Subaru's step toward truckdom: the B9 Tribeca

Maybe you're a Subaru loyalist - of which there are legions - who has yearned for third-row seating. Or maybe you just like having strangers gawk and yell, "What is that thing?" Hail, then, the 2006 B9 Tribeca (mid-$30,000s), a long-awaited tilt toward truckdom from an automaker that prides itself on snow mastery (Forester, Outback) and all-conditions sports performance (WRX STi). What Tribeca really is: an Outback in both platform and engine (albeit the 3-liter, 6-cylinder, horizontally opposed version). It's a few inches longer than the feisty wagon and some 900 lbs. heavier. Still, power felt just adequate in this 4,200-lb. all-wheel-drive. (Its automatic transmission shifts as r.p.m. surges toward redline.) Those third-row seats are knee-huggers. The styling? Unorthodox, as you'd expect from a counterculture brand. Tribeca's nose says Alfa Romeo; its hindquarters evoke BMW's X5. Inside, the wraparound cockpit is sleek. Gas mileage: Not bad for an SUV. We scored 22 m.p.g. during a wet week in which commuting was not pretty - but the car, we think, kinda was.

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