There's nothing wrong with a vehicle having personality--but you don't want it to make you cringe. This is the controversy surrounding the B9 Tribeca. Subaru has found success by thinking differently and incorporating unique styling into its cars. Remember the Brat? The SVX? Its new, three-row-seat, crossover sport/utility is attractive, inside and--mostly--out.

It makes sense for a company that's earned a solid reputation for its wagons to offer a larger sport/utility--especially to accommodate Subaru loyalists who've outgrown their Outbacks. Subaru's first, the Tribeca, rides on a stretched and widened variant of the Legacy and Outback platform. It can seat five or seven passengers and comes in regular or Limited trim levels for each configuration.

The Tribeca also shares the Outback's 3.0-liter horizontally opposed flat-six, with 250 horsepower and 219 pound-feet of torque. This engine's power ratings are consistent with a competitor base that includes the Nissan Murano, Acura MDX/Honda Pilot, Volkswagen Touareg V6, and BMW X3/X5 3.0i. While the Subaru's horsepower exceeds all but that of the MDX and Pilot, its torque output is lower than every one except the X3's--and that six's peak twist is available at lower rpm. Its 8.9-second 0-to-60 time is comparable with vehicles in its class, but it's only faster to 60 than the 2.5-liter X3, which gets there in 9.8--though the Subaru's five-speed automatic transmission proves an excellent dance partner. It's programmed to squeeze every drop out of the flat-six, and under hard acceleration holds gears until near redline, making for a fun-to-drive combination. The B9 feels peppier around town than many of its competitors and has a surprising amount of thrust off the line. It doesn't run out of steam until it's going up grades, fully loaded with gear.

Adding to the fun is a well-tuned independent suspension, with MacPherson struts and lower L-arms in front and a double-wishbone setup with separate coilover springs in the rear. Subaru gave this crossover a ride that Grandma won't complain about, yet made sure it would hold its own on canyon roads. The B9 has rack-and-pinion steering with variable power assist; it's responsive without being twitchy or feeling too light. As with all its other models, Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel drive is standard and works in conjunction with vehicle dynamics control and stability control. Traction control is standard on all Tribecas, as are four-wheel disc brakes and four-sensor, four-channel ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution.