Home » How The Hideous Subaru B9 Tribeca May Have Gotten Its Emergency Facelift From Saab

How The Hideous Subaru B9 Tribeca May Have Gotten Its Emergency Facelift From Saab

2006 Subaru B9 Tribeca Ts2
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The emergency refresh is something automakers never want to do. Sometimes, like with the 2013 Honda Civic, it’s to upgrade a model that feels otherwise a bit cheap. However, occasionally, styling is just a little too bold for consumers. These days, if you walk into a Subaru dealership looking for a perfectly inoffensive three-row crossover, the Ascent fits that bill perfectly. Hell, Subaru’s offered reasonably anonymous seven-seat crossovers for 16 years, but it wasn’t always that way. When the 2006 Subaru B9 Tribeca launched, it was, um, polarizing.

The B9 Tribeca was Subaru’s first shot at a three-row crossover for the U.S. market. Powered initially by a three-liter EZ30 flat-six engine and spinning all four wheels through a five-speed automatic, this new-for-’06 crossover was meant to compete with models like the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot in the burgeoning three-row crossover arena. Unfortunately, in such a conservative segment, safe styling sells, and Subaru did anything but play it safe.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

For instance, Jalopnik called the B9 Tribeca’s face the “flying-vagina front end,” and SFGate called the crossover “go-through-anything-but-ugly.” If you think that’s mean, The Truth About Cars wrote:

Without any prompting whatsoever, my 11-year-old daughter took one look at the new Subaru B9 Tribeca and said ‘ew’. And there you have it. Scooby’s first-ever SUV is an irredeemably gruesome beast whose design should have been aborted a femtosecond after conception.

Holy shit, they absolutely bodied this thing. Yeah, the grille of the 2006 Impreza just didn’t scale up to three-row crossover proportions well, and Subaru needed to fix it, fast.

Emergency facelifts take time and cost tons of money, so for a relatively small company like Subaru to change not just injection-molded plastic parts, but stampings and incredibly expensive lighting assemblies after just two years, it just makes you wonder how they did it. Well, it turns out that for the 2008 model year, Subaru might have copied homework that Saab never turned in. Let me explain.

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2006 Subaru B9 Tribeca

Back in the mid-aughts, GM had a stake in what was then known as Fuji Heavy Industries, and set about disguising a few Subaru models as its own cooking. First came the hastily rebadged Chevrolet Forester for the Indian market:

Chevrolet Forester
But most North Americans are more familiar with the Saab 9-2x:

Saab 9 2x 1

Known affectionately as the Saabaru, it was a slightly tweaked Subaru Impreza sold through Saab showrooms, and it wasn’t the only Saab-Subaru tie-up planned.

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Saab 9-6x 1

See, in the mid-aughts, crossovers were also taking off, and GM was planning on tweaking the Subaru B9 Tribeca into a three-row Saab crossover called the 9-6x, pictured above and below. Oh, and on the outside, these tweaks were extensive. We’re talking about a new hood, new bumpers, new front fenders, new headlights, new grillework, a new hatch, and new taillights — big changes that ensured the 9-6x wouldn’t look much like the controversial B9 Tribeca.

Saab 9-6x 2

However, in October 2005, the New York Times reported that General Motors sold 8.7 percent of its 20.1 percent stake in Fuji Heavy Industries to Toyota. GM would later go on to sell its entire stock, cutting ties with Subaru and ensuring the 9-6x would never see a Saab showroom. A prototype would survive, eventually being inducted into the Saab museum, but that was the end of the line for the 9-6x. Or was it?

2008 Subaru Tribeca Rear

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Looking at the facelifted 2008 Subaru Tribeca, it bears more than a passing resemblance to the abandoned 9-6x. The taillights are identical, the liftgate stamping is quite similar, even the headlights look similar to the ones on the Saab, just with the black inserts painted silver. While certainly not identical to the 9-6x, the 2008 Tribeca shares more than a passing resemblance.

2008 Subaru Tribeca Front

Was much of the 2008 Tribeca’s alterations different to those of the 9-6x? Sure. The hood, front bumper, and all the front bumper trim pieces are obviously different, and even the liftgate was slightly different due to an oval recess for a badge versus a round one. However, it’s not impossible to imagine that Subaru managed to cook up an emergency facelift for the B9 Tribeca so quickly because half of the homework was already done. What do you think?

(Photo credits: Subaru, Saab Museum)

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Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
15 days ago

Interesting. It reminds me of the time GMC “refreshed” the Acadia by using discontinued Saturn Outlook parts.

https://www.autoblog.com/2012/02/10/gm-confirms-discontinued-saturn-outlook-parts-used-in-refreshed/

Schrödinger's Catbox
Schrödinger's Catbox
16 days ago

I like that Subaru wanted to pay homage to their aircraft heritage (FA-200 Aero) with that grille and fascia. It’s quite clever and I feel hasn’t aged badly.

There’s far worse examples of fugly cars that have been produced since this vehicle hit the showroom. We all know about the Aztek, but the Dodge Caliber and Avenger, the 1st gen Juke, the Murano Cross Cabriolet, the first gen Jeep Compass (really just an exponentially shittier Caliber), and pretty much anything from SsangYong are also shining examples of “ugly as hell”.

i3 Driving Indicator Fetishist
i3 Driving Indicator Fetishist
16 days ago

I thought Farago was the first to coin the “flying vagina” ?

Dingus
Dingus
16 days ago

“Not to belabor the point, but who in their right mind would put a vagina on the nose of an SUV, and then accentuate the effect with wings and hood strakes AND make the shape stand proud of the grill?”

From the linked article.

I remember when TTAC was good. Sajeev Metha’s hitpiece on the Impala SS was an absolute gem. “The Super Sport allure (such as it is) rests solely upon the Impala’s Corvette-based pushrod V8. This small block mill generates so much horsepower (303hp @ 5600rpm) and torque (323 ft.-lbs. @ 4400rpm) that it launches the 3711 pound Impala like a ball of flaming garbage in a catapult.”

Ah memories…

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
16 days ago

Hideous? Really? It look much nicer than all those car’s front ends that look somewhere between an angry paper bag and a cat’s anus. Lexus for example.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
16 days ago

When I first saw a Tribeca I immediately thought it looked like a twice life size SAAB 93 bullnose.
Also, at the time I noticed that a lot of my friends who had owned sobs were switching to Subarus.
How does this comparative to that time in the 90s when Fords looked like Jaguars and Jaguars looked like Fords?

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
16 days ago

Yeah, that was terrible and the worst between the Edsel and Alfa Romeo…lately I’ve been curious as to why the Edsel grille was hated so much (I’ve heard every joke about them) and then later nobody has a problem w/ the Alfa Romeo grille (Yes, it not exactly the same and looks great on Alfa’s) It’s just kind of ironic, especially since the rest of the Edsel body design and interior was SO fucking beautiful!

BangkokKablooie
BangkokKablooie
16 days ago

Back in 2006 I got the the chance to tour SIA where the B9 Tribeca was built. Our group got the chance to poke around a new Tribeca in their vehicle gallery and we all tried our hardest to hold back the “eww comments” in front of the enthusiastic tour guide. But I’m sure he knew.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
16 days ago

Yes, it does have a bit of the classic SAAB 93 (not 9-3) nose, but with the high headlights and the overall style confusion, it’s more on the Pontiac Aztec level 🙁

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saab_93

Last edited 16 days ago by Jakob K's Garage
Sean Ellery
Sean Ellery
17 days ago

I had a 2006 Imprezza bought new (an ultimately ill-fated car with 1 front end, and 2 rear ended collisions and finally finished off 15 years later when it got T-boned..) which had this style grill and while I didn’t like it that much, it was… OK… at the Imprezza scale.

But on the Tribeca… well, here in Australia is was nicknamed “The Frog” and sold like crap. We got the new grill in the final year but by then it was too late for sales. The style simply didn’t scale up decently.

Goblin
Goblin
17 days ago

I always found it good looking. Ew to reporters overbidding each other.

Carl Nichols
Carl Nichols
17 days ago

Wait – that’s what a vagina looks like?

Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
17 days ago
Reply to  Carl Nichols

My thoughts exactly. What vaginas have people been playing with? Not the same ones as me…

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
16 days ago
Reply to  Carl Nichols

I don’t reckon the typical Jalopnik nerd having much experience with those things 😉

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