Subaru has restyled its controversial Tribeca 3.6R whilst adding power and upping the spec level appreciably.
The Tribeca, restyled within only two years of its introduction, now features a humdrum exterior appearance with the triangular exterior grille and rounded body-shell replaced by large rectangular grille and typically anonymous Japanese SUV styling.
Larger capacity flat-six
Engineering details, always a Subaru hallmark, include a bored and stroke version of the previous 3-litre flat-six, now displacing 3.6-litres and producing 190kW and 350Nm.
Driving all-four wheel wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission with revised ratios the Tribeca retains Subaru's fabled symmetrical all-wheel system. The flat-six engine allows for a low centre of gravity, aiding stability, whilst allowing the Tribeca to retain a useful 215mm of ground clearance.
Carrying a R510 000 price tag, you would expect the Tribeca to be comprehensively equipped, and it is. Xenon headlights, a rear-view camera, six-airbags, folding power mirrors and an interactive touch-screen menu infotainment interface are all standard.
The interior is as radically styled as the exterior is staid, featuring a swooping, curvatious centre console. The fit and finish is good, but some of the materials are substandard and have a tacky, pseudo, brushed aluminium finish.
Besides the very handy soft-lined sunglasses holder mounted next to the sunroof control there is a dearth of stowage space up front in the cabin, especially on the centre-console
Tribeca has a standard third row of seats, which do little more than eat into luggage space maximum luggage capacity of 1495-litres, but they do feature integrated headrests. All seats are upholstered in high quality leather.
On the road
Very much like Tribeca productions founder Robert De Niro, the latest offering from Subaru might have an odd face but the performance is strong. The flat-six engine has strong performance, its unusual configuration providing uncanny smoothness too. Reef users will be heartened to know it runs on 93 Octane seamlessly.
Although the five-speed automatic gearbox has a typically slow-changing tip-shift option, leaving it in normal drive mode reveals a keenness to hold revs close to the red-line in each gear when pressing.
Throttle response is keen, and although the steering lacks feel - its obviously over-assisted to aid low speed manoeuvring - the chassis balance is superb, and the all-wheel drive security endows Tribeca with very reassuring high-speed handling characteristics.
It might have 215mm of ground clearance and highly capable dirt-road ability, but at speed through Hellshoogte pass outside Stellenbosch it displayed an unflappable temperament even when provoked with lift-off oversteer provoking high jinks.
The driving experience is tempered somewhat by an interior environment which should have strong appeal to Star Trek acolytes with its outlandish design, especially the Electroluminescent dials and oddly obscured fuel and temperature gauges which are practically by the indicator/wiper stalks.
An iPod jack is present too, ensuring seamless infotainment synergy for your favourite long-distance tunes.
Subaru is pitting the lavishly equipped yet rather average looking Tribeca against BMW X5, Volvo XC90 and Audi Q7 entry level variants. An outstanding drive, yet at R510 000 the Tribeca is a brave venture into premium pricing territory for the Subaru brand.