2008 Mazda Tribute Performance
Reviewers are split concerning the performance and powertrain of the 2008 Mazda Tribute, though they agree the vehicle earns decent fuel economy numbers. "It's always been more of a car masquerading as a truck than vice-versa and feels nimble and sure-footed as long as you stick to the pavement," says Edmunds.
The Tribute comes standard with either a 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine or a 3.0-liter V6. Car and Driver says Mazda has not made enough improvements to keep the Tribute competitive with the growing compact SUV market. "Unfortunately, the Tribute has not braced itself where it counts, under the hood, remaining more or less identical to the original model, which leaves it no longer anywhere near the top or even the middle of its class in terms of going, stopping, or turning." Front-wheel drive is standard and four-wheel drive is an available upgrade on all models.
Acceleration and Power
Tribute i models feature a 2.3-liter DOHC 16-valve inline four-cylinder engine, generating 153 horsepower and 152 pound-feet of torque. Tribute s models are equipped with a 3.0-liter DOHC V6 that puts out 200 horsepower and 193 pound-feet of torque, which one reviewer did not like. "The carryover Duratec 3.0-liter V-6 found under the hood of every Tribute s is loud, gruff, and at 200 horsepower, grossly underpowered compared with the gutsy V-6s in, say, the 265-hp Nissan Xterra and 269-hp Toyota RAV4, and even the 220-hp Mitsubishi Outlander," says Car and Driver.
Fuel economy is described as better than most. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Tribute i 2WD models with the inline four and manual transmission should net 22 miles per gallon in the city streets and 28 on the highway. The same model with the automatic transmission should get 20/26 city/highway, while the 2WD model with the V6 engine should net 18/24 city/highway. Four-wheel-drive models with the base engine are expected to net 19/24, and those with the V6 should get 17/22 city/highway.
The Tribute comes standard with a four-speed automatic transmission. A five-speed manual transmission is available on i Sport models only. Car and Driver finds the automatic "slow to downshift and rather stern in character during hard acceleration."
Handling and Braking
The Tribute is equipped with standard electric power-assist rack-and-pinion steering, front independent MacPherson strut suspension, and a rear multi-link suspension. The vehicle features power-assisted front disc and rear drum brakes and an Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) is standard.
Overall, reviewers are split on the performance and handling of the vehicle. "One of the few dynamic changes made to the Tribute in its refresh was a new electric power steering system that delivers surprisingly good road feel and response," says Edmunds. "Handling is respectable, with the SUV remaining flat through corners and composed in quick transitions. Ride quality is relatively smooth, making this SUV a suitable choice for commuting or hauling the family around."
But other reviewers disagree. "We were disappointed with the spongy brake pedal feel and even spongier steering," says Car and Driver. "Making matters worse were two handfuls of torque steer (ours didn't have the optional four-wheel drive), gobs of road noise, and an unbecoming susceptibility to freeway tramlining."
The Tribute comes standard in front-wheel drive, but Active Torque Control Coupling Electronic four-wheel drive is available for any trim.