Subaru's new Tribeca crossover SUV is named after the popular and trendy Manhattan neighbourhood and certainly shows a more trendy and upmarket side of the manufacturer. Evolved from the Outback five-seater wagon, this 5+2 seater crossover represents are new phase for Subaru.
This Japanese manufacturer uses a seven-seat arrangment - with close to 20 configurations - in a spacious interior that is very, very "space age". Tribeca's interior has to be one for the more exciting to emerge from any manufacturer for some time.
Dramatic swoops and curves and clean lines extend all the way from the centre console to the door panels really gives its occupants a sense of being in a cockpit, harking back to the brand's aeronautical heritage.
Make no mistake, Tribeca still holds on to several core Subaru principles, the main being its acclaimed symmetrical all-wheel drive system and its sporty all-aluminium boxer engine.
Many would probably go so far as to quip that the quirky styling is another Subaru hallmark, but with the Tribeca's larger body, the execution is rather stylish. Apart from the distinctive grille treatment, the overall styling is neat and simply done. The compact exterior design does well to camouflage Tribeca's almost five-metre long frame.
Its width of 1 880 mm translates to a cabin that is exceptionally spacious from the inside. This, of course, mostly applies to passengers seated in the front five seats. Access to the rear seats is barely troublesome, though passengers seated there would not be the most comfortable on long trips.
With seven up, the luggage space is also severely compromised, shrinking from 1 886 litres to just big enough to cart some groceries or perhaps enough luggage for a night away.
However, Tribeca's interior could be plush enough to make many give up silly pleasures like legroom? All occupants get full leather seats with the two front seats having eight-way electrical adjustment (with lumbar supports). The middle bench is split 40/20/40, slides fore and aft, and reclines.
Not too hardcore
Not intended as a bundu basher, Tribeca will handle gravel and mud (as demonstrated on our launch route between George and Knysna) with ease. Its 215 mm ground clearance may created the impression that is does, but this is best left for mounting kerbs.
On the launch route, the vehicle performed effortlessly on the dirt tracks with acceptable jarring and shuddering over the rutted sections.
Some light rain mixed with the gravel conditions presented a few opportunities where the all-wheel drive system was truly appreciated.
When called into action on busy roads and at freeway speeds, the Tribeca's boxer unit was perfectly comfortable hauling its journalists around and keeping pace with suburban traffic.
Power to the big Subaru's four wheels is provided by the familiar 3.0 litre H6 boxer engine with outputs of 180 kW and 297 Nm at 6 600 and 4 200 r/min respectively.
This powerplant is mated with a five-speed automatic gearbox. "Normal", "manual" and "sport" shift modes are offered, though in regular driving the "normal" shift responses, based on driver input and mapped by the TCU, is adequate.
Suspension on Tribeca is via a fully independent system that uses MacPherson struts up front and a double wishbone arrangement at the rear.
Safety equipment includes ABS, EBD, brake assist, VDC, six airbags, active head restraints, a shock absorbing brake pedal, and sensors monitoring the vehicle's horizontal and vertical movement. Tribeca scored a five-star rating on the Australian equivalent to the Euro NCAP tests.
Tribeca's price of R449 000 includes a three-year/63 000 maintenance plan and a three-year/100 000 km warranty.