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2011 Subaru Tribeca Driving Impressions


The Subaru Tribeca is enjoyable to drive regardless of weather conditions. It's powered by a 3.6-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine that makes 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. Subaru's 3.6-liter boxer six delivers competitive performance in a class filled with excellent V6s. Only slight pressure on the gas pedal brings up responsive power, sufficient for passing.

The transmission is smooth and responsive. Shifts up and down are managed almost seamlessly. Even when shifted manually using the SportShift there is only the slightest interruption in the energy flow. When using the SportShift, the Tribeca will shift up a gear automatically at engine redline; it will not, however, drop down a gear without the driver tapping the lever forward. Blips are programmed into aggressive downshifts, like a sports car. We often found it easiest to put it in Drive and let it do its own shifting, since it did such a good job on its own.

Fuel economy isn't a standout feature, however. The Tribeca earns an EPA rating of just 16/21 mpg City/Highway. This is likely due to weight and all-wheel drive.

The more time we spent with the Subaru Tribeca, the more we liked it. Multi-lane, divided highways passed under its impressively quiet tires as smoothly and as rapidly as did winding two-lanes. However the brake feel wasn't linear as we would have wanted.

It's nimble enough, and there's not much body lean, although it's not as precise as it might be, during that type of driving. Generally, better handling comes from a lower center of gravity that comes with that essentially flat engine placed low in the chassis, a trademark Subaru engineering feature.

It's very smooth and quiet in a straight line. Credit belongs to the high degree of refinement Subaru's engineers have achieved in development of the horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine.

All-wheel drive comes standard, and Subaru is a leader in this technology. Subaru's all-wheel-drive system makes the Tribeca an excellent choice when the weather turns foul or conditions become slippery, whether it's snow or ice, or a muddy, unpaved road, or a rainy, oily backroad or on-ramp. Under normal conditions, it sends 55 percent of the power to the rear, to provide a handling optimized rear-drive bias. The system also serves as an active safety feature, even on dry pavement, helping to reduce skidding in corners and aiding the driver in controlling the vehicle. Subaru's all-wheel drive is your friend.

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