By on August 9, 2005

 Without any prompting whatsoever, my 11-year-old daughter took one look at the new Subaru B9 Tribeca and said ‘ew’. And there you have it. Scooby’s first-ever SUV is an irredeemably gruesome beast whose design should have been aborted a femtosecond after conception. While Subaru would like to convince us that “ugly ass” and “dynamic styling” are synonymous, even a pre-teen knows that repulsive is not, and never will be, the new cool. In the race for SUV buyers’ affections, the horrific B9 sets off a mile behind the starting line.

Not to belabor the point, but who in their right mind would put a vagina on the nose of an SUV, and then accentuate the effect with wings and hood strakes AND make the shape stand proud of the grill? Yes, I know: the design reflects Fuji Heavy Industries’ past as an airplane manufacturer. But they don’t make airplanes anymore, and the ones they DID make attacked Pearl Harbor. While we’re at it, the B9’s rear resembles the face of a gigantic alien– which is only fitting. Other than its side profile, the B9’s best viewing angle is high Earth orbit.

 OK, I’ve said my piece: there are very few eyes in which the B9 is beauty beheld. Now, on to the B9’s interior; or, as Joseph Conrad would say, “The horror. The horror.”

In order to fulfill their inscrutability quota, several Japanese manufacturers have tried to fashion their cars’ dashboards into a single, flowing, organic shape. Subaru’s B9 provides a particularly egregious example of this entirely pointless pursuit– with the extra annoyance of meaningless symmetry and buttons that are about as pleasant to prod as a week-old cockroach carcass. Well maybe the goofy binnacle isn’t ENTIRELY pointless– its lower portion’s striking resemblance to a set of fallopian tubes continues the reproductive theme without. Anyway, once again, form murders function.

 But wait! There’s more! In case the cabin lacked sufficient cognitive dissonance to completely distract you from the business of driving, the gauges are hooded inside a small cowl. This sporty touch makes as much sense as a parachute on a scuba diver. Or a seven-seat SUV with less leg room than a small-sized envelope. In fact, there’s only way to accommodate seven humans in a B9: the front AND middle seat passengers must slide their chairs all the way forwards. The solution puts the steering wheel in contact with the driver’s chest and everyone else in a foul mood.

All of these shortcomings could be forgiven if the B9 drove with the élan of the only-slightly-less-ugly and equally cheap-feeling WRX STi. It doesn’t. Whereas the rally-bred STi has a fire-breathing turbo four in its belly, the B9 gets a normally aspirated 250-horse flat six. The three-liter engine simply doesn’t have enough torque to motivate the 4260lbs. Scooby without sending the tach needle on a mad dash towards the redline. This it does, to great sonic effect, every time you even think about building up a head of steam. What’s more, power increases exponentially at the top of the rev range, giving the B9’s engine an unpleasant on/off character.

 At the same time, the B9’s another behemoth that’s been geared for parsimony rather than pleasure. One wonders how many mpg’s she’d muster if the gearbox didn’t shift into fourth by the time you’ve accepted personal liability for your own stupidity via the touch screen. The fact that the slushbox only dishes-up five cogs, and that the last one is longer-legged than Marisa Miller, doesn’t help. One hill climb proves that there are times when three out of five IS bad.

Once you get up to speed– and find a way to maintain it– the B9’s ride and handling are on the right side of entertaining. Although the B9 is based on a stretched version of the Subaru Outback, 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. Right answer. The B9 soaks-up lumps and bumps like a luxury car, yet holds the road with remarkable poise for one so large. That said, the B9’s recalcitrant engine – gearbox combo makes mid-corner throttle corrections a hit-or-miss [the scenery] affair. Despite Subaru’s legendary brand loyalty, the B9 is not the STi driver’s best choice for a family car.

 In fact, it’s hard to know exactly who should buy a Subaru B9. The only clue comes from the vehicle’s third name “Tribeca”. That’s the hipster’s sobriquet for the New York City neighborhood in the “TRIangle BElow CAnal street”. It’s the ‘hood where artists sell “challenging” work for outrageous prices. If you see the Subaru B9’s hideousness and piss-poor packaging as representative of Subaru’s iconoclastic artistry, you might want to go there. Otherwise, don’t.

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14 Comments on “2005 Subaru B9 Tribeca Review...”

  • avatar

    Hmmm, this is the review that prompted a career change, no?

    After wiping my monitor clean of sprayed java.. I admit I agree with you on all counts except appearance of the front end. Dude – what have you been looking at? You mentioned a daughter, so you can’t be totally in the dark (or perhaps that’s the problem, lol).

  • avatar

    Point taken about the exterior appearance.. comparing the front end to a whale on speed could have said the same thing. Or at least that’s what I’ve always thought.

    With a five-star crash test rating, a Consumer Guide award, and winning Best Interior of the Year.. they must be doing something right.

    One thing that does bother me about the interior is the MPH/KPH/etc. display area. It’s pretty much closed off to the passenger so you’d practically have to climb out of your seat to see it.. if for some reason you’d want to. But, I have a lot of fun driving ours. Maybe because we got the five-seater and have room to function. In fact, enough room to fit three overstuffed suitcases and an upright bass. Overall, I’d say I’m pretty pleased with the B9.

  • avatar

    So, I find myself wondering what kind of car this guy drives-or even likes, for that matter. I bought a Tribeca and absolutely love it. Vulgarities aside, I find this “review” laughable and further proof that the internet gives anyone who knows how to type and has a computer a forum to spout off, and show the world how just much growing they have yet to do. Thanks for nothing.

  • avatar

    Ive seen Farago drive around town. He is a proud owner of a Pontiac Aztek. The point is – if a vehicle has 4 wheels, a seat and you like it – what does it matter? My .02!

  • avatar

    Do you really drive an Aztek???
    I agree with the styling comment… absolutely awful.
    Can you imagine the board room conversation?… CEO/Chairman… Can’t you make the grill have a wing shape to show off our aero past? Chief Designer & Designated Second Poobah Yes-Man… Yes Sir, that’s a great idea… (but thinking… Jeesh that’ll make it look like a Manto Hee Hee)… CEO/Chairman… Just can’t make it into a wing shape, put something in between… like this shape… Chief Designer & Desinged Second Poobah Yes-Man… Yes Sir, that’ll make it look even more appealing to the masses (but thinking… now it really looks like a Manto Hee Hee).
    Anyway… Don’t like it? Don’t buy it? OK I won’t, but I wished I could because of the safety ratings. If styling was just a wee bit appealing, Subaru would easily bump up a little in market share. I would be the first in line to buy one with just a bit more curb appeal… I did like the spaceship Ford Taurus and the odd tail-lighted Honda CR-Vs. Most Japanese cars have design issues anyway… seen any Toyotas lately? Wow, who designs them? Same guys as the Subarus…?

  • avatar

    Well, I like this laughable “review”, because people might back up on buying it and that will make me special in this town as i am one of the few who are driving this B9 and getting alotta thumbs up for it.
    By the way, the Aztek or as the call it the “Ass-Tech” can’t top
    the interior of the B9.

  • avatar

    A hideous vehicle. The motoring equivalent of Jabba the Hut. Every time I see one of these things on the road, I have to avert my gaze. I actually feel embarassed for the owners of these things.

    Why can’t the Japanese hire Italian designers to prevent these abortions from being put on the road?

    • 0 avatar

      I know this is almost 10 years ago, but the B9 Tribeca wasn’t designed in Japan. It was a total US creation, and the designer was a new hire designer from Alfa Romeo on the B9. So, you have an Italian designed, US built, Japanese car.

  • avatar

    Honestly, what was Subaru thinking? They have decent all wheel drive cars, then they have the WRX/Forester with the turbo….and WHAM! All the sudden we get this freak of a vehicle? What is with the front end? My brother and I love subaru’s for their rally performances and just fans of the cars they make but this is a bit much. I have a good friend who is the GM at a Subaru dealership in denver and they can’t give these cars away (last i talked to him 6 mo ago). Rebates, low interest, nothing works and their lot is full of these things.

  • avatar
    Andy A

    I live in the Oregon, where it seems 2 out of every 3 cars in a Subie. I have *never* liked them even though its clear that many, many people find them appealing (especially here.) But when it came time to replace my aging Toyota Landcruiser–and gas was hitting the $2.90 mark–the Tribeca was *the only* car/SUV on my radar. I am sure everything about it could be better to some degree, but I am really pleased with mine. And oddly enough, the top two things that are the coolest to me: the front view, and the rear view. Love it or hate it, it doesn’t look like every other crossover on the road. And I for one LOVE that.

    I am sad to hear that Subaru might be(?) moving away from something as unique as this design. This is my first Subaru and I’ve always appreciated the ‘independence’ with which it seemed like S drove into the market, even though their other cars/wagons have looked like plain Japanese/vanilla designs to me. The Tribeca stood out. I guess, as my grandpa used to say, “When you ride on the horizon, be ready for someone to shoot at you.”

    Anyway, for what its worth, *thank you Subaru* for my Tribeca. I know you can’t make a market out of one person (or a couple thousand Tribeca buyers) but you did impress me; and I’ll be the first to admit that ain’t easy.


  • avatar

    Andy A clearly marches to a “different drummer”. The Tribecca clearly missed the mark in the stying department…otherwise the Subaru folks wouldn’t be scrambling for the “lifeboats” on this one. In my humble opinion, the B9 is one of the ugliest designs in my lifetime (that’s since 1950)…right up there with the 1950 Studebaker and the 1957 Edsel. It was initially overpriced (the one we looked at exceeded $37,000) and the back seat is apparently designed for the “little people”…without their “pot of gold”.

    My wife and I waited a long time for a 7 passenger Subaru as a replacement for our 1999 Outback (we’ve acquired a few grandchildren and we live in New England). When the B9 was released in 2005, we went out to buy one to Quality Subaru in Wallingford, CT. When we got their we were very disappointed with its appearance and lack of usable space…not to mention price. We didn’t really want a mini-van, but the Toyota dealer down the street had an 2005 AWD Sienna for more than $3000 less. We bought it on the spot (sold by contrast to the Tribecca, more than anything else). So, for the first time in over 20 years you’ll not find a Subaru in my garage…although I’m considering another Outback as a second car. The design of the Legacy platform is still everything I’ve come to expect of the fine car it is!

    Bob Guynn

  • avatar

    Wasn’t the front “Bus Urinal” or vagina look what intially turned people off of buying the Edsel? Who at Subaru thought that they should try that again?

    Do remember, Subaru spelled backwards is U-r-a-bus.

    • 0 avatar

      Reading some of the best of Farago as a newcomer to TTAC. Which explains my much later comment.

      But my father owned a 58 Edsel, acquired at a very good price from a dealer, after its first owner traded it back in shortly after purchase, due to valve noise. My father did his research, and made sure the mechanical lifters had been replaced by the hydraulic ones that were specced out in a recall.

      And I can assure you that the Edsel front end looked MUCH better than the Tribeca’s. Regardless of what you might think either one resembled.

      And I also read some market research study that said it wasn’t so much the styling of the Edsel’s front end that turned people off, it was the brownish deposits on the chrome bumper that formed around the through-the-bumper exhaust tips. I will leave it to your imagination what other rear end the test group thought that those brown circles reminded them of.

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