2012 Subaru Tribeca SUV - FROM $30,595
The 2012 Subaru Tribeca has a few things going for it, but in the end most other midsize crossover SUVs will be better choices.
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Subaru Tribeca returns essentially unchanged from the previous model year.
The Subaru Tribeca came early to the crossover party, offering a utility package wrapped around traditional Subaru automotive components, and it seemed like a winner from the start. It embraced leading-edge design with a self-consciously stylish execution, while Subaru's tractable engine and all-wheel drive delivered the right kind of all-weather mobility.
Sadly the Tribeca has never found the popular acclaim that Subaru anticipated. There really isn't anything wrong with this midsize crossover, but it never quite cuts through the clutter of competitors. The 2012 Subaru Tribeca excels at very little, which is tough when competing against other family crossovers that are newer, more spacious, better to drive and boast more features.
A firestorm of criticism ignited by the first Tribeca's grille design has unfortunately cowed Subaru's stylists, so the vehicle's exterior has grown more generic in the current generation, although the exuberant interior detailing remains. Another issue is size, as what once was just about right for five passengers hasn't been improved by the addition of a small, cramped third-row seat. Meanwhile, the tractable drivability and all-weather capability come at the price of some impact on fuel economy.
The Subaru Tribeca falls into the vast middle ground of crossover SUVs, crowded on one side by larger, more generic midsize packages like the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano, and then measured on the other by entry-level versions of premium European vehicles like the Audi Q5. Meanwhile, the Subaru Forester SUV and Subaru Outback wagon further confuse the process of choice. Only the promise of seven-passenger capacity (however uncomfortable) really sets the 2012 Subaru Tribeca apart from its competition.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Subaru Tribeca is a seven-passenger midsize crossover SUV that's offered in Premium, Limited and Touring trim levels.
Standard features on the Premium model include 18-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, heated mirrors, rear privacy glass, keyless entry, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control with separate rear air-conditioning control, cloth upholstery, heated power front seats (eight-way driver, four-way passenger), reclining 40/20/40-split second-row seats, 50/50-split third-row seats, a tilt-only steering wheel and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
Stepping up to the Limited adds leather upholstery (vinyl for the third row), driver seat memory functions, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system with a six-CD changer and satellite radio. The Moonroof package adds a sunroof, roof rails and a rearview camera.
The Touring will get you exclusive 18-inch wheels, a monotone exterior paint scheme, HID headlights, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and the Moonroof package.
The Limited and Touring are available with an optional Navigation package that includes a navigation system and an upgraded rearview camera (uses the navigation screen for the camera display rather than the rearview mirror). A rear-seat DVD entertainment system can be added to this package.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Subaru Tribeca is powered by a 3.6-liter, horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine that produces 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic with a manual shift mode is the only transmission offered. Every Tribeca features an all-wheel-drive system that sends 55 percent of the power to the rear wheels under normal driving conditions.
In Edmunds performance testing, the Tribeca accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds, which is about average for this class. Fuel economy is below average, however, at an EPA-estimated 16 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined.
Standard safety features for the 2012 Subaru Tribeca include antilock brakes (with brake assist), traction control, stability control, front-seat side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints.
In recent Edmunds brake testing, a Subaru Tribeca required 121 feet to come to a stop from 60 mph, which is slightly shorter than its competitors.
In crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Tribeca earned the top rating of "Good" in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
This is a stylish interior, far from the generic space that you might expect. The driver seat also offers the kind of spacious visibility that no longer is available elsewhere, but the lack of a telescoping steering wheel compromises the driving position for the very tall or very short.
The second-row seats aren't exactly spacious, but they do incorporate the ability to slide fore-and-aft so you can increase rear-seat legroom or cargo capacity depending on your priorities. The third-row seat is clearly an afterthought in this package, and it's really meant only for occasional use (just like third-row seats everywhere, really). The third row is particularly hard to get to, though.
With both second- and third-row seats folded down there are 74.4 cubic feet of cargo room. This is a bit more than the Subaru Outback wagon, so there clearly are benefits to the Tribeca's larger package.
From behind the steering wheel, the 2012 Subaru Tribeca feels competent, maneuverable and easy to drive, with the light-effort steering enhancing an overall feeling of nimbleness. The suspension soaks up both big bumps and small pavement imperfections nicely. The 3.6-liter engine produces adequate acceleration, although it doesn't project a powerful personality and full throttle invites lots of noise and poor fuel economy. The five-speed automatic transmission also might be limiting the Tribeca's pure performance. Nevertheless, the all-wheel-drive Tribeca is an especially good choice when slippery traction is an issue.