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Tri, then Tri again

Nose job: Tribeca gets a more mainstream corporate face.

Subaru realises its Tribeca was ‘on the nose’, and borrows Saab cues to cure it

11 Apr 2007

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in NEW YORK

SUBARU’S early facelift of its controversial US-built Tribeca SUV is a clear indication of the Japanese company’s new, more mainstream focus.

Due in Australia in the first quarter of next year, the Tribeca Series II represents a surprisingly thorough revamp for a model that is a little over two years old abroad, and only a few months into its Australian career.

By the time the facelifted model arrives, the Tribeca will have barely been on our market for 15 months. The reason is simple: polarising design is out, as Subaru seeks to gain a greater foothold in key markets like the US and Australia.

Sales of the outgoing model struggled to match their initial volume targets from the outset.

A Subaru America spokesman summed up the Tribeca’s troubles: "We wanted a less polarising design (because) not enough people liked it.

"We listened, and redesigned the front and rear. We addressed engine performance issues, improved fuel consumption and implemented third-row seat access from both sides of the vehicle." Gearbox and suspension modifications are also part of the SUV’s revamp.

From the A-pillar forward, and the rear doors back, the Tribeca is fresh sheetmetal. However, whether it is strictly new is another matter.

Before Subaru dissolved its capital alliance with General Motors in October 2005, it was going to supply GM’s Swedish arm Saab with a variation of the American-made Tribeca.

Industry observers suggest that Subaru may have simply switched to using the design that was going to differentiate the Tribeca from the aborted Saab 9-7 SUV, although Subaru denies this. The only item that a Subaru insider would admit came from the Saab version is the new alloy wheel design.

2 center imageHowever, GoAuto has learned that, apart from the Tribeca’s rectangular grille, what we are seeing on the MY08 Tribeca is "pretty much" pure Saab. People who had seen the result claim that the Saab 9-7 was actually more attractive than its donor vehicle.

Ironically, both the Japanese and Swedish SUVs were going to have an aircraft-inspired winged motif forming part of the grille.

Future Tribeca editions may also gain Subaru’s recently announced diesel engine. Believed to be of about 2.5 litres in size, it features a horizontally opposed "boxer" cylinder design.

Subaru says this layout is especially well suited to turbo-diesel applications because the boxer’s compact design allows a low centre of gravity, while its inherent rotational balance reduces vibration.

The Tribeca diesel is not expected to be available in Australia before 2009.

Subaru Australia chairman Trevor Amery said the Tribeca’s revisions prove that the company listens to constructive criticism. "We react quickly to feedback," he said.

Read more: First official look: Impreza goes mainstream


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