What’s Hot: Big price reductions, handsome new styling, upmarket interior, larger boot.
What’s Not: Tyre noise and rear seat access.
X-FACTOR: Improvements all-round lift the Liberty to the front of the mid-size sedan contenders.
Vehicle Style: Mid-Size Sedan
Price: 2.5i CVT $29,990; 2.5i Premium CVT $35,490; 3.6R CVT $41,990
Engine/Trans: 129kW/235Nm petrol 4cyl, 191kW/350Nm petrol 6cyl | CVT auto
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.3l/100kms (2.5i), 9.9l/100kms (3.6R)
By any measure, $14,000 is a lot of money. This is how much Subaru has carved off the price of the all-new, range-topping Liberty sedan 3.6R (in comparison to the previous generation).
For the mid-grade Subaru Liberty 2.5i Premium, the price is down by $4000, and for the entry-model 2.5i the reduction is $3000.
And there’s a whole lot of extra equipment included in the all-new sixth generation Liberty - which Subaru says amounts to $3000.
With the locally produced Commodore and Falcon exiting the market, Subaru sees a tremendous opportunity for the all-new Liberty. It expects to double sales from the current 75 per-month to more than 150.
Of course, the likes of Mazda6, Hyundai i40, Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat also have ambitions for sales growth (though this segment hasn’t exactly set the world on fire the past few years).
The indisputable facts are Subaru has done a mighty job with this new car.
The improvements in design, engineering and specifications are accompanied with unexpectedly large price reductions (helped by currency shifts and the Free Trade Agreement with Japan).
We’ve been driving the all-new Subaru Liberty and can say categorically it is the best yet (and given the quality of the previous generation, that’s not a claim we make lightly).
- 2.5i cloth seats, driver’s seat height adjustment, climate-control air-conditioning, electric parking brake, height/reach adjustable steering column, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear-lever, paddle-shifters, multi-information display, silver trim highlight, six-speaker touchscreen audio with Bluetooth/MP3/WMA/AUX/CD and voice command
- 2.5i Premium adds satellite navigation, electric front seat adjustment with lumbar support for the driver, leather seats, electric sunroof, piano black trim highlights and enhanced infotainment system, heated front seats
- 3.6R adds 12-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system
- Boot space 493 litres (up 17 litres over previous generation)
The Subaru Liberty’s new design sees the A-pillars shifted forwards, a new dashboard which sits lower, fitment of front quarter windows plus door-mounted side mirrors - and that means an airy feel in the cabin and better visibility.
Combine that with a slicker design and a seismic shift in material quality (in all three models, and the result is very pleasing accommodation in a smart interior.
The all-new Liberty is more spacious too: there is 10mm extra between the front seats, some 42mm more shoulder-room, 43mm more elbow-room and 35mm more hip-room.
Plus there’s also good news for those seated in the rear - the distance between the front and rear seats is up by 7.0mm, there’s 30mm more leg-room and clever sculpting of the rear door-trims means there’s more width.
The door cutout and seat intrude somewhat, so care is required to avoid bumping your bonce on the way in (we’re sure familiarity would overcome this).
That new-look dashboard contains a wide, flat infotainment display (audio, reversing camera and satellite navigation) in the centre, and, placed right in front of the driver, dual gauges surround a five-inch LCD which displays the EyeSight safety system, trip data and other key information.
Subaru has worked hard on the infotainment system.
That centre-mounted large LCD display for the regular six-speaker audio system as well as the 12-speaker Harman/Kardon system in range-topping 3.6R, adds Pandora connectivity and pinch (zoom in/out) and is really easy to find your way around.
With height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel and height-adjustment for the driver’s seat, the cockpit is comfortable, and it’s easy to get set at the wheel.
However, like the Outback, we found the seat a bit short in under-thigh support and could also use more side bolstering.
ON THE ROAD
- 129kW/235Nm naturally-aspirated petrol four
- 191kW/350Nm naturally-aspirated petrol six
- CVT automatic transmission
- Symmetrical all-wheel-drive
- MacPherson strut front/double wishbone independent rear suspension
We sampled a Liberty 2.5i Premium and 3.6R. The winding rural roads we were on reminded us of the attributes of Subaru’s ‘Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive’ system (the Liberty is the only mid-sizer offered in AWD).
This is a very good steer.
Though the swoops and curves we encountered on the drive route contained numerous pot-holes and loose surfaces (conveniently located mid-turn) - and even one section which was completely flooded - the AWD Liberty swallowed them with ease.
Each we drove responded with the expected chassis balance and predictable response of this finely-honed AWD system, with a lot of grip and just a touch of understeer at the limit.
As well as the extra grunt, the Subaru Liberty 3.6R gains an extra 50kgs over the 2.5i model.
With the larger six-cylinder engine in the nose, plus a beefier CVT, you can detect the front-end working a little harder at the limit and some extra firmness when fully-loaded.
That said, at the end of the day the Subaru Liberty 3.6R emerged as our favourite.
The extra pep of the 191kW boxer ‘six’ and sportier Si Drive calibration, accompanied by a nice gruff roar at the exhaust note, makes this mid-size sedan a very rewarding drive.
Both the 2.5i and 3.6R steer nicely. Each has ample power for swift touring and each responds well to mid-corner throttle adjustment.
But while both are noticeably better than the current generation in terms of NVH, the noticeable tyre noise from the Dunlops on 18-inch alloy wheels was a bit of a let-down.
That noted, the new Liberty is a very satisfying and long-legged country tourer.
ANCAP rating: 5-Star, the all-new Subaru Liberty scored 35.99 out of the possible 37 points in ANCAP testing
Safety Features: EyeSight (includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, pre-collision braking assist, pre-collision steering assist, lane departure warning, front vehicle start alert), ABS anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, ISOFIX child seat anchor point, full length curtain airbags, driver’s knee bag, dual front airbags, hill-hold, reversing camera, electronic stability control, three-point A/ELR rear centre seatbelt
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The previous generation Liberty was always going to be a tough act to follow, but the all-new model has pulled it off.
Styling scores big points. The all-new Subaru Liberty, inside and out, looks both contemporary and sophisticated (with some justification, Subaru conceded the previous generation’s weak point was the interior).
The focus on an improved infotainment system has also paid-off.
The driving dynamics, a Subaru Liberty hallmark, are top-notch and there is no denying the robust build quality - another Subaru hallmark.
Of course the big deal is value-for-money. Subaru’s massive pricing adjustments now make the Liberty arguably the best buy in the mid-size sedan segment.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- Liberty 2.5i CVT - $29,990 (down $3000 / 9.1 percent)
- Liberty 2.5i Premium CVT - $35,490 (down $4000 / 10.1 percent)
- Liberty 3.6R - $41,990 (down $14,000 / 25.0 percent)
- Outback 2.5i CVT - $35,990 (down $3000 / 7.7 percent)
- Outback 2.5i Premium CVT - $41,490 (down $2000 / 4.6 percent)
- Outback 2.0D manual - $35,490 (down $5000 / 12.3 percent)
- Outback 2.0D CVT - $37,490 (down $5500 / 12.8 percent
- Outback 2.0D Premium manual - $41,490 (down $2000 / 4.6 percent)
- Outback 2.0D Premium CVT - $43,490 (down $2500 / 5.4 percent)
- Outback 3.6R - $47,990 (down $10,000 / 17.2 percent)