The 2014 Subaru Tribeca soldiers on as the only 7-passenger vehicle in the company's lineup. It's not that the Tribeca is a bad SUV, it's just outgunned by larger, more fuel-efficient and more technologically savvy competitors. The Tribeca's outward appearance is also dated, looking more minivan than rugged SUV, but without the convenience of a sliding side door. Though it claims seating for seven, the Tribeca's third-row seat seems like an afterthought, crammed into the vehicle where it is difficult to access, without much legroom and basically eating up the entire cargo bay.
For now, however, the Tribeca is the only way for Subaru loyalists with growing families to move up without leaving the fold. Like all Subaru products, the Tribeca is equipped with Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, a big selling point for those who regularly cope with winter's worst. There is plenty of room for adults in the front- and second-row seats, and the cabin is filled with nice amenities, such as rear-seat A/C and an available DVD entertainment system. The Tribeca also rides and handles better than most of its competitors, chiefly because of its low-sitting boxer engine that helps reduce its high center of gravity.
What's New for 2014?
A power glass moonroof and rear backup camera is added to the 2014 Tribeca's standard equipment list.
What We Like
Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive standard; Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick; one well-equipped trim
What We Don't
Small rear seat; audio and communication technology lagging; poor fuel economy; bland styling
The Subaru Tribeca derives power from a 3.6-liter 6-cylinder boxer engine. With 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque, the Tribeca has more than enough power to manage quick sprints up an on-ramp or to rapidly overtake slower moving traffic. Fuel economy, however, will likely suffer as you foot it around town, as the Tribeca can only manage a mere 16 miles per gallon city/21 mpg hwy, and that's under ideal driving situations. While you may not be happy with the Tribeca's thirst for fuel, at least it happily runs on the cheap stuff (87 octane).
Power from the 3.6-liter engine is distributed evenly to all four wheels via Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive with Variable Torque Distribution, which delivers power to the wheels with the best traction.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Subaru Tribeca is offered in one very nicely equipped trim called the Limited.
Standard equipment for the Limited ($34,920) includes all-wheel drive, a power glass moonroof, rear backup camera, 8-way power driver's and 4-power passenger seat, leather seating surfaces, dual-zone automatic climate control, auxiliary A/C for second and third rows, 385-watt 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, Bluetooth, 18-inch 5-spoke wheels, power heated side mirrors, windshield de-icer, 60/40 split-sliding and reclining second-row seats and an auxiliary output jack. Standard airbags include side-thorax front seat airbags and side-curtain airbags. Oddly, the side-curtain airbags do not fully extend to the third-row passenger area -- a pretty big "oops" in our book. Other standard safety equipment includes electronic traction and electronic stability control, which Subaru dubs VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control). Stability control monitors the direction a vehicle is heading and, should the car begin to skid out of control, selectively applies the brakes while cutting the throttle to bring the car back in line.
Optional equipment is limited to a navigation and rear-seat DVD entertainment package, remote start and a number of dealer-installed items, such as puddle lights, cargo organizer, wheel upgrades and various roof rack attachments.
We aren't big fans of Subaru's navigation unit. The system doesn't seem intuitive and is somewhat dated in its map storage and feature content. The Limited's 385-watt Harman Kardon audio system is a vast improvement over most stock systems but still lacks any kind of USB hookup allowing for control of an iPod or other portable music device, though there is an AUX input jack.
The Tribeca earns a Top Safety Pick award from IIHS and scores well in the frontal offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the Tribeca four out of five stars in its rollover test but didn't preform any other crash tests on the vehicle.
Behind the Wheel
Despite its nearly 8.5 inches of ground clearance, the Tribeca remains remarkably stable and well-balanced. The steering feels tight with good feedback, and the Tribeca tracks straight and true at highway speeds. Under normal driving conditions, the VDC distributes more torque to the rear wheels, which helps improve cornering when accelerating out of a curve. The Tribeca's 5-speed Sportshift automatic transmission does a good job of finding and holding the right gear. For those so inclined, the Sportshift can be manually shifted by tapping the gear shift. This feature comes in handy when you need extra passing power or engine braking to slow the vehicle during a steep descent.
Other Cars to Consider
GMC Acadia -- The Acadia is larger than the Tribeca both inside and out, and its third-row seat has more room both in front and behind it. But the Tribeca's all-wheel-drive system is more advanced than the Acadia's, and it holds its value a bit better.
Ford Explorer -- The Explorer offers a selectable all-wheel-drive system that is every bit the Tribeca's equal, plus it offers better styling, more advanced audio and communications systems, better fuel economy and more engine choices.
Dodge Durango -- The Durango is more accommodating than the Tribeca and offers the option of a V8 engine, higher tow ratings and airbag protection for all three rows (as do the Ford Explorer and GMC Acadia).
As there is only one trim level, we'd say order your Tribeca without the costly navigation and entertainment package. A nice Garmin dash-mounted navigation system can be had for a few hundred dollars, and we're guessing most kids will just use their tablets to watch movies when they get bored.