It’s the sportiest Liberty you can buy, and the 2016 model is safer and more refined than ever.
VERDICT: If you’ve outgrown your WRX and think trading up to a Liberty 3.6R might be a bit of a letdown, then don’t. It isn’t. And for those looking for a good-value medium-sized sedan with premium touches then the Liberty 3.6R should be on your list.
The sixth-generation Subaru Liberty launched here in 2014 and was updated late last year with both the 2.5i Premium and 3.6R adding to their already standard EyeSight driver assist system, blind spot monitoring, lane change assist, auto dimming rear view mirror, high beam assist, and rear cross traffic alert. The suspension was also tweaked to provide a progressive (read: less firm) action.
The Liberty 3.6R sits at the top of the Liberty tree and lists from $41,990 (+ORC) and that represents a staggering 25% price cut compared with this model’s 2014 predecessor. Combine that with the added standard safety features and this Liberty 3.6R immediately bears all the hallmarks of being a bargain buy.
Under the bonnet is a 3.6-litre six-cylinder boxer engine producing 191kW at 6000rpm and 350Nm of torque at 4400rpm. This is mated to a CVT with a six-speed manual mode. Fuel consumption is a combined 9.9L/100km and it’ll happily run on 90-98RON fuel.
Inside, the dashboard is dominated by the large touchscreen that houses the communication and infotainment system. The system is easy to use is fast to react to touches but isn’t easily confused when being used on the fly. Thankfully, the heating and air-con controls are mounted below the touch screen, meaning you don’t have to delve through a complicated menu system just to turn the fan up or down.
The front seats are nice and comfortable and supportive too, and reach and rake on the steering means that taller drivers than me (I’m 5ft 11in) should be able to get comfortable behind the wheel. The back seats are pretty good too, and I found I had plenty of head and legroom when the front seats were set to my position.
Over in the boot there’s 493 litres, but the shape of the boot means you get a wide, shallow space and the boot opening is pinched slightly. Under the boot floor is a full-size alloy spare wheel. You can fold down the rear seats via an unlock button on the shoulder of the seat, but you can’t do it from the boot.
The 3.6-litre six-cylinder boxer is a delight from the moment you turn it on. Although peak torque doesn’t arrive until 4400rpm there’s never a sense of having to wait for grunt; the Liberty 3.6R simply accumulates speed like a reasonable-sized six-cylinder should. The CVT in this Liberty is based on the one that debuted in the WRX and so gets a six-speed-esque software tune that allows the thing to feel more like a conventional six speed automatic than a typical CVT.
And speaking of the steering, the wheel itself feels good in the hands with the steering-mounted infotainment and cruise controls easy to use on the fly. There’s decent weight in the wheel which feels consistent in its action despite offering speed-related assistance and the response is quick. The brakes feel solid and the pedal offers a nice progressive action, allowing you to slow to a halt without having your passengers head-bang the dashboard. And the same goes for the throttle feel and response.
Subaru said that besides the safety upgrades (its Vision Assist package) to the 2016 Liberty range, it had also “fine tuned” the shock absorbers. Exactly what’s been done Subaru hasn’t said, but from the seat of the pants it certainly feels like hard-edged hits don’t jolt through the cabin the way they used to, endowing the tweaked Liberty with a premium car feel.
Speaking of safety, the Vision Assist package has been added to the Liberty for 2016 and is largely borrowed from the WRX and WRX STi which debuted many of the elements in 2015. It builds on the EyeSight driver assist system which with this current-generation Liberty has become smarter; able to recognise brake lights and with a 40% larger field of vision. In addition to EyeSight, the Liberty gets a five-star ANCAP rating, has seven airbags, traction and stability controls as well active torque vectoring. Obviously, the Liberty also features permanent all-wheel drive and both traction and stability control systems.