The 2015 Subaru Liberty.
The 2015 Subaru Liberty.

2015 Subaru Liberty road test review | Potent penny pincher

WHEN a car manufacturer drops the price of its premium model by $14,000 while ramping up inclusions, you know that they are serious about selling this car.

Of course the Liberty is no ordinary car for Subaru. When it first made an appearance some 25 years ago it added stylish and modern to the Japanese manufacturer's stable of safe and rugged cars.

For most of that time the Liberty has been a great performer for Subaru but its popularity has waned in the past five years especially with an average offering finding no traction against a burgeoning SUV market.

But this sixth generation edition, which has been on sale in Australia since the start of the new year, features sound all-round improvements and may be just the boost Subaru needs.

Comfort

Subaru has certainly acted on customer feedback with the interior of the new Liberty a much-improved offering than that of its predecessor.

Leather seats are comfy and supportive, the materials used on the dash and doors are of obvious quality while the piano black and matte silver highlights do much to tie the look together.

Instruments are bold and precise, the blue rings around the tachometer and speedometer flash red if you get too close to the car in front which is a clever touch.

Legroom is expansive for front-seat occupants and equally generous enough for those in the back, with the rear seat passengers just slightly short-changed when it comes to legroom.

The cabin itself has a relaxed, quality feel with good storage options and a boot which offers close to 500 litres of space after accounting for a full-sized spare.

The boot opening is quite narrow though making it difficult to load bulkier items.

On the road

Under its hood the 3.6R boasts a powerful 3.6-litre six-cylinder engine paired with a automatic continuously variable transmission, the only option for buyers.

It proves to be a more than able combination, however, with the Liberty showing poise and style within inner city confines and the lusty get-up-and-go needed on longer highway adventures.

It moves efficiently and quickly given its heavy kerb weight giving the driver confidence both from standstill and during quick overtaking manoeuvres.

It is happy to burst into corners, the all-wheel-drive system and torque vectoring function that brakes the inside wheel aiding grip and control, and it is confident and assured even over tricky stretches.

The CVT is pretty smooth and doesn't labour under steep climbs and descents as is the case with some competitors and the Liberty deals well with humps, bumps and other irregularities.

The intelligent drive system allows the drive a choice of three settings for different throttle and transmission performances and you can achieve a pretty sporty feeling ride.

Road noise can be a problem making it hard sometimes for the driver to hear back seat passengers.

What do you get?

The drop in price has certainly not meant a restricted inclusions list with this flagship 3.6R filled to the rafters with useful niceties like leather seats with electric adjustment and warming function, 18-inch alloys, electric sunroof, auto wipers and headlights, keyless entry with push-button start, reverse camera, a new infotainment system with 17.7cm touch-screen and a 12-speaker Harmon Kardon stereo.

The dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation and audio system can be operated by voice commands.

Subaru has also improved their safety inclusions with an impressive list of camera and sensor-based technology.

The EyeSight driver assist package (fitted standard across the range) boasts adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane sway warning and autonomous braking too go with seven airbags, stability and traction control, ABS with EBD and brake assist as well as hill hold function.

Practicality

Subaru has done much to bring the Liberty in vogue included an on-trend infotainment system with easy Bluetooth pairing and a top-notch standard safety package.

Improvements to driving dynamics and visibility as well as a revised exterior may capture the attention of more than the Subaru faithful.

Other options

The popularity of SUVs has made competition in the medium sedan market a catfight and the main challenge will come from Mazda6 Atenza sedan (from $46,420), Skoda Octavia 132TSI (from $35,140), Ford Mondeo (from $44,290), Hyundai Sonata Elite (from $36,990) and Toyota Camry (from $33,990).

Running costs

Despite improvements to consumption, the Liberty still hits the mark at just under 10 litresl/100km.

It comes with a three year unlimited kilometre warranty, roadside assist and capped-price servicing for life.

Funky factor

Thankfully the changes to the exterior are on the good side of noticeable with the Japan manufacturer exchanging the lifeless American boxy panels for a sleeker, modern and tasteful lines.

The stance is low and sporty with well-appointed 18-inch alloys also adding to the appeal.

It is not the trendiest looking car around but is far from embarrassing.

The lowdown

The changes made to the Liberty especially in this premium 3.6R form certainly makes a persuasive case for perusal. It offers a nice ride, good space and excellent inclusions at a price point that should garner interest.

The new Liberty is a reminder that Subaru won't give up this medium sedan segment without a fight.

What matters most

What we liked: Nice ride, great inclusions, value for money.

What we'd like to see: Better fuel economy, less road noise, a wagon option.

Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Capped price servicing is available for the life of the car, and prices are listed for the first five years or 125,000km. Intervals are every six months or 12,500km. Average price of servicing over five years is $516.

Verdict: 4 stars

Vital statistics

Model: Subaru Liberty 3.6R.

Details: Four-door all-wheel drive medium sedan.

Engine: 3.6-litre six-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 191kW@6000rpm and peak torque of 350Nm @ 4400rpm.

Transmission: Continuously variable automatic.

Consumption: 9.9 litres/100km (combined average).

CO2: 230g/km.

Bottom line plus on-roads: $41,990 (base model 2.5i CVT from $29,990).



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