By on July 3, 2018

Today’s Buy/Drive/Burn trio of unfortunate crossovers was concocted by commenter JohnTaurus. From a time early in the development of the midsize three-row crossover, none of today’s competitors really worked from a sales perspective.

Three unfortunate entries from three different marques. Which one goes home with you?

Subaru Tribeca

TTAC became famous for hating on the Tribeca, but you already knew that. Debuting for the 2006 model year, the H6-only Tribeca was built with the Outback and Legacy at Subaru’s Lafayette, Indiana plant. The ’07 we have here today was the last year for the smaller displacement 3.0-liter H6, which produced 242 horsepower routed through a five-speed automatic. The Limited trim on offer today had a standard leather interior, moonroof, and premium audio system. Unique to the Tribeca was a Y-shaped dash and console design, providing a cockpit feel for front driver and passenger. A restyling (bland-ization) for the 2008 model year didn’t save the Tribeca from cancellation, which came in 2014.

Hyundai Veracruz

Hyundai’s Veracruz was brand new for 2007. The company’s largest crossover attempt to date, all North American models skipped the diesel engine option in favor of the long-running 3.8-liter Lambda V6. The six-speed automatic routes 263 horsepower to all four wheels in Limited all-wheel drive trim. Leather seats are heated and ventilated, and a premium Infinity sound system entertains passengers. The Veracruz lived on in the North American market through the 2012 model year, triumphant in two-tone.

Ford Freestyle

New for 2005, the Freestyle was part of Ford’s plan to start all model names with the letter F. Gone was the Taurus wagon, as America requested rough-and-ready CUVs. Sharing engine and drivetrain with the Five Hundred sedan, all-wheel drive examples paired the 3.0-liter Duratec V6 (203 horsepower) with a CVT. Ford expected 40 percent of Freestyle buyers to desire all-wheel drive; instead, the take rate was 55 percent. Like the competitors above, the Freestyle is Limited trim and all-wheel drive. Leather seating is standard in either six- or seven-passenger configurations, and there’s a rear DVD screen for the kids. Major changes came to Freestyle in 2008, when it was renamed Taurus X. The model received a larger 3.5-liter engine, and a six-speed automatic in all models. Taurus X went away after 2009, to make room for some square-body Flexin.

Freestyle your way north through Veracruz, then make your way to Tribeca. On the journey, dole out the Buy, Drive, and Burn.

[Images: Ford, Subaru, Hyundai, IIHS]

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71 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: CUVs That Circumvented Success in 2007...”


  • avatar
    SixspeedSi

    Wow now, this is a good one!

    Buy- Veracruz – I want to say this is the most modern out of the three. Although I am a little apprehensive to Hyundai’s suspension tuning during this era, I believe this was a pretty comfortable cruiser that was often compared to the RX350. Big, powerful motor, cooled seats, count me in!

    Drive- B9 Tribeca, baby! – Always liked these in a weird way, back in the day. It was so ugly it was almost ironically funny. Not sad like the Freestyle. I thought the interior was cool in these, if not on the smaller side.

    Burn- Just bland and omg early CVT makes me want to cry. These got much better with the upgraded V6, but also much uglier. Cue the torch

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      Totally agreed on this one.
      Buy the Veracruz – the name is terrible and the vehicle is bland, but it is one of Hyundai’s turnaround vehicles that brought them out of the cheap car malaise and into the mainstream. It was comfortable and capable.
      Drive the B9 Tribeca – this one is essentially a modern day Edsel. And I like it – the unique exterior and somewhat modern funky interior would make for a fun daily driver.
      Burn the Freestyle. Early CVTs were cancer.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Nice list, JohnTaurus!

        I’ll dissent from the crowd here:

        Buy: Veracruz. Nearly a Lexus RX at a 20% discount. I reco’d one of these to a young mom, and she still loves it. It’s really nice inside these things.

        Drive: Freestyle. CVT notwithstanding, this car was ahead of its time. You couldn’t get away with marketing a “crossover” then that was so transparently a station wagon, but the body style made as much sense then as it does now. For its purpose of holding people and stuff, this packaging succeeded, where…

        Burn: Tribeca failed. It just didn’t have any space inside. And since it also couldn’t go off-road, what’s the point? BTW, I can’t believe nobody mentioned the central role the B9 played in the history of TTAC, when Farago set off a firestorm by referring to its grille as the “flying vagina.” On second thought, maybe we have to preserve the B9 as a historical artifact on that basis alone.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I used to work with a girl named Vera Cruz, she would always share her Lemonheads with me, so I’ll buy that one. Drive the Subie just to see if you can blow the head gasket. Burn the Ford if it hasn’t already burst into flames in your driveway.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Thanks Corey!

    Even though I came up with this, its not an easy choice. I was going to burn the Ford due to the CVT, and I still might, but theoretically, I could just drive it. Nahh. Underpowered and sapped with a rubber band trans.

    Drive: Hyundai. It barely gets a pass out of the lake of fire.

    Buy: Subaru, only because I like the interior. It is quite hideous, but I don’t have to look at it while I’m driving it.

    Burn: Ford for CVT voodoo. At least the Five Hundred could be had with a 6 speed auto. A lady I know has a Taurus X and loves it, but the only Freestyles that exist are ones that need a trans and ones that are about to.

  • avatar
    make_light

    Buy- Tribeca. Because it’s weird and I like weird things. If I have to buy one of these three, might as well be the weird one.

    Drive- Hyundai Vera Cruz. I believe this was a very solid effort, and back before Hyundai really started making strides. Should have been better respected. But I never see ANY on the road, past or present. Is it because they didn’t sell, or didn’t last?

    Burn- Ford Freestyle. My dad had one of these. It actually wasn’t a bad car, and the steering wasn’t at all sloppy for something so big. But it was the only car I ever reliably got motion sickness while riding in. Every single time. Not sure what it was, but for that reason it burns.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Buy the Subaru because cult appreciation and that awesome interior

    Drive the Ford because it’s not a hunday

    Burn the hunday

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I think I actually test drove the Freestyle and Tribeca at some point in the past although cannot recall what year. Not really having any memory of any of these models and how they drove, assuming all were in good working order

    Buy Tribeca
    Drive Freestyle
    Burn Veracruz

    The only thing I am sure about is that I would buy the Tribeca for the flyingvagina (trademarked?) timeless design.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      My first vote is to burn all of them, but that’s now how this game is played.

      I’m going to agree with gamper. I want to drive the Freestyle. It had a lot going for it, even with the CVT. However, the CVT is why I won’t buy. Leaving the other two, I’d rather take a chance on buying the Tribeca. This leaves the Veracruz to burn.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I believe the one with the ugly face was the B9 Tribeca. It didn’t become the Tribeca until the facelift.

    Buy – B9 Tribeca; I just like it, despite how ugly the front fascia is. I think Subaru was trying to out-Murano the Murano, especially by adding that third row

    Drive- Veracruz; it’s not so much ugly as anonymous. It’s also all-day comfortable, an Azera on stilts

    Burn – Freestyle; there’s not a single redeeming thing about it, especially that failure-prone CVT

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah I think you’re right on the naming there. It even says B9 on the back of the early ones. I didn’t think it did, so just went with Tribeca. Was assuming the B9 was some internal model name only nerds would know.

      • 0 avatar
        paxman356

        A rather unfortunate name, since the B9 (also known as a YB-9) is a bomber, and Tribeca is in Manhattan. I think that’s why the name was shortened to Tribeca PDQ.

      • 0 avatar
        MLS

        I believe B9 *was* the internal code for the vehicle, and for some inexplicable reason, Subaru included it in the customer-facing model name. They recognized the ridiculousness of it all and dropped the prefix at mid-cycle refresh.

        Interestingly, there was supposed a be a badge-engineered Saab counterpart, but then GM sold its stake in Fuji before it was launched. Supposedly the refreshed Tribeca adopted some of the styling intended for the Saab version.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Now that, I didn’t know. Saab, then, didn’t get its midsize CUV until the gen-2 SRX offshoot that was the 9-4X…of which there are reportedly fewer than 500 units.

          • 0 avatar
            MLS

            I see a mint 9-4X parked on the street in my Boston neighborhood from time to time. Practically a unicorn sighting. Styling is handsome, though. Better than the SRX, in my estimation.

          • 0 avatar
            whynot

            It was to be called the 9-6. Saab actually displayed the prototype years ago around the time GM was looking for a buyer for the company, just google search it. The Tribeca facelift uses the cancelled 9-6’s head and tail lights.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            I see. They shortened the quarter panel windows and everything. And it did inspire the Tribeca facelift.

            We should do a series on stillborn production-ready concepts.

          • 0 avatar

            Like that glorious A8 Allroad concept. My goodness.

            But it’s hard to get pictures of concept cars which were never made, before recent years. People just don’t upload paper photographs to the internets like they should.

            Anyway I’m working on a huge Rare Rides about NSU at the moment. ;)

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            @Corey

            I’ve wasted many hours here:
            http://www.oldconceptcars.com

          • 0 avatar

            Look at that list of brands! This looks like a huge time sink.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            I will be excited to read that, Corey.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Buy Hyundai: actually a pretty decent car, styling/power makes it still pretty relevant in 2018. I think they’re kind of undervalued on the used marketplace, I’ve seriously looked at them for a do-it-all daily driver.

    Drive Subaru: Cool flat-6 sounds, well performing AWD system.

    Burn Ford: I love the interior packaging and overall roominess and wagon form factor, but it is utterly let down by the powertrain: 200hp 3.0L Duratec already struggled with the Five Hundred’s weight, let alone this larger AWD wagon. The CVTs were not known to be particularly durable (although perhaps not AS horrible as their internet reputation suggests).

    • 0 avatar

      This is the arrangement with which I agree. The Veracruz has aged very well (since you don’t see them), and the interior on the Limited versions is serviceable today.

      When my parents were searching (and ended up with ’11 Highlander) I encouraged them to look at the Veracruz for equipment and value. They weren’t having it.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Following up on my initial post after some cars.com perusal to confirm that these seem like incredible value for money: Peppy if somewhat thirsty V6, Aisin automatic, AWD, good amount of interior room and comfort, and I’m seeing 2011-2012s with less than 80k miles going for about $11-12k. A similar age Highlander can go for literally twice as much. I haven’t heard many Veracruz horror stories in terms of reliability from a quick perusal. Hit ’em where they ain’t!

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    If it was a TaurusX AWD (eliminating the CVT and adding the 3.5 V6) I’d be all over that sucker.

    Buy the Hyundai and enjoy the warranty. The people who I’ve seen owning them are usually the type that want to tell you how they’re the second owner and how cheaply they picked it up.

    Drive the Subaru. Likely it has the most entertaining driving dynamics (although all of these are likely a bit piggish in their handling.)

    Burn the Freestyle because CVT and a power to weight ratio that makes a 12 valve Vulcan powered 2000 fleet model Taurus look like a rocket ship.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not sure about the Tribeca’s driving. Seems like they were regarded as pretty heavy at the time, with an underwhelming and thirsty H6 – requiring premium fuel for that low horsepower figure.

      • 0 avatar
        AVT

        It was, however it had better weight distribution than its competitors and it’s suspension geometry was miles ahead of the other two, as was it’s steering feel and awd system. I agree the original 3.0 was underpowered and thirsty but once you got it and kept it in its power band 3k+ it does pretty well. Thankfully Subaru improved that in 08 with the better engine that not only got better mpg but ran on regular. I definitely drive this over the other two though.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      As was the case then, the Hyundai 100K-mile powertrain warranty shrinks to 60K if you’re not the original owner. So fewer than you’d think would be under warranty.

  • avatar
    paxman356

    Buy: Subaru. It’s big enough that my wife and I can recreate that song in comfort (Making Love in a Subaru).

    Drive: Hyundai. I have driven and liked the Santa Fe, and I wouldn’t mind Santa bringing this one down the chimney.

    Burn: Ford. With so many fires… all the fires!

  • avatar
    AVT

    Buy the Ford. Flushing the ptu and transmission every once in a while makes these really reliable. I know a guy who’s owned 4 at one time all used. All of them ended up with 200k+ on the odo’s. Not an inspiring cuv but a economical one. They actually get decent real world mpg.
    Drive the B9 Tribeca. It’s awd, decent steering, and we’ll sorted chassis and drivetrain, I always thought of it as a budget version MDX. Not the fastest but the 09+ models took care of that. Also, the interior certainly made it a decent place to spend some miles in, especially on the higher trim models.
    Burn the veracruz. Certainly an improvement during that time period for hyundai and one of their first solidly built ones, but you need more than that to sell it. Being good doesn’t make it class competitive and the only thing it really excelled at during the time was low transaction prices. Everything else about it either nearly matched or was behind its competitors.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “Being good doesn’t make it class competitive”

      By that logic, I don’t see how the Hyundai doesn’t blow the Ford out of the water in every imaginable metric that isn’t mpg, and possibly third row leg room.

      • 0 avatar
        AVT

        As something too own, theirs a reason more Taurus x’s are on the road than veracruz’s. It’s not a mark against the hyundai, but as something I want to own, I’d go with the economical and more serviceable ford.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      That 3.0 is bulletproof.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Buy the Tribeca-most interesting to look at and a better drive, likely.Its more obtainable than an SVX, or going waaay back the XT9, but shared similar commercial success.

    Drive the Ford,I actually think it’s a handsome vehicle, but I’m partial to wagons

  • avatar
    JimZ

    the funny thing is, the Freestyle/Taurus X was so close to being a wagon that it should have been a runaway success.

    at least, according to the Jalop and B&B set.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      If I could have found a Taurus X with reasonable miles and the right options to test drive when I was used car shopping the last time I would have put it high on my potential “BUY” list. I’ve driven the 2009 Ford Taurus in all of it’s giant Passat aping glory and found it quite pleasant, roomy, and quick enough for family duty.

  • avatar
    Hank

    I’m going to differ on the Freestyle/Taurus X. It didn’t die for the Flex, it was remodeled to become the Ford Explorer. Everything the Freestyle was, the Explorer now is, and everything the Explorer was is in the dustbin of history.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Buy the Hyundai (it’s boring but functional), drive the Subaru (and try out that fancy AWD on some jeep trail), and burn the Ford (if it wasn’t F150-based, Ford just didn’t give a fudge).

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Incidentally, the Tribeca refresh was originally designed for the Saab clone planned before GM dumped its FHI holdings.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Buy the Hyundai.
    Drive the Ford. And then burn it.

    And burn the Subaru, in honor of Farago.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I can’t play this time; I’d burn ’em all.

    • Tribeca: That nose is reminiscent of the Edsel Ford, which may be why it launched so poorly, even if it was otherwise a decent vehicle.

    • Veracruz: So bland as to be generic. No individuality… no Style.

    • Freestyle: It’s a Ford, which for me is three marks against it off the bat. But that nose clip simply does NOT belong on that body and the lines show it. It might have done better if it had carried the Ranger’s nose instead.

    • 0 avatar
      road_pizza

      Edsel Ford was a person, not a car. The car is simply the Edsel. It’s really not that hard to get it right.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        “Edsel is an automobile marque that was planned, developed, and manufactured by the Ford Motor Company for model years 1958–1960.” —- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edsel

        The Edsel was intended to be an associated brand for Ford, just like the Lincoln. Granted, it didn’t work out that way, but it still qualifies as a Ford product.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          But it was NOT the “Edsel Ford”. Edsel Ford was indeed a person, and even going by your terrible example, nobody says “hey, look at that Lincoln Ford Navigator, behind that Chrysler Jeep Wrangler”, do they? No.

          You’re wrong, he’s right. Live with it.

        • 0 avatar
          road_pizza

          Do you say “Ford Lincoln”? Or “Ford Mercury”? My guess is “No”, why do you insist on saying “Ford Edsel”??? It’s simply “EDSEL”, get it? Sheesh, I feel like I’m posting to a 2 year old.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            There are those, RP, who have never seen an Edsel and may simply not know that the Edsel was a Ford product, just like Mercury and Lincoln. It seems that you’re the two-year-old here, not me.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Am I crazy in seeing the Veracruz as what should have been Genesis’ first crossover? It really fits in with the 1G Genesis sedan’s design language.

    Veracruz would be my buy pick; it’s a cut above.

    I’d drive the B9, only because I am legally obligated to drive anything with an H6.

    Burn the Ford obviously. Analysts say the F-150 marque is worth more than the rest of the brand today…. I find that hard to believe. However, if you had suggested that in 2007 I would have agreed 100%. They didn’t even phone this in… they sent it by smoke signal.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Veracruz + Genesis nose and taillights + upgrading the interior materials = 3 row Lexus RX 10 years before Toyota got of their a$$ and made their own

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        I wonder why it failed. In SWB/LWB guise, with some much needed styling flourishes and updates, I could see Genesis doing well selling this NAO.

  • avatar
    road_pizza

    This is easy… burn all three. The Tribeca for being heinously ugly, the Hyunda for, well, being a Hyundai, and the Freestyle for the craptastic rubberband CVT transmission.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    Buy: I’m going with Freestyle. Are the CVTs *that* bad? I still see them on the road, and lots of Five Hundreds too. The packaging is just so good even if it is slow and boring. Yes, TaurusX is preferable, but against the rules.
    Drive: Hyundai. Not sure I’ve ever seen one of these.
    Burn: Subaru. Maybe its ok with the 5-speed auto, but I just don’t like most Subarus. I think they’re as overrated as Toyota.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Burn them all, esp Freestyle.

    “A restyling (bland-ization) for the 2008 model year didn’t save the Tribeca from cancellation, which came in 2014.”

    They kept making that thing through MY14? Jeebus. Doesn’t that qualify it as a success then?

  • avatar
    tonyola

    So who won last week’s Buy/Drive/Burn?

    • 0 avatar

      It was the very first comment, I just didn’t notice it. By a5ehren.

      Buy Ridgeline
      Drive Tacoma
      Burn Colorado

      The second two choices are about resale considerations for me mostly, even though I don’t have to buy the Drive choice. I don’t have any feels for the Colorado, and I’ve seen how they look inside. They’re not well-assembled.

  • avatar
    Ermel

    Buy Subaru, because Boxer engine.
    Drive Hyundai, because it probably drives okay but is way too bland to spend money on.
    Burn Ford, because meh.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Ford should bring back the Edsel Ford nameplate on an Expedition chasis. The Edseldition Ford. Instead of the toilet seat grille they should mount a full size spare there though, just sayin’.

  • avatar
    backtees

    Easy one for me
    Burn the Hyundai. This model had some type of plastic smell every time I sat in one on showroom while car getting serviced.

    Buy the Subaru as would PROBABLY have best resale.

    Drive the Ford. Only one with available second row captains chairs with clear pass through to back.

  • avatar
    Acd

    Can we burn all three?

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Buy the cheapest one i.e. worst residual value… probably the Ford. Drive the VeraCruz into the Ford repeatedly until they both catch fire or die. Then light the Subaru on fire and drive it into the remains of the other two.

      that was easier than I thought.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Burn them all and summon Bertel Schmitt’s editorial ghost by the flames of the Subaru

  • avatar
    richthofen

    Buy the Veracruz, drive the Tribeca, burn the Freestyle*

    *because of the CVT/3.0 combo. If it was a Taurus X with the 3.5 and conventional autobox, totally different story. I might actually find myself consdering the T-X later this year when looking for a used wagon-like vehicle.

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