Road Test: Subaru Tribeca

When it was introduced four years ago, the Tribeca was bogged down with the confusing model designation B9 (the Subaru internal code name) and had such aggressive styling that most Americans ignored it. So with this makeover comes softer exterior styling and an interior that I think is more comfortable than any vehicle in its category. The Tribeca still isn't a fashion plate—but this family crossover does deliver.

Indirect lighting hidden throughout the cabin gives off a pleasant glow, and a powerhouse audio system with easy-to-use controls is a vast improvement over the last model. As for handling, the Tribeca's low center of gravity and somewhat taut suspension allowed for a confident carlike ride, assisted by all-wheel-drive traction. But I was bothered by this five-speed automatic's glacially slow shifting when I slipped it into manual shift mode. And though the vehicle has a third-row seat to accommodate six passengers, it was so cramped, only the tiniest of tots or pets could fit back there. Where the Tribeca shines is in its new 256hp boxer engine, which cranks out smooth and responsive acceleration. Best of all, this new version runs on regular gas. So you can fill up the tank and use the money you save to treat those jammed in the third-row seat to a massage.

TIP: An optional DVD package ($4,200, which includes navigation) showers riders with sound from roof-positioned tweeters.