We would have loved to have a spy camera in the offices of Toyota, Mazda, Ford and Hyundai when word got around about the prices of the all-new Subaru Liberty. With a starting sticker of just $29,990 it’s fair to say the fifth generation Subaru Liberty is set to rock the mid-size sedan market.
Combine the good looks and sharp prices with plenty of interior space and extensive standard equipment…well even buyers of the locally produced large cars (Commodore, Falcon and Aurion) certainly have a very commendable alternative to say SUVs.
Subaru Liberty Overview
Subaru’s handsome all-new Liberty sedan range isn’t all just dollars and cents and slick looks. As well as those tremendously inexpensive price stickers, the all-new Liberty cuts some significant specification advantages over most rivals – for example the entry-level model is the only one to offer active cruise control, only Audi has a seven-inch screen and the Subaru Liberty 2.5i boasts lane departure warning.
And for a company with a safety record which is the envy of the industry, the all-new Liberty has another ace – it is the safest Subaru so far. In local ANCAP barrier testing the all-new Subaru liberty posted a score of 35.99 out of a possible 37 en-route to its maximum five-star rating.
Over the entry-grade 2.5i, Subaru Liberty 2.5i Premium adds extras including leather seats (electric adjustment and heating for the fronts), satellite navigation with Pandora connectivity, an electric sunroof, enhanced infotainment system and piano black interior trim highlights.
The stretch to 3.6R, as well as a couple of extra cylinders under the bonnet - accompanied by a stronger CVT and dual exhaust pipes - gets the 2.5i’s features and adds a 12-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system and the three-mode SI-Drive system.
In launching the all-new Liberty range Subaru has rationalised the model lineup and it looks like this:
|2.5i Premium CVT||$35,490|
Subaru Liberty Engine
Subaru has dropped the turbocharged GT model from the Liberty lineup so the engine choice is now the naturally-aspirated duo of the 2.5-litre four-cylinder or the 3.6-litre six-cylinder.
For the 2.5i, the FB25 engine benefits from some subtle improvements and lifts maximum power to 129kW at 5800rpm but peak torque remains unchanged at 235Nm at 4000rpm. Combined-cycle fuel consumption is rated at 7.3l/100kms.
The 3.6-litre six-cylinder engine is part of the EZ family and this is the first application where it is mated to a CVT automatic transmission. Maximum power is 191kW at 6000rpm and peak torque of 350Nm arrives at 4400rpm. Combined-cycle fuel consumption scores 9.9l/100kms.
Subaru Liberty The Interior
The Subaru Liberty models we drove all sported a black interior hue but the all-new fifth generation model does debut a new brighter ivory colour. That sort of exemplifies the substantial improvements Subaru has wrought to the interior of the all-new Liberty.
It’s all-change inside and kicks-off with a startling new dashboard design to accommodate the new infotainment system. This all sits lower than before – combining with those extra front quarter windows to introduce a brighter, airy feel.
And the quality of materials used plus the extra soft-touch surfaces bring new levels of quality and sophistication inside the all-new Subaru Liberty.
Space is also improved. There’s an extra 7.0mm between front and rear seats, rear-seat leg room has grown by 30mm, there’s an extra 10mm between the front seats, 42mm more shoulder room, 43mm more elbow room and 35mm more hip room.
The driving position is good with rake/reach adjustment for the steering wheel and driver’s seat height adjustment. But we wouldn’t mind some extra lateral support for the seats.
Instruments are two round gauges with a five-inch LCD display for the EyeSight safety system information. To the left sits the new infotainment set-up with a large LCD for both the six-speaker standard system and the 12-speaker Harman/Kardon system fitted to 3.6R models.
Rear seat accommodation is good but access to the rear seat takes some acclimatization as the door cut-out is low and the seat base protrudes somewhat.
Luggage capacity exceeds the previous generation by 17-litres at 493-litres.
Subaru Liberty Exterior & Styling
Massive changes to the exterior are the biggest difference between this fifth generation Subaru Liberty lineup and the previous generation. And let’s face it, the superseded model was hardly ‘Supermodel’ material.
The all-new Subaru Liberty is dynamic and sophisticated. The curved roof and sporty quarters exude a contemporary style which we think is Subaru’s best work yet.
Compared to the previous model the all-new fifth generation Subaru Liberty is 60mm wider at 1840mm and 5.0mm lower at 1500mm but the 2750mm wheelbase is unchanged. And the raked windscreen is part of an aerodynamic story (note the extra front side windows and door-mounted mirrors) which sees the all-new Subaru Liberty record an aerodynamic score 10 per-cent improved over the superseded model.
Up-front is Subaru’s hexagonal grille and new ‘hawk eye’ headlights while the rear scores LED combination lights as part of a very slick look.
Of course the side profile is highlighted by that elegant curving roof and forward-shifted A-pillars. Nice 18-inch wheels fill the wheel arches further exaggerating the sporty new look.
Subaru Liberty On The Road
The windy rural roads around Sale and Metung in North-East Victoria were ideal to exploit Subaru Liberty’s all-wheel-drive chassis. And we did it in both a 2.5i Premium and range-topping 3.6R.
Those few hundred kilometres in the all-new models reminded us of previous generation Subaru Liberty drives - excellent all-wheel-drive grip, a good chassis and nice steering response. Except this all-new model is better in every way – no doubt helped by a much tauter chassis which lists torsional rigidity 167 per-cent better than its predecessor.
There’s also been a stiffening of mounts for the MacPherson strut front/multi-link rear suspension and an aluminium bonnet is part of the weight-saving regime. And also much effort went into isolating noise for improved NVH.
So the all-new Subaru Liberty has higher limits, is better balanced and quieter…what’s not to like about that?
We ended the day with the 3.6R as our favourite. The six-cylinder engine and three-mode Si Drive mode (we used S# for most of the day) make this the Subaru Liberty for performance drivers. A barking exhaust note from the six-cylinder Boxer engine also helped.
But it must be said the 3.6R was a bit harsh in the front-end over bumps and at the limit in corners. We put this down to the extra weight (at least 50kgs we’re told) of the six-cylinder engine and stronger CVT.
Subaru Liberty Challenges
Your www.carshowroom.com.au correspondent will never be confused with an NBL player but even we found the ratio of rear door cutout and rear seat base location made for a tricky entrance to the Subaru Liberty’s rear seat.
Our other points deduction was for tyre noise – those Dunlop SP Sports certainly grip in the twisty stuff but the volume needs to be turned down on poor and coarse ship roads.
Subaru Liberty Verdict
Value-for-money ranks high in most new car purchases and clearly Subaru has trumped the field with the all-new Liberty kicking-off at $29,990. All the more incredible that the only big-volume all-wheel-drive vehicle in this class should also lead the value-for-money stakes.
Even better, none of the three Subaru Liberty models short-change on specifications. And Subaru’s hallmark safety and quality is a given.
Whereas the previous generation Subaru Liberty was like a lycra-clad NRL/AFL forward doing a Zumba class – capable but not attractive – the all-new model has turned the corner and looks very nice inside and out.
Bringing all that together is a top-notch chassis which delivers excellent driving dynamics. Yep, the all-new Subaru Liberty is a new Car Showroom Favourite mid-size sedan.
Subaru Liberty The Competition
Toyota Camry dominates sales in this segment, mainly due to price-driven fleet buyers. But now the sensationally-priced entry-level Subaru Liberty actually undercuts the entry-level Camry (the Altise) by $500. Some reckon the Camry’s styling is still ‘beige’ but all models are nice inside and the ride/handling is silky. Of course you can get a hybrid-powered Camry (but not an all-wheel-drive model).
Ford’s European Mondeo is a Car Showroom favourite mid-sizer but there’s no denying, with its $31,490 starting price, the all-new Subaru Liberty is making it look pricey. Petrol and diesel engines are great and the Mondeo’s ace is the steering and handling.
Also boasting a European pedigree is Hyundai’s i40. Sharply priced from $29,990 the Hyundai i40 delivers on looks and interior space but isn’t quite on the top shelf for driving dynamics.
And any discussion about mid-size sedans must include the Mazda6. It’s the ‘George Clooney’ of the bunch for looks, almost matches the Ford Mondeo (and now the Subaru Liberty) for driving dynamics but is pricey (starting from $33,460) and not as spacious as some.