Car and Driver calls the Subaru B9 Tribeca s looks "controversial." That s buff book speak for an SUV so hideous it turns onlookers to stone. Of course, you don t need a journalist to tell you an SUV is Medusa-level ugly any more than you need a plumber to tell you that liquid Drano is toxic. One look at B9 s flying-vagina front end and you re either appalled to the point of nausea or — nope, that s it. For its part, Subaru claims the B9 offers dynamic styling . If they mean the SUV s pudenda makes observers want to run, fair enough.
As for the why of the matter, I reckon the B9 is the ultimate test of Subaru s legendary brand loyalty. The official version is that the B9 s nose evokes Fuji Heavy Industries history as an airplane manufacturer. Someone should have reminded Subaru that Fuji s planes bombed Pearl Harbor — and we all know how that turned out.
Anyway, the reproductive theme continues inside the B9's cabin. The swooping dashboard's lower portions resemble a giant set of fallopian tubes. Subaru constructed this ergonomically dubious layout with pointless symmetry, using faux metal plastic that rivals Revell s model kits for authenticity and tactile satisfaction. The cowled instrument binnacle adds a sporty touch — for no discernible reason.
As a seven-seater, the B9 makes a terrific five-seater. To prevent rear passengers from evoking article nine of the Geneva Convention, occupants of the first two rows must slide their chairs forward until the steering wheel touches the driver s chest. Taken as a whole, the B9 s cabin lacks both charisma and coherence; it's the only Japanese interior I've encountered that can make a Chevrolet Malibu feel like a luxury car.
None of the above would make any difference to the Scooby faithful or their camp followers if the B9 kicked ass. It doesn t. Subaru s 4260lbs SUV holsters a flat-six engine that musters 250 horses at 6600rpm. Do the math, keeping in mind that the erstwhile powerplant stumps-up just 219ft-lbs. of torque at 4200rpm. I make it zero to sixty in just under nine seconds — which is about as far removed as you can get from the blistering WRX STi without traveling to Antarctica.
As you d expect from a machine that saves its punch (such as it is) for the penthouse, you ve got to thrash the B9 to an inch of its life to get out of your own way. If you don t cane the B9, its mileage-seeking slushbox finds fourth gear by the time you ve accepted liability for your own stupidity via the touch screen. With only five cogs at your disposal — the last one being longer legged than Marisa Miller — the B9 is a tiring, tireless gear hunter.
On the positive side, the B9's handling is exemplary for its size and class. Although Subaru's first-ever SUV is based on a stretched and raised Outback platform, the company ditched the wagon s trick multi-link rear suspension for a more robust double-wishbone set-up, and compensated for the loss by stiffening the chassis and wacking-on a set of big-ass roll bars. Right answer. The B9 soaks-up lumps and bumps like a luxury car, yet holds the road with considerable poise. Just don t expect a great deal of/any throttle control in the corners.
While you re at it, don t expect a lot of respect at the car wash. The B9 Tribeca is one of those vehicles best suited to people oblivious to the difference between being laughed with and being laughed at . Subaru claims there are 17 thousand of them. Now there's a scary thought. [by Robert Farago]