2008 Subaru Tribeca Review

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By Twain Mein

2008 Subaru Tribeca


  • Well integrated electronics
  • Quiet and luxurious
  • Good handling


  • Noisy under full throttle
  • Hard for shorter drivers to see out
  • Limited rear seat room

I admit that my initial interest in the 2008 Subaru Tribeca was muted at best. The previous generation model (2006 – 2007) was, to be frank, hideous. So I assumed the newly face-lifted variant wouldn’t be a looker either. Instead, I found an attractive mid-sized crossover SUV that was easy to drive and loaded with features.

2008 Subaru Tribeca

Driving Impressions
From the moment I opened the door, I was impressed. Comfortable seats, luxurious and spacious interior, and great visibility. There is exceptional head room that gives the car an airy feel. The throttle was a bit sensitive so coming off the line is a bit herky-jerky, but it gives a feeling that the car is light on it’s feet. Side mirrors were a bit too large and blocked the view out; my wife (who is 5’ 1”) was particularly annoyed with this.

Subaru Tribeca - side view mirror Subaru Tribeca - home link and power moonroof

It is hard to believe that the same company that builds the lightweight and “frisky” Impreza makes this car. The Tribeca is much more solid; doors are very heavy and closed with a thunk. The quality is impressive. One small exception is the paint; the gorgeous pearlescent white paint seemed very thin and there was already a scratch on the hood that went down to the metal.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics
The stage of the Tribeca is the massive central console and symmetrical sweeping dashboard. Looks like Star Trek! Subaru touts it as having an “award winning interior” and I have to agree. The touch-screen GPS navigation system is located dead center with HVAC controls cascading below. It’s a nice combination of easy to use rotary dials plus electronic wizardry.

Subaru Tribeca - interior Subaru Tribeca - center console Subaru Tribeca - backup camera

The optional back up camera is excellent; all tall vehicles like this should have back up cameras as standard equipment; this is a real safety feature, especially when around children. One nit-during the test drive, there was a period of bright sun over wet roads; the reflected glare occasionally rendered the back up camera useless, but this problem is likely a corner case.

Perhaps the best feature was the extremely easy-to-use rear seat DVD player. My 5 year old daughter LOVED this car because of this feature; I’ve never seen her so excited to go for a drive. The wireless head phones were simple to turn on (she figured it out before me!). They operate with AA batteries; I wonder how long they will typically last.

Subaru Tribeca - rear cargo area Subaru Tribeca - 2nd row seating Subaru Tribeca - rear cabin a/c

The most significant problem with the Tribeca is the second row seating. It is disappointingly tight. It’s a shame because the second row sacrifices leg room for the third row seats. In fact, you can slide the second row FORWARD to give even more room to the third row. But the third row is small and suitable, really, only for small children.

The Tribeca had one extra feature that deserves comment. Included in the rear storage area is a handy halogen light that plugs in to the convenient power outlet. Nice touch.

The 2008 model features an 11 hp improvement, to 256 hp and 32 foot pounds more torque, to 247. This is enough to give good acceleration-from a stop or while passing. Edmunds claims 0-60 times of 7.8 seconds, which seemed accurate. Under full throttle, the engine can be noisy but driven 2/3rds is actually quiet and competent. The fuel economy was reasonable; I averaged 18 mpg, higher than the claimed 16 for city driving.

Subaru Tribeca - 256 hp 3.6L H6 engine Subaru Tribeca - 18.9 MPG

For a mid-sized SUV, the handling was very impressive. The cornering was surprisingly flat and borderline “nimble”. It was much more pleasurable to drive than the recently driven Acura MDX and much more sporty than the 2006 Toyota Highlander. Impressive.

Subaru’s initial foray, the 2006-2007 model, was “controversial” to say the least. It’s front end was, frankly, ugly. For 2008, the styling has improved greatly. Not beautiful but certainly much more acceptable.

2008 Subaru Tribeca

While the Tribeca starts at around $31,000, the loaded Limited 7-passenger can quickly move past $36,0000 depending on options. At $36,000, it’s in the range of the Hybrid Highlander, which is stiff competition.

This is a crossover SUV for folks that want something different. It handles well, offers good acceleration and should offer legendary four wheel drive performance that Subaru is famous for. The Tribeca is a pleasure to drive and has excellent ergonomics. It’s downside is the second row seat room which is cramped for adults.

Who should buy it?
If you have an active lifestyle with small children, Subaru Tribeca offers utility while still being fun to drive.
















Subaru Tribeca - dual polished chrome exhaust

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>> Check out the Tribeca’s Specs

>> www.subaru.comofficial website for Subaru cars and SUVs

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  • Murat Ergin says:

    Hi, I would like to know if we could purchase 2009 Subaru Tribeca, we were not sure if you have any new ones left.(Auto)

    Thanks Murat.

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