor here, did love it). But the 2008 redesign appears to have worked for Subaru, as most of the reviews on the Tribeca speak positively about its styling.

Edmunds calls it "a more conservative face," while Car and Driver thinks "Subaru should have called it the Chry-beca," thanks to its close resemblance to the now-discontinued Chrysler Pacifica.

Unfortunately, the overly futuristic cockpit-like interior of the original model remains, but to be fair, opinions on the design are mixed. Car and Driver comments, "[the] gauge cluster and climate control dials are...handsome." Kelley Blue Book says, "the wave-shaped dashboard visually delights," though "its severe curve places some...controls at odd angles from the driver." MotherProof likes the interior lighting, noting that "the nighttime ambient lighting scheme...is a sight to behold."

One of the most practical changes of the 2009 update were the redesigned rear windows and pillars. MotherProof notes this has the added benefit of better access to the third row: "Now you can get back there from either side of the car instead of just one."

Still, the 2010 Subaru Tribeca can’t escape without some complaints. Take Subaru’s LCD information screen at the top of the center console, for example. Kelley Blue Book points out that in the Subaru, digital readouts "can fade when viewed through polarized sunglass lenses." Other reviewers dislike the text on silver buttons of the controls, which many state are hard to read at a glance.

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2010 Subaru Tribeca

Performance

The engine in the 2010 Subaru Tribeca has a lot of grunt, but its on-road performance is lackluster.  

One of the Tribeca’s major advantages is the addition of standard all-wheel drive, which instantly gives the Subaru a leg up above some of its two-wheel-drive rivals when it comes to handling. However, the story doesn’t end there as the 2010 Subaru Tribeca, as it also has a rather refined, satisfying powertrain to match.

Car and Driver reports that the Tribeca features "a more flexible and tranquil drivetrain, with improved throttle response...and better performance with lower operating costs." Kelley Blue Book notes the “shift points programmed into the automatic transmission lessen the number of gear changes required when climbing hills." Edmunds finds "the once laggardly Tribeca is now as quick as most of its peers...with the Tribeca's 0-60 mph acceleration times dropping from 9.5 seconds to 7.8."

Edmunds also remarks "Subaru's standard all-wheel drive provides ample grip in any weather" but points out that the Tribeca still suffers from "modest handling limits...slow steering and noticeable body roll around corners." Note that with the 2008 update, the Tribeca also receives a redesigned rear suspension setup, which, according to Kelley Blue Book "helps improve handling while yielding an impressive 8.4-inches of ground clearance." In reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, most testers regard the suspension as tuned more for comfort rather than sport. Car and Driver sums it up as "a very well-balanced, stable, and confidence-inspiring ute."

TheCarConnection.com adds that Subaru’s 3.6-liter flat-six engine was all-new for 2008 and continues as the sole engine for the 2010 model year.  It develops a peak output of 256 horsepower and 247 pounds-feet of torque, all of which is sent through a standard all-wheel-drive system via a smooth-shifting five-speed automatic. Fuel economy is decent for a vehicle of this size, returning 16 mpg in the city and 21 on the highway.

Performance is sufficient, although it’s no match for some of its competitors like the Honda Pilot and the Chrysler Pacifica. Take if off road and the Tribeca’s capabilities start to diminish quickly, despite its reasonable 8.4 inches of ground clearing and all-wheel-drive system.

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2010 Subaru Tribeca

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Subaru Tribeca is only available with all three rows of seats, but limited space means the third row is practically useless for anyone over the age of 10.

Subaru decided to drop five-seater Tribecas for the 2010 model year, which means every 2010 Subaru Tribeca now offers third-row seating as standard. While this may initially seem good, the third-row seat is very tight and presents outward visibility problems.

Otherwise, the interior of the 2010 Subaru Tribeca is very pleasant. Kelley Blue Book praises "the wide front seating, which also features adjustable lumbar support for both the driver and passenger." They also applaud the "excellent fit and finish," saying the "appealing materials and an uncommon dash design are the hallmarks" of 2010 Subaru Tribeca. Some drivers, however, may find the lack of a telescoping steering wheel a problem, as noted by the reviewer at Cars.com: "it only tilts...my arms grew sore from stretching to reach the wheel."

The 2010 Subaru Tribeca is only a mid-size crossover, so it’s not as large as other SUVs with three-row accommodations. As a result, the third row is cramped for all but small kids, and while the second row moves fore and aft by eight inches, it, too, becomes cramped when making room for the third row. Edmunds complains that the second row, "although fine for kids, lacks the legroom and hip room that larger, taller adults need." The second-row seats do recline and are split 60/40, and big grab handles ease access to the third-row for kids.

A common problem with the third-row seating is rearward visibility. Cars.com notes that, "over-shoulder visibility is decent, but the Tribeca's large A-pillars can hide pedestrians and even cars when they're on the right-hand side."

Finally, MotherProof finds "plenty of functional storage in the Tribeca," including several cup holders and storage bins.

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2010 Subaru Tribeca

Safety

The 2010 Subaru Tribeca is one of the safest vehicles in its class, with its assortment of standard safety features garnering great crash-test ratings.

The 2010 Subaru Tribeca benefits from top marks in federal front- and side-impact tests, a constant all-wheel drive that comes as standard, and a ton of safety systems. Unsurprisingly, the mid-size crossover is one of the safest vehicles not only in its class, but in the entire market.

The strong crash-test results are only part of the story, however. Where the 2010 Subaru Tribeca also shines is in its long list of available and standard safety features. Cars.com reviewers report that the Tribeca comes with “six standard airbags, including side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags for first- and second-row passengers but not for third-row passengers.” This is something to consider if you plan to transport children in the third row. Side airbags are available only for the front row, as well.

In addition to the inflatable protection, ConsumerGuide says that "antilock four-wheel disc brakes" and “electronic stability and traction control” are included on all Subaru Tribecas. Edmunds points out that there is a “rollover-sensing program” as well.

When it comes to rearward visibility, crossovers and SUVs usually fall short. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, however, show that the 2010 Subaru Tribeca offers a surprisingly good field of view. ConsumerGuide claims there is "good outward visibility thanks to big mirrors and unobtrusive rear headrests."

It’s not all praise for the 2010 Subaru Tribeca. MotherProof has some complaints about the child car seat LATCH connectors inside the Subaru, stating that “two sets of connectors in the second row's outboard seating positions are practically inaccessible...why didn't they give us some LATCH connectors that are actually useable?"

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2010 Subaru Tribeca

Features

The Tribeca pushes the price ceiling for Subaru, but the new top-of-the-line Touring model won't leave you wishing for much else.

The 2010 Subaru Tribeca is a little pricey, but it does come very well equipped.

In addition to its standard all-wheel drive and torquey six-cylinder engine, leather trim, heated front seats, a memory driver’s seat, a six-disc stereo, and rear air conditioning are all offered on the base Premium model.

Standard equipment on the 2010 Subaru Tribeca includes 18-inch alloys, dual-zone automatic climate control, power seats, cruise control, and "a CD/MP3 player with auxiliary input jack, a 7-inch LCD display screen and keyless entry," notes Edmunds.

The Limited trim adds, among other things, a moonroof, roof rails, leather, better speakers, an in-dash CD player, HomeLink, a 50/50 split third row, rear climate controls with air conditioning, and front seat heaters with memory for the driver seat.

Kelley Blue Book says notable options for the 2010 Subaru Tribeca in base trim include a choice of XM or Sirius Satellite Radio, reverse parking sensors, auto-dimming mirror, and remote start. For the Limited trim, options include GPS navigation, rearview camera, and a rear-seat DVD system.

Cars.com points out that the new Touring model gets many of these mentioned premium features as standard, including a moonroof, a navigation system, and a reverse camera.

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8.2
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Expert Rating
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Styling 7.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 10.0
Features 8.0
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