2011 Subaru Tribeca Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 2, 2011

With the 2011 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.

The Subaru Tribeca underwent a major overhaul for 2008 with new styling, a more powerful engine, and retuned suspension, and for 2011 the updates have been kept to a minimum. The five-passenger version of the Tribeca is no longer offered.

Once again, the 2011 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 2011 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. Tribeca's interior 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.

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The 2011 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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2011 Subaru Tribeca

Styling

The exterior of the 2011 Subaru Tribeca is clean, pleasant, and ideal for those who don’t want to be noticed.

The Subaru Tribeca looks, inside and out, like a slightly more upscale take on the family wagon of our day—the mid-size crossover vehicle. That's to say, it's a little sleek and curvy, but not overtly so, and its styling details—at least on the outside—feel carefully calculated to offend no one.

It hasn't always been this way. When the Tribeca was first introduced about five years ago the model had a trend-setting snout, with rounded headlamps and a 'winged' grille inspired by Subaru's aircraft history. Turned out the design was very much love-it-or-hate-it (more the latter), so the Tribeca underwent a major overhaul for 2008, with a more conservative, anonymous front end that shoppers seem to like better.

While the exterior of the Tribeca is quite unremarkable, the interior makes more of an impression. A curvy, overtly futuristic (read, already feeling dated) cockpit-like interior of the original model remains; it's a handsome setup in the details, and its ambient lighting is especially extensive. But some might find a bit too much matte-metallic trim, and away from the instrument panel the interior feels nice but unremarkable.

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2011 Subaru Tribeca

Performance

The 2011 Subaru Tribeca has standard all-wheel drive and handles well on all sorts of roads and conditions, but its powertrain performance is strictly mid-pack.

While at first glance the 2011 Subaru Tribeca appears to have performance credentials that aren't much different from those of rival models, two things make it a bit different: the engine is a horizontally opposed (boxer, or flat) six-cylinder, and all-wheel drive is standard. The engine is about as strong as other V-6s in this class, with 256 horsepower and 247 pounds-feet of torque, and performs respectably with the five-speed automatic transmission. While on a clear, dry road it's no match for the likes of the Ford Edge or Nissan Murano, Subaru's engine is feels quite rev-happy and deals well with transitions.

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 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.

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2011 Subaru Tribeca

Comfort & Quality

The 2011 Subaru Tribeca is comfortable and refined for those in front, but if you’re thinking of using the third row regularly, be wary.

With the introduction of a slightly larger Outback last year, Subaru decided to drop the two-row Tribeca, so all models now have three rows of seats for seven-passenger capacity.

Front seats in the Tribeca are wide and firm, with nice proportions and bolstering. Lumbar support is adjustable for both the driver and passenger, and it's easy to find a good driving position—although the lack of telescopic steering adjustment could prevent some from getting comfortable. One issue for some taller, lankier drivers is that the curvy instrument panel design tends to limit knee space—and potentially comfort, on long trips.

In back, the second row slides fore and aft by eight inches—and split 60/40 for longer cargo—and once adults slide it back they'll find enough space to be comfortable. It's a bit flat and not tremendously comfortable, either. The third row, though, is a bit hard to get to (though there are grab handles) and nearly unusable if the second row has been moved back for second-row passengers. You could end up with a balancing act where no one's happy. Fortunately that third row folds flat and expands cargo space when it's not in use.

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.

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2011 Subaru Tribeca

Safety

It doesn’t get much better than this; the 2011 Subaru Tribeca is one of the safest vehicles in its class.

Subaru in general has a great record for safety, and the 2011 Subaru Tribeca is no exception. It benefits from top results in major crash tests, as well as a full roster of safety features—plus standard all-wheel drive.

The Tribeca gets nothing but top 'good' marks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS), and . 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. We advise opting for the rearview camera, which makes those pesky reverse parking maneuvers a breeze.

The Tribeca hasn't yet been rated by the federal government, as part of the stricter crash-test ratings system being phased in for the 2011 model year, but under the former system the Tribeca achieved top five-star results in all categories for frontal and side impact.

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2011 Subaru Tribeca

Features

The Tribeca can get quite pricey for a Subaru, but the top-of-the-line Touring model won't leave you wishing for much else.

The 2011 Subaru Tribeca comes with a great list of standard features. 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.

In addition to its standard all-wheel drive and torquey six-cylinder engine, leather trim, heated front seats, cruise control, a six-disc stereo, and rear air conditioning are all offered on the base Premium model. Keyless entry and a seven-inch LCD display screen are also included. The Limited trim adds, among other things, a moonroof, roof rails, leather, better speakers, an in-dash CD player, HomeLink, Bluetooth hands-free, a 50/50 split third row, and rear climate controls with air conditioning. There's also a sound-system upgrade, included with the Limited, bringing ten speakers, 385 watts, and XM satellite radio tuning.

A new Touring model joined the lineup last year; it features a moonroof, a navigation system, and a reversing camera all as standard.

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2011 Subaru Tribeca

Fuel Economy

Whether next to other mid-size crossovers or compared to other family choices, the Tribeca isn't a very green choice because of unimpressive fuel economy.

Fuel economy isn't especially good for this class, with the Tribeca returning 16 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway. However it does runs on regular unleaded fuel rather than the previous generation's super unleaded requirement.
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8.2
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Styling 7.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 10.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy 6.0
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