Chicago Auto ShowCHICAGO – The days of gratuitous chrome on cars pretty much ended in the 1960s.

So when Subaru of America Inc. began selling its first cross/utility vehicle, the B9 Tribeca, last May, the gleaming chrome grille rubbed some customers the wrong way.

Less than a year after the vehicle launched, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., which owns Subaru, already is changing the B9 Tribeca’s face, replacing much of the bright work on the grille with black plastic and offering a few other upgrades as well.

The chrome-like accents were embraced by some.

Mesh grille, chrome wheels come standard with new ’07 B9 Tribeca Special Edition.

How else to explain the arrival of a new trim level, the ’07 Special Edition B9 Tribeca that comes to showrooms with a new mesh grille and wheels – all finished to sparkle in the sun.

The new features on the Special Edition model, including XM satellite radio, add $1,295 to the sticker price. Current pricing for the B9 Tribeca starts at $30,695.

The new models were unveiled here at the Chicago auto show, which is open to the public through Feb. 19. The new ’07 models go on sale in June.

Subaru has said it expects to sell 28,000 B9 Tribecas between June 2005 and June 2006. Through the end of 2005, Subaru delivered 14,797 units.

The auto maker is pacing short of its 2006 target. In January, Subaru dealers delivered 1,421 B9 Tribecas, according to Ward’s data.

Also for ’07, the B9 Tribeca adds new safety features, including sensors that detect a potential rollover and deploy the standard side curtain airbags for upper body protection. The system also pre-tensions the seatbelts in anticipation of a rollover.

In panic stops, the new brake assist system analyzes the force applied to the pedal and increases hydraulic boost to provide enhanced emergency stopping, and activates the antilock brakes, if necessary.

All B9 Tribeca Limited models ordered with the optional touch-screen navigation system now will include a rear vision camera system for enhanced safety. Ultrasonic backup sensors also are available.

Chrome accents dominate grille of original ’06 Subaru B9 Tribeca.

Also new is an improved suspension, with revised front and rear strut tuning, adjusted spring rates and rear stabilizer bar rate changes. Subaru says it wanted to deliver a smoother ride and improved after shock damping on rough surfaces, without sacrificing responsiveness.

A new optional accessory includes a remote starter that allows the engine to be turned on from up to 800 ft. (243 m) away.

The drivetrain is unchanged. Powering the B9 Tribeca is a 3.0L 6-cyl. boxer engine, rated at 245 hp, mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission.

Subaru builds the B9 Tribeca at its plant in Lafayette, IN. The vehicle is based on a modified version of the Legacy/Outback platform and features a longer wheelbase and wider track.

tmurphy@wardsauto.com