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Reader test: Subaru Tribeca

2009-02-17 15:01

Andries Brink

We should all be driving Toyotas. Cars that are manufactured locally, straightforward to service with established service centres, basic in design, reliable and comfortable. Toyotas.

But we don’t.

We are wooed by motoring journalists that have particular preferences and that bring to life the finer points of differentiation. Brands push their unique features to the point where we are not buying cars, but we are defining ourselves.

In the process we lose a bit of objectivity at times. We write off certain brands due to past showings in performance tests, road tests, shootouts and long term tests. We become Merc people, Volvo people, Daihatsu people, Spur people.

Family man’s core needs

Good fences make for good neighbours. Having three lively children under the age of seven, there is always one out of reach of the driver or co-driver. So we decided that it had to be a seven-seater. This way, a fence can be erected to make the neighbours live peaceably through the Karoo. (It works!)

In my mind proper use of excess available power together with solid handling and braking in all conditions are probably more important than eight airbags. In addition, I wanted good service and a known and reputable drivetrain

Finally, I also needed something for the daddy. Yes, I decided that I was not going to turn a blind eye to my needs. No, daddy was short a bit of fun and excitement and the car needed to contribute in order to earn its keep! The answer was a B9 Tribeca at a great price.

The Car

Power comes through Subaru’s H6 boxer engine via a five-speed tiptronic 'box through their Symmetrical All Wheel drive system. The standard engine delivers 180 kW and 297 Nm of torque.

So on paper, that looks okay. But in real life, it is better. Much better. You see, what the figures do not mention is the delight that this boxer brings. She red lines at 7 000 r/min, with a howl, nay a squeal, starting at 5 000+ that is completely addictive. Zero vibration. 

Its low centre of gravity translates into precise handling that, as a previous SUV owner, boggles the mind. All the parts work together in a brilliant way, and the one overriding message that is sent to the driver at all times is: “This is what engineering is all about!” Oh yes.

Inside, it is a good environment for all. The third row of seats is for the young ones and JP Duminy. Folded down into the floor, the loading bay gobbles up the QEII. Passenger position in the middle is comfortable, with loads of headroom as well as a seating position with adjustable tilt.

The front reveals an interesting sculpted dashboard with sufficient comforts for all. Touch quality is not Ingolstadt, but it is not Detroit / Seoul either. It has a wonderful aircon, with vents and controls for all rows of seats. This is really impressive and it cools a lot of air in no time.

The six CD frontloading changer with MP3 functionality provides good sound, with even a standard subwoofer in the back. Other standard features include 4(!) 12V DC power-points, an auxiliary input into the stereo, leather seats, a sunroof and electrical seats. So in all, it comes fully loaded with goodies that the German brands would charge a fortune for.

Driving it: On and off road

Subaru has always prided itself in the fact that all their cars are all-wheel drive. Let me state plainly that this system is incredible.

Case in point is my GPS taking me on some of the worst roads known to man in the name of saving mileage on our recent trip down to the coast. (Whitlesea anyone? Google it.) So, there I am, with my fully loaded trailer, three kids, lovely wife travelling up a gravel mountain “pass” when another 4X4 approaches.

“How did you get this far in... what is that?” the man asked as I waved him down, getting more and more nervous as the “road” turned into a 4x4 course. Did I mention we were on the way to the coast? Don’t ask.

“Unless you want to sleep on that mountain, you will have to turn around.”

Great was his amazement when I told him that his suggestion would be impossible as I had a fully loaded road trailer behind me! The now single file road would not allow for a U-turn. So he and his partner helped me and my longsuffering wife in unhitching the trailer, doing a 20-point turn at the edge of the cliff, and hitching it again.

As a final point, service from Subaru is, in a word, impeccable.


Subaru’s WRC technology has always translated well into their road cars. The B9 Tribeca is no different. The engineering is really a joy and the whole ownership experience, together with the practical value of this vehicle has blown me away. Dad box ticked.

Strengths: Engineering, comfort, practicality, service etc, etc.

Weaknesses: Normal mode of gearbox


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