Subaru dealers are now taking orders for their new premium SUV – the US-built B9 Tribeca which arrives in showrooms in November priced from £28,995 on-the-road.

And with a database of more than 1,200 interested customers, sales of the BMW X5 and Volvo XC90-rivalling flagship look set to get off to a sprightly start.

Undercutting main rivals on price and boasting especially generous equipment levels and a seven-seat option, the B9 Tribeca continues Subaru’s tradition of offering class-leading chassis dynamics, combining a smooth ride with sporty handling previously denied the large SUV owner.

This is made possible thanks to the low centre-of-gravity of the six-cylinder 3.0 litre horizontally-opposed engine plus Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system which offers a nominal 45/55 front to rear torque bias for improved turn-in and more balanced handling.

However, sensors ensure torque is altered front to rear in milliseconds, backed by a sophisticated Vehicle Dynamics Control system which operates only when needed such as in sudden lane changes or when encountering slippery surfaces.

In fact, despite having a useful 213 mm ground clearance compared to the BMW X5’s 180 mm, the B9 Tribeca has a centre-of-gravity of 640 mm as opposed to the German car’s 679 mm – a massive difference in engineering terms.

Borrowed from the Legacy 3.0R spec.B saloon and sports tourer, the 245 PS ‘boxer’ engine is especially smooth and responsive, providing 219 lb.ft of torque for effortless progress.

It is matched to a five-speed automatic gearbox with ‘Sportshift’ which allows the driver to change up and down manually – especially useful during rapid driving on twisty and hilly roads.

Performance and fuel economy are impressive with a 121 mph top speed, 0-60 mph time of 9.3 seconds and 29.7 mpg on the Extra Urban Cycle.

As the B9 Tribeca has been on sale in the US, Canada and Chile since last year, it has already established itself as a safety leader.

The Subaru scored an outstanding 5-stars for both front and side crash-protection by America’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – the maximum achievable.

In addition, Subaru’s range-topper performed with distinction in the tough roll-over tests, earning four stars and achieving a low 16 per cent chance of rolling over and a ‘No-tip’ dynamic test result.

This compares with an average 30 per cent chance of overturning among all US-market SUVs and range of between 12 and 19 per cent for passenger cars.

Named after a fashionable part of New York, the B9 Tribeca has undergone minor styling changes compared to the US-market car plus fine-tuned rear suspension for even better handling.

B9 Tribeca 3.0 S5 – £28,995. (3.0 litre 245PS petrol engine with five-speed automatic transmission including ‘Sportshift’, full-time all-wheel drive with Subaru Vehicle Dynamics Control, rollover sensor, front, side and curtain airbags, front active head-restraints, Emergency Brake Assist, 2,000 kg braked towing capacity, 18×8 ins alloy wheels with 255/55 tyres, dual-zone air-conditioning, eight-way powered driver and front passenger seats, front fog lamps, heated electric door mirrors, six-disc CD autochanger with MP3 playback and nine speakers, leather steering wheel with remote audio controls, cloth trim.)

B9 Tribeca 3.0 SE5 – £31,995. (As above plus: leather interior, memory function driver’s seat and door mirrors, heated front seats, tilt/slide sunroof, DVD navigation with reversing camera.)

B9 Tribeca 3.0 SE7 – £33,995. (As above plus: third row of two forward-facing seats, DVD rear seat entertainment system including two headphones and remote control, rear air-conditioning.)

Designed to be distinctive, progressive and confident, the B9 Tribeca has a one-motion flow from front to rear, with neatly integrated bumpers which eliminate ugly overhangs. Body surfaces are fluid and make the most of the large 18 ins wheels for a taut, road-hugging stance. The grille features Subaru ‘spread-wing’ design with a centre piece like the fuselage of an aeroplane, surrounded by two flowing intakes which replicate the wings. This celebrates Subaru’s aeronautical heritage.

The B9 Tribeca abounds with interesting details such as the three-dimensional headlamp covers which contain three cylinder-shaped lenses. Its rear is especially harmonious with flowing side windows and rear lamps integrated into a strong side swage line, giving an especially sporty look for an SUV.

Thanks in part to the compact engine and transmission, interior space is generous, allowing a third row of forward-facing seats to be offered as an option yet still offering useable luggage space.

The B9 Tribeca is 4,857 mm long and 1,878 mm wide compared to the BMW X5’s 4,667 mm length and 1,872 mm width. Meanwhile, the Volvo XC 90 measures 4,807 mm and 1,909 mm. As for height, the Subaru is 1,686 mm tall compared to the X5’s 1,715 mm and the Volvo’s 1,784 mm.

Subaru designers are especially proud of their interior both for practicality and styling. All major controls are easy to operate and locate and the fascia wraps itself around the driver like a cocoon, stretching out to flow into the door casings.  Not only are the instruments sporty-looking, being housed in cylindrical housings but the electro-luminescent dials sweep in an arc when the ignition is turned on for a sense of occasion.

In fact, in June 2006, the B9 Tribeca was voted to have the ‘Best Interior – Premium-Priced CUV Category’ by America’s Wards Auto World magazine which holds an annual ceremony at the ‘Auto Interiors Show’ in Detroit.

Interior highlights include soft cascade lighting for not only the footwells but even the cup-holders, while the advanced dual-zone climate control features especially large and tactile knobs which feature their own read-outs.

Equipment includes a reversing camera on the top two models plus a DVD rear-seat entertainment system on the SE7, complete with two headphones and a large 9 ins screen.

All models have a sophisticated radio/CD with six-disc autochanger, MP3-compatability and nine speakers with front two-way, rear two-way plus sub-woofers.

The second-row seats can be reclined and slid to adjust legroom and ease entry for the seven-seat versions. However the third row of seats is mainly aimed at children.  When all the second-row seatbacks are folded into the floor, the rear hatch opens to provide a total of 1,502 litres of cargo space.

All B9 Tribecas benefit from a low-centre-of-gravity 3.0 litre six cylinder ‘boxer’ engine renowned for its smoothness and effortless power.

Already proven in the Legacy 3.0R spec.B, the engine produces 245 PS at 6,600 rpm and a solid 219 lb.ft of torque at 4,200 rpm. The bore and stroke are 89.2 x 80 mm respectively and the unit runs on a high – and therefore more efficient – 10.7:1 compression ratio.

Special features include twin overhead camshafts per bank and Active Valve Control for the intake air plus Active Valve Lift. This both maximises pulling power at low speeds and top-end power in the higher rev-range.

Also standard is a fast-response electronic throttle and a 3-port, 6-2-1 exhaust system which boosts power and lowers emissions.  Because it is horizontally-opposed, the engine sits lower in the car, improving handling and stability and reducing body roll.

The new B9 Tribeca’s performance and economy balance is impressive with a 121 mph top speed, 0-60 mph time of 9.3 seconds and Urban/Extra Urban and Combined fuel consumption of 16.5/29.7 and 23.0 mpg.

Although based on the 3.0 litre Legacy and Outback’s five-speed automatic transmission, certain changes make the unit better suited to a large premium SUV like the B9 Tribeca. For example, the ge
ar ratios are widened for sharper take-off from rest, while the final drive ratio is lowered for more relaxed high-speed cruising. And in order to support the 2,000 kg braked towing capacity the cooling performance of both the automatic transmission and rear differential has been improved.

Like the Legacy and Outback, the new B9 Tribeca has ‘Sportshift’ which allows the driver to sequentially select any of the five gears, providing better control when driving briskly.

Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system is superior to competitors, providing extra agility, security and driver satisfaction. Unlike bulky off-roaders – with their inelegant 4WD systems and power-sapping transfer boxes or certain sport utilities with transverse-mounted engines and gearboxes and, again, inefficient transfer boxes – Subaru’s AWD system is simple and efficient.

Because the ‘boxer’ engine is in-line with the gearbox which is, in turn, in-line with the prop-shaft and rear differential, frictional losses are kept to a minimum. In addition, the drive-shafts are of equal length for a ‘pure’ division of power.

In addition the Subaru Vehicle Dynamics Control offers even more active safety – and handling fun. SVDC uses sensors in all four wheels to detect slip. It also relies on sensors to register front to rear G-forces, side-to-side G-forces and steering wheel G-sensors to detect sudden swerves called ‘yaw-rate’. The result of all this data is for the engine power to be reduced and braking applied to whatever wheel can best help the driver maintain control. However, the system is also set up to allow ‘playful’ – yet safe – rear-wheel-biased handling. The nominal front to rear torque split is 45/55 which improves turn-in and reduces understeer.

Anyone driving the new B9 Tribeca can immediately appreciate its Subaru DNA thanks to its long-travel suspension, low unsprung weight, taut damping and resistance to body roll. And unlike some premium SUVs which either have light ‘lifeless’ power steering or heavy but inert set-ups, this new Subaru has steering which is both low-effort yet full of feel. It allows the driver to make minute adjustments yet avoids any feeling of nervousness and instability.

Helping the steering’s linear feel is an especially rigid cannon mount system for the steering box which displays low hysteresis. In addition, specially tuned steering damper valves reduce kick-back and unwanted interference when driving on rough surfaces.

Like all Subarus, the front suspension is by MacPherson struts but with modifications such as a larger anti-roll bar and strengthened mounting brackets and larger diameter struts.  The fully-independent multi-link rear suspension is based on the Legacy and Outback but with modified geometry and wheel stroke for a smoother ride. The wheels, for example, move rearwards when encountering a bump instead of forwards, enhancing comfort.

Other changes compared to the Legacy and Outback include longer rebound strokes for the dampers and a slight rear toe-in to improve straight-line stability.

For its European debut, the B9 Tribeca has undergone fine-tuning of its rear suspension incorporating different bushing, damping forces and spring rates, further enhancing handling and roadholding. All B9 Tribecas benefit from large 18x8ins alloy wheels with generous 255/55 tyres. This compares favourably with the standard wheel/tyre combination of competitors which, typically, have 17×7.5 ins wheels with 235/65 tyres.

The B9 Tribeca’s brakes are more than up to the job, with large capacity front and rear ventilated disc brakes featuring twin-pot ‘fist-style’ front callipers and high-rigidity ‘fist-style’ rear callipers made of aluminium for reduced weight. In addition to standard anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) the new Subaru also boasts Brake Assist. This ensures sufficient braking force is always applied.

All aspects of safety have been studied by Subaru for its new flagship resulting in the highest possible 5-Star scoring from America’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Like other Subarus, ring-shaped reinforcement frames are employed for the window posts plus the widespread use of tailored blanks – steels of different strengths and stiffness – ensuring light weight yet strength where needed. The bonnet is made of aluminium for lightness but also enhanced pedestrian safety, while the entire body structure is 55 per cent more resistant to bending than the Legacy and 22 stronger in torsional rigidity.

The front airbags are dual-stage which alters the inflation pressure according to the severity of the accident, while both side and curtain airbags are standard. Front seatbelts are fitted with a pretensioner and load-limiter and the second and third row of seats have retractors with child-seat fixing points. The second row middle seat has a roof-mounted retractor ensuring three-point security. A rollover sensor is mounted in the airbag control unit. This detects sideways movement and deploys the curtain airbags and front seat seatbelt pretensioners if roll-over is judged to be imminent.

The new B9 Tribeca provides owners with a three year/60,000 warranty plus three years’ paintwork and 12 years’ anti-perforation cover. There is also three years’ membership of Subaru Assistance – a comprehensive home and roadside repair and recovery package throughout the UK and Europe.

New B9 Tribeca: Performance and Economy

Top Speed: 121 mph
0-60 mph: 9.3 sec
Urban: 16.5 mpg
Extra Urban: 29.7 mpg
Combined: 23.0 mpg
CO2 exhaust emissions: 291 g/km