The 2011 Subaru Tribeca shines when it comes to ride quality and safety ratings, but its smaller size and outdated interior hold it back compared with three-row crossover rivals.
In fact, the Tribeca doesn't seem to be quite the value other Subarus are. (See three-row crossovers compared.) Tribecas come in base Premium, midlevel Limited and loaded Touring trim levels. I drove a Touring. All come standard with a six-cylinder engine, automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
The interior's design has aged well over the years, with a smooth, curvy flow that wraps around front passengers. That's quite the feat considering it's essentially the same design used when this car was introduced as the B9 Tribeca for 2006.
However, the quality of the materials in there is far from the segment's best. There's an overuse of silver plastic that's meant to imitate aluminum — a cheap-looking trick. The dashboard and center console are carved out of the stuff, and they don't do the unique design any justice.
The most disappointing part of the interior, though, is the lack of a telescoping steering wheel, which is found in just about every other three-row SUV on the market. What may seem like a small oversight made it impossible for me to sit comfortably in the driver's seat. At 6-feet tall and with a slender build, I had to move the seat back pretty far to get a comfortable distance from the steering wheel. In that driving position, my elbows couldn't reach the armrest. Combine this with the Tribeca's high seating position, and I was not a happy commuter during my 90-minute drives to and from Cars.com's offices.
Fit, of course, will vary from person to person. Some people may not have any issues, but I was not the only editor to experience frustration over the steering wheel. And the front seating problem snowballed into issues for the second and third rows, too, partly because of the Tribeca's small size. Legroom is already mediocre in the second row, at 34.3 inches, but with the driver's seat where I had it positioned, the second row lost heaps of that space. Then, with the second row slid all the way back to compensate, the third row was left with literally no legroom.
Very few crossovers have enough room in their third row to make adults feel comfortable, and the Tribeca isn't close to breaking that mold. The seat is so close to the floor that my legs and thighs were positioned uncomfortably off the seat cushion.
We test a standard assortment of grocery bags, golf clubs and luggage in every car we drive, and there wasn't much — or any, really — room to spare behind the Tribeca's third row; there's only 8.3 cubic feet of storage back there. That's significantly less than the Pilot's 18 cubic feet, and it's even less than a small sedan's trunk.