The Subaru Tribeca is enjoyable to drive regardless of weather conditions.
It's powered by a 3.6-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine that makes 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. Subaru's 3.6-liter six-cylinder delivers competitive performance in a class filled with excellent V6s. We found the 3.6-liter H6 offers responsive power. Only slight pressure on the gas pedal brings up sufficient power for passing.
The transmission is smooth and responsive. Shifts up and down are managed almost seamlessly. Even when shifted manually using the SportShift there is only the slightest interruption in the energy flow. When using the SportShift, the Tribeca will shift up a gear automatically at engine redline (because it assumes the driver forgot it was in manual mode); it will not, however, drop down a gear without the driver tapping the lever forward. We often found it easiest to simply put it in Drive and let it do its own shifting, since it did such a good job on its own.
Fuel economy isn't a standout feature, however. The Tribeca earns an EPA rating of just 16/21 mpg City/Highway. This is likely due to weight and all-wheel drive.
The more time we spent with the Subaru Tribeca, the more we liked it. Multi-lane, divided highways passed under its impressively quiet tires as smoothly and as rapidly as did winding, switchback-laden two-lanes.
Credit for much of the Tribeca's smoothness belongs to the high degree of refinement Subaru's engineers have achieved in development of the horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine. Credit for the Tribeca's nimble handling goes to the relatively low center of gravity that comes with that essentially flat engine placed low in the chassis, a trademark Subaru engineering feature. The Tribeca is bigger than it looks and in close quarters it feels big, but on the road it handles surprisingly well. The Tribeca tracks through tight, left-right-left transitions with little body lean and inspires confidence at high speeds that you wouldn't experience in most SUVs. The steering is accurate, though a little slow.
We felt the brakes weren't ideal, or at least not to our liking; brake feel wasn't truly linear and somewhat spongy. And the steering column is offset a smidgen to the right, toward the centerline of the vehicle. A lot of vehicles have imperfectly located steering wheels, but we were surprised to find this in a Subaru.
All-wheel drive comes standard, and Subaru is a leader in this technology. Subaru's all-wheel-drive system makes the Tribeca an excellent choice when the weather turns foul or conditions become slippery, whether it's snow or ice, or a muddy, unpaved road, or a rainy, oily backroad or on-ramp. Under normal conditions, it sends 55 percent of the power to the rear, to provide a handling optimized rear-drive bias. The system also serves as an active safety feature, even on dry pavement, helping to reduce skidding in corners and aiding the driver in controlling the vehicle. Subaru's all-wheel drive is your friend.
When our time with the Tribeca came to an end, we were sorry to see it go. We could see ourselves owning the Tribeca and being quite content with life as a one-car household.
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