Critics of Subaru's polarizing three-point grille can celebrate. After just two years on the market, the controversial element has been pulled from the 2008 Tribeca — no longer the B9 Tribeca — SUV and Impreza compact car, the two models it primarily affected (or afflicted, depending on your opinion).
The Tribeca has a number of other changes, not the least of which is its name, dropping the B9 designation it had in 2006 and 2007. Others include a larger engine, new rear styling and revised seat controls.
As before, the SUV comes with standard all-wheel drive. It can seat five in standard configuration or seven with an optional third row.
The new one-piece grille has a chrome upper lining and three horizontal crossbars — not the most imaginative, but certainly less divisive than the original. The old Tribeca's multibezel headlights have also been scrubbed for a pair of narrower, more compartmentalized ones that look like those on the Hyundai Santa Fe.
The Tribeca's rear, too, looks like that of the Santa Fe. The 2007 model's offset midsection has been smoothed over for a more uniform look, and the taillights don't look nearly as menacing. Changes to the sides aim to improve visibility, Subaru says, with larger rearview mirrors and rear-quarter windows.
The cabin has earned a comparatively warmer reception than the exterior, and Subaru didn't mess with a good thing. The wraparound cockpit and metallic overlays are still here, as are the electroluminescent gauges and center-mounted information display. Fully loaded Tribecas include a navigation system, power-adjustable leather seats, a rear backup camera and a backseat DVD entertainment system.
In seven-seat models, Subaru says the second-row chairs now have easier adjusters to slide forward for access to the third row. The rear suspension has been revised for greater comfort, which means passengers in back should have a smoother ride.
Under the Hood
Taking care to maintain its low center of gravity, Subaru enlarged the Tribeca's boxer six-cylinder from 3.0 to 3.6 liters, a move that should address complaints that the original felt underpowered. The new engine makes 256 horsepower, just 4 percent more than last year's engine, but torque is now 247 pounds-feet — a healthier 15 percent boost, which should mean lots more low-end power. Subaru also recalibrated the transmission for smoother shifts with less lag, which should help with highway passing.
The Tribeca's six standard airbags include side-impact devices for the front seats and side curtain airbags for front and rear passengers. Third-row passengers don't have curtain airbags, though Subaru says the thick side pillars in back afford them enough head protection.
Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes, an electronic stability system and traction control are also standard.
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