Subaru Liberty 3.6R review: Ready come hail, rain or shine

A 25 per cent price drop makes this Liberty an even more compelling family sedan

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Subaru Australia Liberty
  • Subaru Australia Liberty
  • Subaru Australia Liberty
  • Subaru Australia Liberty
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Comfortable, well equipped interior
  • Competitive price
  • All wheel drive
  • 3.6R variant has a well designed infotainment system

Cons

  • Doesn't accelerate as quick as rivals
  • Less economical than turbocharged 4-cylinder rivals

Would you buy this?

It was during the annual ANZAC Day rugby match. My Liberty 3.6R, on loan for the week from Subaru, sat idle in a car park, while I was left stranded blocks over in an old pub.

Half way through the televised match the pub turned to uproar and it had nothing to do with six points. The roof of the near-ancient building had begun to give way, water falling through the boards from the level above, casting a pool from the bar to all three doors.

Outside, Parramatta Road had begun flooding in sections, while other parts disappeared under a white coat of what amounted to snow. Such was the intensity of the hail storm.

An hour passed. The game ended. It was time to brave the weather and drive, responsibly, my family home. Few other cars would've been better suited to the occasion.

Inside, the Liberty is comfortable, solid and well equipped. Split climate control and heated seats warmed the leather interior nicely. The car is enormous, even by family sedan standards, and although its size bothers on tight bends, it provided welcome relief on the drowned roads on the way home.

The Liberty sitting in the car park once the storm had passed
The Liberty sitting in the car park once the storm had passed

Under the long hood is a 6-cylinder boxer engine. The horizontally opposed pistons mount deeper in the engine bay for a lower centre of gravity. The 191-kilowatt engine delivers power to all four wheels. If one wheel loses traction, three others are there to propel the car forward.

And on this particular day, the all wheel drivetrain earned its asking price.

At one point, our foot hit the accelerator with too much enthusiasm. Other cars, such as a Commodore SS or Volvo S60, would’ve yielded to wheel spin. The uneventful Liberty ploughed on.

The windscreen wipers and front lights were set to automatic and proved attuned to the weather. The driving aids we found annoying during sunshine began to make more sense in these conditions, even though we enjoyed them most when they were turned off.

Between the drive train, the build quality and its simple luxuries, the Liberty made us feel safe. We quite enjoyed the drive home and decided to go a little further to have some dinner.

Two driving aids standout in the Liberty. The first warns with a beep when the car is veering into the oncoming lane, while the other lets lingering drivers know when the car in front has moved after a reasonable period of time. We deactivated both modes and had to stare at illuminated warning lights in the instrument cluster
Two driving aids standout in the Liberty. The first warns with a beep when the car is veering into the oncoming lane, while the other lets lingering drivers know when the car in front has moved after a reasonable period of time. We deactivated both modes and had to stare at illuminated warning lights in the instrument cluster

Heavy rain carried over to the next day when the Liberty was scheduled to endure more punishment. On the calendar was a road trip to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, where the tight bends of the narrow roads would test the Liberty’s acceleration and agility, and the scenery would provide footage for a couple of action cameras being readied for review.

An hour into the drive and I was sold on the car’s infotainment system. Subaru has a knack for making complex technology simple. The large dash looks borderline barron and it’s all for the better. The Liberty offers all of the typical options without inundating driver’s with them. The result is an interior styled to keep the focus on nothing other than the drive.

The Liberty 3.6R’s infotainment system centres around a 7-inch LCD touchscreen and feeds audio through a 12-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system. It supports smartphone Bluetooth pairing and music streaming, iPod connectivity, and the playback of MP3 or WMA audio files from CDs, a 3.5mm port and USBs.
The Liberty 3.6R’s infotainment system centres around a 7-inch LCD touchscreen and feeds audio through a 12-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system. It supports smartphone Bluetooth pairing and music streaming, iPod connectivity, and the playback of MP3 or WMA audio files from CDs, a 3.5mm port and USBs.

The car’s engine is as civilised as its interior. It hums along, lazily at low revs, as it consistently builds up to speed. Accelerating from a standstill to 100km/h takes 7.2 seconds and maximum torque is reached at 4400rpm. Managing the power is an automatic CVT gearbox. It has a manual mode with paddles mounted to the steering wheel, but latent gear changes fail to make the Liberty’s drive sporty.

On the national park’s roads, which twist and turn like strands of spaghetti, the Liberty displayed poise. Its large body is always noticeable as the length of the wheelbase causes it to miss a corner’s apex, though the tenacity of the all wheel drive train kept it firmly planted. The rain had turned a trickling stream into an overflow of water, but it failed to phase this Subaru.

Two weeks earlier we found ourselves cackling on these roads behind the wheel of a VW Scirocco R. The Liberty has no business hooning. It serves the higher purposes of civility, comfort and safety.

The rain eased on the drive home. Our day traversing winding roads had consumed a hearty 13.5 litres of petrol for every hundred kilometres. We pulled over to refuel and on return to the car, we stopped and considered its place in the Australian market.

The Liberty is the beneficiary of a steep price drop following the Japanese Free Trade Agreement. The range-topping 3.6R is 25 per cent cheaper at $41,990, though the introductory 2.5i starts from $29,990. To think a car as familial in character as the Liberty could be so aggressive on price.

Subaru Liberty 3.6R slideshow (18 photos)

Quick specs

Engine
• 3.6-litre, 6-cylinder horizontally-opposed Boxer petrol engine
• 191kW@6000rpm
• Maximum torque - 350Nm@4400rpm


Transmission
• Lineartronic CVT with manual mode


Fuel consumption per 100 kilometres
• 9.9L quoted
• 13.5L achieved


Drive line
• All wheel drive


Weight
• 1645kg kerb weight


Price
• 2.5i from $29,990
• 2.5i Premium from 35,490
• 3.6R from $41,990

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