2008 Subaru Tribeca


2008 Subaru Tribeca Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2008 Subaru Tribeca was new.


Performance: 7.1

Thanks to a new engine, the Tribeca is more powerful than the 2007 B9 version. Improved acceleration, along with responsive handling, is enough to impress most reviewers. Car and Driver calls the revamped Tribeca "a very well-balanced, stable, and confidence-inspiring ute -- just like its predecessor -- only faster."

"A few minutes behind the wheel and it's evident the Tribeca is not your run-of-the-mill SUV," argues Kelley Blue Book. "The handling is responsive and the steering firm and linear. Driving into sharp curves yields some reasonable and expected body lean, but nothing that's surprising or uncomfortable." The majority of reviewers share these sentiments, though some point out that the Tribeca's combination of power and handling doesn't necessarily distinguish it from its many worthy competitors. For instance, the San Jose Mercury News reports: "On the road, the new Tribeca exhibits a solid feel with just the right combination of acceleration and road manners. This isn't a sports car nor is it a Jeep-like off-roader. But it hugs the road as securely as it hugs the middle ground in its segment."

Acceleration and Power

The Subaru Tribeca comes with a 3.6-liter Boxer engine that creates 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. This is an increase of 11 horsepower and 32 pound-feet of torque over last year's 3.0-liter. "The additional torque makes Tribeca far more pleasant around town," finds USA Today. "You no longer have to keep the engine revved pretty fast to get sufficient oomph." MSN says the upgrade results in "faster, more responsive acceleration, especially at highway speeds," noting, "The engine also has improved response, thanks to variable valve timing on intake and exhaust valves."

Kelley Blue Book says, "The added power is immediately felt on take-off and when passing." Most reviewers agree. For instance, Edmunds says, "The Tribeca gets away briskly, and merging onto the highway is effortless." CNET writes: "The Tribeca lunges forward with the slightest touch of the gas pedal. In fact, it's almost too responsive, as we had trouble creeping forward in heavy traffic -- the Tribeca wanted to jump." Only a few reviewers align with the reviewer from BusinessWeek who finds the "new Tribeca's acceleration more sluggish than I had expected."

The new engine also scores points with reviewers for fuel economy. Motor Trend says, "What makes the bigger motor such an achievement is that it produces the extra power and torque on regular gas, while the less gruntworthy 3.0-liter demanded premium -- all with no decrease in EPA mileage ratings." The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the Tribeca gets 16 miles per gallon in the city and 21 mpg on the highway. Among the minority of reviewers who aren't impressed is CNET, which reports, "We were happy with the performance of the Tribeca, except when it came to fuel economy."

The new engine is paired with a five-speed automatic transmission that most reviewers like. The "updated five-speed automatic transmission includes a new lockup torque converter and calibration that quickens responses," notes the Detroit News. The Chicago Sun-Times calls the transmission "alert," writing, "It has a new control unit for smoother, faster shifts," while "a manual shift feature provides nifty throttle blips during manual downshifts." Car and Driver likes this feature, saying, "The manumatic transmission makes it easy to keep revs high, where most of the fun is," while praising the Tribeca for being that rare SUV that "drives well enough to prompt us to shift ourselves." Not all reviewers are so enthusiastic. USA Today claims, "The tester's transmission shuddered a bit shifting down into low gear when rolling to a stop and following abrupt moves on and off the throttle at low speed."

Handling and Braking

Most reviewers find that the Tribeca handles well. AutoWeek says, "We'd call the handling good," explaining, "We spent a long day driving a Tribeca over several hundred miles of interstates, mountain roads and stop-and-go suburban streets, and found it mostly pleasant, by the standards of the class." USA Today claims that the "Tribeca is never impolite over bumps, nor soggy in corners nor indecisive in abrupt maneuvers. It hits the sweet spot that others often don't quite." Consumer Guide reports that the "Tribeca is the only SUV with a horizontally opposed engine," a design that "helps lower Tribeca's center of gravity" and "translates to improved stability in fast cornering."

"Subaru says it has revised the rear suspension for a smoother ride, and the result is noticeable," writes Edmunds. "This little tweak makes the Tribeca a lot more pleasant and makes it feel like a more luxurious vehicle." The Chicago Sun-Times agrees, noting that the "recalibrated rear suspension with new bushings helps allow a comfortable ride." A reviewer for BusinessWeek provides a dissenting voice, finding, "The '08 Tribeca's ride is a bit harder than I expected."

Steering, claims Car and Driver, has "excellent on-center feel," while, "[t]urning the steering wheel is met with predictable response and nice feedback, requiring just enough effort to feel engaging without being exhausting." Edmunds finds, "The Tribeca still steers with linear response and the right amount of effort." The Chicago Sun-Times finds that the "quick power steering is appropriately firm," but also that it "feels rather artificial." As for stopping power and performance, MSN says, "The anti-lock brakes with a brake assist feature provide short, responsible stops."

All-Wheel Drive

The Tribeca's standard all-wheel drive consistently earns praise. Most of its competitors, notes AutoWeek, offer all-wheel drive "as an option or not at all." The Kansas City Star explains: "Subaru's all-wheel drive system automatically sends about 45 percent of the drive to the front wheels and 55 to the rear. The slight rearward bias gives more responsive handling. However, a center differential and an electronic clutch distribute power according to conditions." Newsday reports, "The Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive proved its worth" on "mountain roads with corkscrew turns," writing, "I felt secure as I barreled around each bend."


The Tribeca's towing capacity is 3,500 pounds when equipped with an optional towing package. BusinessWeek determines this to be "plenty for hauling small boats and trailers."

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