Nuts & Bolts

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Downside: The B9 Tribeca's edgy styling will push some potential buyers over the edge into another product. But Subaru can live with that potential deficit, maybe even turn it into a plus. In revisiting the School of Quirky Automotive Design, Subaru is going back to its roots, which are planted in a fiercely loyal customer base.

Ride, acceleration and handling: The B9 Tribeca runs well against everything in its class, including the BMW X5. Handling is precise, responsive. Yet the ride remains comfortable, even on rough roads. Acceleration is good when the five-speed manumatic transmission is operating in fully automatic mode; acceleration is excellent when that dual-mode transmission is switched to manual shifting.

Head-turning quotient: Many people loved it. Others hated it. No one ignored it -- or guessed that it was anything other than a Subaru. No one does ugly more beautifully than Subaru.

Body style/layout : The B9 Tribeca is a front-engine, all-wheel-drive mid-size sport-utility vehicle of rigid unibody construction. That means it has a metal skeleton -- Subaru calls it a "ring frame" -- to which various vehicle components are attached. The B9 Tribeca's all-wheel-drive system sends 55 percent of the engine's drive power, or torque, to the rear wheels and 45 percent of that power to the front wheels. That power split improves vehicle handling.

Engine/transmission: The three-liter, horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine is the only one available. It develops 250 horsepower at 6,000 revolutions per minute and 219 foot-pounds of torque at 4,200 rpm. It is linked to a standard five-speed transmission that can be operated automatically or manually.

Cargo and fuel capacities: The B9 Tribeca has seating for five or seven people, depending on the interior layout chosen. Maximum cargo space is 74.4 cubic feet with rear seats down and 37.6 cubic feet with rear seats up. Maximum towing capacity with the appropriate trailering package is 3,500 pounds. Maximum ground clearance is 8.4 inches (but this one isn't made for super-rough stuff). Fuel capacity is 16.9 gallons of required premium unleaded gasoline.

Mileage: I averaged 24 miles per gallon.

Safety: Side and curtain air bags; four-wheel anti-lock disk brakes; traction and stability control.

Price: Base price on the tested 206 Subaru B9 Tribeca Limited, including standard navigation system and leather-seating package, is $37,695. Dealer's invoice price on that model is $34,796. Price as tested is $38,320, including a $625 destination charge. Dealer's price with destination is $35,421. Prices sourced from Subaru and

Purse-strings note: It's a buy.

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