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2007 Subaru Tribeca B9 Limited first take

2007 Subaru Tribeca B9 Limited first take

We just had our first run out in the 2007 Subaru B9 Tribeca Limited, which arrived in our garage this week. After our thorough review of the 2006 B9 Tribeca earlier this year, we had a pretty good idea of what to expect, but there have been a few changes to the spec sheet for the 2007 model year, and we're never averse to sacrificing some desk time for some wheel time.

The first thing we realized when we found it in the CNET garage is that Subaru has not changed anything about the exterior design of the Tribeca, which retains its Hannibal-Lecter-in-a-face-mask front-grille-and-headlight arrangement for another year.

The power train in the 2007 Tribeca is also unchanged: the same three-liter, six-cylinder boxer engine making 245 horsepower at 6,600rpm. These figures suggest that the Tribeca has more zing than it actually does. Despite the bleating, rasping noise that comes with a squeeze of the gas pedal, the all-wheel-drive Tribeca fails to live up to its soundtrack, feeling sluggish, even when kicking down. This is surprising, as even in standard shift mode (a sport mode is also available with a flick of the shifter), the five-speed auto transmission is tuned to hold each gear into relatively rpms when accelerating. On a positive note, handling is far better than that of many other similar-size SUVs we've driven (likely due to the Tribeca's low center of gravity, resulting from its flat-packed horizontally-opposed engine being set low in the chassis), and steering response is good.

Inside, there have been a few upgrades to the ergonomically futuristic interior that we found comfortable and reasonably well teched-out in the previous model. The '07 Tribeca sports exactly the same intuitive and well-rendered touch-screen navigation display that we liked so much last year--destinations are easy to program using a predictive onscreen keypad, and turn-by-turn instructions are precise and clear, as is the split-screen map. Dedicated hard buttons for zoom and instant voice guidance are nice touches that other nav systems would do well to emulate. Unchanged also is the Subie SUV's nine-speaker audio system. However, in addition to the six-disc MP3-enabled in-dash changer found in last year's model, the new iteration adds XM satellite radio and a generic auxiliary input jack for allowing playback from portable MP3 players.

Safety tech on the '07 Tribeca Limited is unchanged--our tester had a backup camera complete with reverse-guidance lines, as well as a park distance control sensor, although the latter seemed to sound every time the car was put into reverse, irrespective of whether there was an obstacle behind us or not.

We'll be taking the 2007 Tribeca more fully through its paces over the next few days--look out for our full review next week.