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Subaru Tribeca 2006 Review

Twelve years ago Subaru Australia was selling the basic little Brumby 4X4 ute to cash-strapped but shrewd farmers who knew a tough little bargain when they saw one.

Last week it launched a luxury crossover vehicle named after the New York arts and culture precinct where most residents don't even own a car.

Tribeca stands for triangle below Canal Street. Among New Yorkers that trendy little triangle is regarded as a little gentrified these days, but its successor as the cutting-edge district is less likely to be immortalised in a chrome car badge. The latest avant garde district is down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass — Dumbo for short.

Still, with its meaty snout, saggy creases and elephantinely rounded rear end, the extraordinarily odd-looking Tribeca could easily have passed for a Subaru Dumbo — all you'd have to do is open the doors.

But plain looks never stopped previous Subarus building cult followings and Subaru Australia is upbeat about the Tribeca. Interest is already high with 1600 potential customers signed up for test drives before it goes on sale on November 25. They're signing up to try Subaru's first seven-seater, and its most expensive model yet.

The Tribeca arrives at a time when there is an increasing number of customers for $50,000-plus Subarus, says Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior. "Until now, some of those prospective customers, or existing owners, have reluctantly looked elsewhere when family circumstances dictated they need a larger vehicle," he said.

Senior thinks Tribeca has their measure.

As well as seven seats it has a 3.0-litre flat-six engine shared with the Liberty and Outback 3.0R models and,like all Australian-market Subarus, all-wheel drive.

The range opens with the five-seat Tribeca 3.0R at $53,990. Among its standard features are touch-screen satellite navigation, reversing camera, dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning, a six-stack CD with iPod input and power adjustable front seats.

For $58,900 the Tribeca 3.0R Premium adds leather trim, a sunroof, a back seat DVD player with wireless headsets, memory settings for the driver's seat and electric heating for both front seats.

Seven-seat versions of standard and premium models are another $2000, and add extra air-con vents and controls for back seat passengers.

It sounds like a lot of car, and it is. At 1930kg the Tribeca is nearly 400kg heavier than a six-cylinder Outback, but uses the same engine. Subaru owners trading up from the effortless performance of the 3.0R engine in their Libertys and Outbacks will be disappointed.

The Tribeca does not care for hills and even with only two unimpressed journalists on board its five-speed automatic became twitchy at the slightest sign of an incline, with frequent kickdowns and noisy revving. Freeway cruising is commendably quiet — so long as the road is level — but the official fuel consumption figure of 12.4 litres per 100km tells the story of the engine's losing battle with weight.

The payoff is in an area arguably more important to family car buyers. The Tribeca is officially very safe with a five star crash test rating. An impressive detail from its frontal crash test is how the D-pillar right at the back of the car deforms slightly as the body absorbs and dissipates energy that would otherwise crush the occupants.

Six airbags, ABS brakes and electronic stability control are standard. Even without these there's a margin of safety in handling that feels more like a Subaru passenger car than a high-riding off-roader. Ride is also notably comfortable, with no four-wheel drive style pitching. The Tribeca's poise is a credit to Subaru Australia, which calibrated the suspension after local testing.

The interior is a typical modern Subaru presentation of luxury with a touch of eccentricity, such as the distinctive climate control switches. Quality on the American-built Tribeca — it comes from Lafayette, Indiana — appears equal to the high standard of Subaru's Japanese models.

While front and seat room is good and second-row accommodation fair, the third row is strictly for children — and they'd better not have too much luggage or sports gear, because like most seven-seaters there's not much boot space when all seats are up.

As with the district, accommodation in Tribeca can be a bit crowded. But people still want to go there. Subaru anticipates selling 150 Tribecas a month — or 1800 a year — after supply constraints ease next February.

Pricing guides

Based on third party pricing data
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Range and Specs

3.0R (5 Seat) 3.0L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $4,600 – 7,370 2006 Subaru Tribeca 2006 3.0R (5 Seat) Pricing and Specs
3.0R (7 Seat) 3.0L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $5,000 – 7,700 2006 Subaru Tribeca 2006 3.0R (7 Seat) Pricing and Specs
3.0R Premium (5 Seat) 3.0L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $5,200 – 8,030 2006 Subaru Tribeca 2006 3.0R Premium (5 Seat) Pricing and Specs
3.0R Premium (7 Seat) 3.0L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $5,400 – 8,360 2006 Subaru Tribeca 2006 3.0R Premium (7 Seat) Pricing and Specs