Oh Subaru Tribeca, I so want to love you, but something holds me back. Maybe it's your lack of space for my booster seats, how hard you make it for my babes to buckle their seat belts or your lackluster lumbar support. While your Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, dependable reputation and super-fun puddle lights do excite me, I just don't see this relationship going anywhere long-term.
Just typing these words gave me a guilty feeling in my gut. Why? Any of my complaints about the less-than-essential features of the 2009 Subaru Tribeca seem petty and superficial. The Tribeca provided nimble and capable handling at various speeds. It was quick when I needed it to be and left me with no fear of passing on the highway. When turning corners, it does seem as though the whole car bends toward the turn. Can the Tribeca do yoga? I think so. See, guilt! The Tribeca is willing to literally bend over backward to please me and my passengers, and we still aren't ready to return the favor.
This whole up and down "loves me, loves me not" relationship that I have with Subarus of all models is annoying, I know. I came close to purchasing a Subaru about a year ago, but I ended up with cold feet. I have to wonder what keeps me from committing to a Subaru. They're very practical cars with superior all-wheel-drive systems and rugged reputations. But there seems to be something that keeps me from becoming a full-fledged, card-carrying Subie groupie. The 2009 Tribeca left me with the same, "So, what's new?" feeling that I've felt about other Subarus in the past (pre-MotherProof.com days included).
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
SENSE AND STYLE Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): None
The Tribeca's exterior looks like a typical SUV, which isn't a bad thing. No seriously, I mean that. The Tribeca has a bold yet friendly look that Subaru's reputation requires. It's not flashy or frilly; there's nothing to really draw your attention to it. But perhaps it's this subtlety that the Tribeca succeeds with. Not every car owner begs to be noticed. Some people prefer a no-nonsense, get-down-to-business attitude in their lives and vehicles.
I did appreciate the truck-sized sideview mirrors that helped eliminate blind spots. The rear liftgate was a disappointment because once again I was expecting a little help with the closure mechanism, like an easy-close button or something. Instead I got dirty hands. Yuck! Has anybody seen the baby wipes?
The Tribeca Limited did show up with a few impressive yet somewhat expected date-night embellishments. It was nicely appointed with heated leather seats and a five-speed automatic transmission with Sportshift manual control; I always love Sportshift because it makes the car fun to drive. The dash had an ultra-modern, wavelike curve in it (dude, it was like totally rad), and the center stack was equally well-stylized. It was, in fact, prettier than I'd expected it to be. Even with all of this, I still wasn't impressed. Phooey on me.
My passengers appeared equally blasé, which helped to slightly reduce my feelings of guilt. Hubby thought the pump-it-up lumbar support was as laughable as pump sneakers, and my boys found it difficult to climb into Mount Tribeca without getting themselves dirty. They also had a tough time buckling in because the seat belt fasteners were often buried under their booster seats.
On a more positive note, the kids enjoyed having their own second-row A/C control with a storage bin beneath it; it turns out that this bin is the perfect size for stowing a 10-piece chicken nugget box! There was also the typical second-row armrest that contained two cupholders; it was nice but fairly predictable. The Tribeca did up the ante with not one but two seatback pockets for the kids to stuff their stuff into. A lot of cars only offer one seatback pocket. Why would there ever be just one?
The third row provided extra seating in a pinch, but you might get pinched trying to use it. It's quite the tight squeeze back there. And the top-tether anchors were covered with a plastic cover that made them difficult to find.
There were times that I felt deceived by the 2009 Tribeca. With its leather interior, stylish accents and a more-than-$37,000 price tag, I expected to find automatic headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers and a more adjustable driver's seat. Am I being too harsh? Perhaps a second date is in order.
Here's where Subaru's rugged and durable reputation starts to pay off. While fluffy creature comforts might be lacking, the Tribeca scores bonus points on safety. Nobody doubts any Subaru's sturdy construction - it's kind of a no-brainer. These things are built like tanks.
The Tribeca's all-wheel-drive system delivers varying amounts of power to all four wheels depending on where power is needed. This will help get you out of many sticky situations, if not avoid them altogether. The Tribeca also comes with stability control, a rollover sensor, brake assist and airbags all around.
Once again I've apparently expected more than the Tribeca wanted to deliver. Subaru doesn't provide side curtain airbags for passengers who ride in the optional third row, something our Chief Mama Kristin noted in her review of the 2008 Tribeca as well. I'd like to see airbags extended to the third row, even if the row itself is optional.
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