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2012 Subaru Tribeca Road Test Review - Road & Travel Magazine's 2012 SUV Buyer's Guide

2012 Subaru Tribeca Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

2012 SUV Buyer's Guide - Road & Travel's Top 10 Picks

Acura RDX

Honda Pilot

Buick Enclave

Hyundai Veracruz

Ford Explorer

Subaru Tribeca

Ever hear that old Broadway song, “All or Nothin'?” Maybe that could be a theme song for Subaru. For decades now they have been the auto company that made every vehicle all wheel drive.  If you didn't want it (although we can't imagine why one wouldn't), you didn't drive a Subaru. If you did buy one, you got a car that could clamber out of a snow bank with ease, negotiate a slippery, mud-coated stretch of pavement, and feel secure that the necessary components to keep out of trouble were there when needed. Subaru kept that intact with the 2012 Subaru Tribeca sport utility vehicle, making sure this is one brute Ute that can maneuver its way out of trouble spots, even with the max seven passengers in tow.

Tribeca has been around long enough to establish itself as a stylish, capable, larger SUV that keeps driver comfort in mind while offering a true ability to take on out country tasks with ease. Need to tow? The Tribeca can do it even without the tow package added. Include that, and capability is boosted from about 2,000 to 3,500 pounds max. Want driving dynamics technology? Think of the standard variable torque distribution that's part of the AWD system. Add standard heated seats on all models, standard rear cabin air conditioning with high mounted vents, plus available rear vision camera that's standard on the Touring Edition as amenities that carry over into 2012.  With that carry-over, current year updates are minimal: redesigned headrests and an additional month of XM radio on factory equipped models.

Considering the underpinnings, there's the usual Subaru Boxer engine powerplant, this time as a 3.6-liter, six-cylinder, generating 256-horsepower that drinks regular fuel (for a so-so 16/21 fuel economy rating, which we don't consider unusual with all-wheel drive). It is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission with SPORTSHIFT, when manual shift mode is desired. Boxer engines have pistons that oppose each other like boxers in a ring sparring back and forth with jabs at each other. That makes the engines run smoothly and also is more compact.

We mentioned the top line touring with standard moonroof, one of three available trim levels. The others are Premium (base model) and Limited. Expect pricing to start in the $30K range, before options.

Visually we find the Tribeca a handsome sport utility. Check the exterior for its wraparound front grille that melds into corner-mounted headlamps, all above the fascia with low-mounted sport lights. A high beltline sweeps rearward toward a high rising rear liftgate, topped with a protruding spoiler. Extra items for a trip can rest atop roof rails.  Dual exhausts lend a sporty flair.

Want to climb inside for a ride? You'll find the typical three-row seating for as many as seven, with a 50-50 split third row. You'll find a sculptured dash, large, visible gauges, leather trim depending on model, requisite Bluetooth connectivity standard on the two up-level models and tilt steering, but not a telescoping steering column. Subaru doesn't offer it. But a navigation package with rear seat entertainment is available on Limited and Touring models

Take it on the road and feel secure that like other Subaru models it can hold its own in touchy situations, although not with sports car like precision. As with other sport utility vehicles, the higher, squarer body shape doesn't lend itself to hairpin turns. It does provide a solid ride, good power and the kind of ground clearance (8.4 inches) one would want when slogging over unfriendly surfaces or needing to take a bite out of a steep, unpaved hillside.
On the safety side, however, the Tribeca earns “Top Safety Pick” marks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Antilock brakes and Brake Assist, and four-wheel traction control are part of the reason. So is a rollover sensor that activates the standard side curtain airbag system if needed.

If we had to grade the Tribeca on feeling secure behind the wheel, we'd rank it a definite winner.  (That's a reason many night shift workers say they drive Subaru’s.)

For more info on Subaru brands, click here.