06 October 2006
|Key rival:|| Volvo XC90|
Despite increasing hysteria over large off-roaders' place in society, they just keep on coming.
Subaru is the latest company to enter the market, and its all-new model follows everyone from Audi to Hyundai by being a full-size 4x4.
According to the Japanese brand, the Tribeca is aimed squarely and ambitiously at the Volvo XC90 and BMW X5, although thanks to the continued absence of diesel from Subaru's range, it's gunning for a comparatively small portion of premium 4x4 sales.
The only engine offered is the 3.0-litre 245PS (also found in the underrated Legacy), which is mated to a standard five-speed automatic gearbox. That predictably means a maximum 35% BIK banding, but the comparatively low list price against its claimed rivals claws back some cash from the taxman.
At £28,995, the entry-level S5 five-seater isn't exactly sparsely kitted. Six airbags, dual-zone air conditioning, powered seats and six-CD changer are all standard, while stepping up £3000 to SE trim adds leather interior, heated front seats, sunroof, satnav and a reversing camera. To get the seven-seat option is a further £2000, and also adds a rear-seat DVD system for keeping the kids - or adults - quiet in the back.
The Tribeca's styling could prove challenging to many potential buyers, with the large expanse of front grille and almost Ssangyong-esque bulbous rear certainly not challenging for any beauty prizes. The interior is more promising, though, and has been designed around the driver so you almost feel as if you're sliding into the centre of a cockpit.
Rear legroom is also impressive, and significantly above the class average, while the seven-seat version offers adequate rear space. None of the seven-seaters on the market, however, are suitable for taking seven adults very far.
On the road, the Tribeca doesn't feel anywhere near as large and unwieldy as the looks would suggest. In fact, the body control is significantly better than many of its rivals.
The 3.0-litre engine pulls nearly two tonnes of 4x4 well, and the performance is certainly at the level any owner is ever going to need, but that's at a cost. We averaged 20.1mpg on the twisting test route, and the official average figure is only 23.0mpg, although that's no worse than similar petrol-powered rivals.
The Tribeca is a credible first attempt at a full-size 4x4, but it lacks a couple of the quality touches needed to challenge at the prestige end of the off-road market. Details such as the lack of reach adjustment for the steering wheel add up. But the equipment levels for the price are a compelling argument in its favour - if you can afford to run a big petrol 4x4 and you can get past those distinctive looks.