Lou Ann Hammond, Fri, 9 Sep 2005 08:00:00 PDT
"Brutish, with a big grille. So not a Subaru" The new B9 Tribeca was making a stir among the journalists at the 2005 Chicago Auto Show. Subaru, has a certain DNA that many of my colleagues are sure that if changed, would be the death of Subaru. Not so say my young teenagers Sam and Chris.
At the New York International Auto Show I had Sam Batchelor and Chris Estrella join me to give me their insightful teenage impressions of the new shows at the premier. They were sent down to look at certain cars and bring back their first thoughts. Since they had media badges they were able to sit in the cars and give it a once over. The Subaru B9 Tribeca was not on their list, so I was surprised when they came back with a surge of glee over the car.
"It's cool, it's so not your Father's Subaru, said Chris." It reminded me of the Oldsmobile commercial, "It's not your Father's Oldsmobile anymore". It was a great commercial, but it couldn't save Oldsmobile. Subaru doesn't need saving. They, like most the other Japanese companies, are gaining marketshare each year.
The first glimpse of the Tribeca was developed under the codenames SG/X and OOX and unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show under the name WX-01 and then again as the B9SC Roadster concept. The B9 is the designation for the chassis and powertrain. Every Manufacturer looks for a name that emotes a style that is chic and happening. Short for Triangle Below Canal Street, Tribeca is the hub of happening in Manhattan. The ex-Alfa Romeo designer, Andreas Zapatinas, Subaru's new Advanced Design Team's Chief Designer designed the Subaru Tribeca.
Subaru may have a new look on the exterior, but the underpinnings are all Subaru. The 3.0-liter six cylinder horizontally opposed is a low center of gravity engineered for 250 horsepower, an extra 25 horsepower than the Outback it shares the engine with and an extra 5 lb.-ft of torque, weighing in at 219 lb.-ft of torque.
Subaru is known as a family car and families usually include kids. The entry level five-passenger 2006 Tribeca will be $31,320, including $625 destination charge. The top-of-the-line seven-passenger model starts at $33,020. Add a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and navigation unit and the price goes up to $38,320, including destination charge. I haven't seen a seven-passenger that I would sit in the third row seat and this one is no different. They did get the 10 cupholders - some in the center console and in the map holders on the doors - and the accent and functionality lighting right, however there is little legroom in the third row and the only way to get in and out is via the 40/20/40 passenger side second row.
The ride through the hills and dales of Sonoma County gave us time to feel the supple suspension. I liked the sport drive better than the automatic drive, but I like a stiffer drive. The dash gives the perception of a cavernous feel. The 3-tone interior winds around the full front of the dash onto the doors. There is about fifteen inches of space with the second row kicked all the way back. The best known babysitter for kids these days are DVD players and headphones for the kiddies and quiet-time for you. If you've got kids you've got to get the optional DVD Entertainment system. But it's not just for the kids. On the way back to the hotel, Subaru had us sit in the back seat to watch the DVD, Sideways by Widescreen Edition. Maybach Schmibach, lower that second row, put your legs up and watch the DVD limousine style. The cubbyhole in the third row gives an extra view and the headroom is more than efficient for the under 6 foot crowd. I would have liked a seat that cradled me a little more as I drifted off to sleep.
There are some changes I would make, the first being the name. Drop the B9 - it sounds like benign. Nissan tried to do the same thing with the Nissan Armada Pathfinder and it didn't work; the vehicle is referred to as the Armada. The Subaru will end up being called the Tribeca. General Motors owns 37 percent of Subaru, how about giving it the ability to have XM radio? Subaru's DNA is activity during leisure time. Putting a 110 volt outlet in the back for tailgating would allow campers to have access to small appliances. And we couldn't find a clock unless the Navigation system was on. The Tribeca will build 40,000 units in Lafayette, Ind., 37 percent of them are expected to be all-wheel drive.
The competing models for this vehicle are; Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, BMW X5, Land Rover LR3, and Chrysler Pacifica.
Most people buy SUVs for their functionality. When you can impress a teenager with an SUV and an adult with a Subaru you've got a great combination.