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Tribeca blessed with a nose job


Just ask BMW: Chris Bangle took the company in an entirely new design direction with his “flame surface”, unveiled on the 7 Series.

The Bavarian giant didn't escape unscathed, but was able to ride the criticism to the extent that most new cars from any badge show some signs of Bangle influence.

Subaru, successful but certainly not anchored the way BMW was, couldn't afford to fight through the negative early reaction to its aeroplane-inspired front on the original Tribeca.

Fifteen months after it was launched, the “look” is gone — dead and buried at the New York Motor Show, with the release of a safer, more conservative Tribeca II.

“We wanted a less polarising design because not enough people liked it,” Subaru America executive vice-president Tom Doll said at the unveiling in New York.

“We listened, and redesigned the front and rear. We addressed engine performance issues, improved the fuel consumption and implemented third-row seat access from both sides of the vehicle.”

So why did the Tribeca's stand-out nose have to go? The reason is simple: Subaru needs to expand its appeal across the middle ground rather than contract it.

The same philosophy is behind the “mature” and “mainstream” design of the next-generation Impreza and WRX, also unveiled at the New York show.

Paradoxically, Subaru Australia's Dave Rowley says interest in the original Tribeca has spiked since news of the more conservative styling approach began circulating.

“It's strange, really. As soon as people realised the current model was going to disappear, there has been a lot more interest in it,” Rowley says. “It's almost as if it has become collectable.”

External changes to the Tribeca are considerable. From the A-pillar forward, almost every panel has changed.

The grille is now larger, squarer and more upright, the headlights have moved down to the flat face of the car and the bonnet is less sculptured.

At the rear, the most obvious change is the flattening of the once-prominent brow that ran through the lights and across the tailgate.

Wisely, Subaru hasn't changed the Tribeca's interior, retaining the plush, stylish feel of the twin-cockpit design.

The biggest change has been to make access to the third row of seats possible from both sides.

The other big change to the Tribeca has answered the second resounding criticism of the original: the dozy performance from its three-litre engine.

An all-new 3.6-litre, six-cylinder boxer engine gives the Tribeca a competitive 191kW and 335Nm of torque — an increase of 11kW and 38Nm over the outgoing model.

Drive is through a revised five-speed automatic with manual shift option and Subaru's constant all-wheel drive.

The new Tribeca is expected to be available in Australia early next year.

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 suited to turbo-diesel applications, because the boxer's compact design allows a low centre of gravity and its inherent rotational balance reduces vibration.

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

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