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Car reviews - Subaru - Tribeca - 3.6R 5-dr wagon range

Launch Story

6 Dec 2007

SUBARU is not known for short product cycles, but may soon gain a reputation for one after the Japanese brand this week launched a significant revamp of the Tribeca SUV – a vehicle it released here barely 12 months ago.

Following the lead of the new Impreza as another example of the company’s increasingly conservative, populist approach to design, the revisited Tribeca counters criticisms of the first model – in particular its fussy, polarising styling.

As well as the styling revisions, it has also given the engine a much-needed capacity and torque boost, and improved access to third-row seats.

Subaru was motivated to undertake the urgent and no doubt expensive reworking of SUV as it was selling substantially less than it had hoped to in the key US market.

While the original Tribeca’s aero front end was a particularly brave move, it is not the first time the company has been forced to send designers back to the drawing board. The 2001 Subaru Impreza, with its bug-eyed headlights, was redesigned just two years later after negative customer reaction.

Tribeca’s sheetmetal at the front and rear is new, with insiders suggesting the design was actually originally intended for Saab for the aborted 9-7 SUV, when Subaru was still affiliated with General Motors. Subaru had already supplied Saab with a reskinned Impreza WRX, which sold as the disastrous Saab 9-2X overseas.

While there are the obvious changes to the metal, Subaru has also signed off on many changes under the skin.

The major change involves the new 3.6-litre engine, Subaru’s biggest-displacement engine to date, with 5.5 per cent more power (up from 180kW to 190kW) and 17.8 per cent more torque (up from 297Nm to 350Nm) than the outgoing 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine, which originated from the Subaru Outback.

The 3.6-litre engine shares the same external dimensions as the smaller unit but is 0.7kg lighter and more fuel-efficient – claiming 11.6L/100km versus 12.4L/100km previously.

Subaru quotes the 0-100km/h acceleration time at 8.9 seconds. While these figures are gleaned using 95 RON premium unleaded, the 3.6-litre can run on standard unleaded, and is fed by a relatively small 64-litre fuel tank.

Subaru’s engineers have worked on ensuring that the new engine is more rigid, and on improving the cooling system and reducing engine vibration.

The air intake manifold is now a lightweight plastic item, while the timing chain was revised to reduce noise. A longer stroke was the chief means by which displacement was increased while not increasing block size or weight.

Additionally, improved casting methods have permitted the reduction of block thickness between cylinder bores by 6.4mm, while cylinder liners are lighter and thinner.

The five-speed auto transmission has also been heavily revised to suit the new engine and improve efficiency, with a new lock-up torque converter and an improved control unit.

Subaru recalibrated the rear suspension and fitted revised bushes.

The new exterior treatment includes the one-piece grille, front and rear bumpers, bonnet, headlights, tailgate, rear spoiler, tail-lights and 10-spoke alloy wheels.

The rear side windows are also 30 per cent larger for improved vision. Headlights are Xenon (across the range), the tail-lights are now a wider design, and the Premium model now has roof rails.

The major change inside is better access to the third row seat, which is a $2000 option on both 3.6R and 3.6R Premium models. The second row seats have a tilt-and-slide lever on both sides of the vehicle, plus a stronger spring to make sliding the seat easier, while new grab handles on the lower C-pillar have been fitted to aid entry and egress to the third row.

The standard rear-vision camera has been updated to include a wider angle and display marker lines indicating distance, car width, and the rear bumper.

Pricing remains unchanged for the 2008 model-year Tribeca, starting from $53,990 for the 3.6R, which has stability and traction control, ABS (with EBD and brake assist), dual front, side and curtain airbags and speed-sensitive windscreen wipers.

Inside, there is a nine-speaker six-stack CD/MP3 stereo, cargo security blind (for the five-seater only), cruise control, 10 cup-holders, dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning, eight-way adjustable power driver and front passenger seats, height-only adjustable steering column, leather steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, a trip computer, power mirrors/windows and satellite navigation.

The $58,990 3.6R Premium adds dual memory function for the eight-way adjustable power driver’s seat, heated front seats, leather trim in a choice of ivory or grey, electric sunroof, rear seat DVD system with wireless headphones and remote controller, and roof rails.

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