MY15 Subaru Liberty 3.6R

Subaru’s Liberty has now been around for 25 years but for a variety of reasons in recent times has fallen off the radar of many buyers. One of those reasons is the success of Toyota Camry and the local duo of Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore.

Subaru’s intention is to take up some of the slack left by the looming loss of the popular Australian six-cylinder cars with the just launched the sixth-generation Liberty.

The new Liberty is a refined, high-tech offering. It offers two engines and two automatic transmissions, one for four-cylinder variants and one for the six-cylinder.

Subaru has gone for the sales jugular, cutting prices on Liberty by up to $14,000. After three hours behind the wheel of a 2.5i petrol Premium and a six-cylinder 3.6R at the car’s launch in East Gippsland, we came away impressed.

Liberty now starts at $29,990 for the entry level 2.5i auto and finishes at $47,990 for the Liberty 3.6R. The 3.6R is the contender for the six cylinder gap in family cars. The 2.5i and 3.6R only come with Subaru’s latest incarnation of their upgraded CVT auto, there are no manuals.

MY15 Subaru Liberty 3.6R

The new Liberty has a lot going for it: all-wheel-drive; five-star ANCAP safety rating; the latest generation of EyeSight, a crash avoidance/reduction system; and an all-new infotainment system that puts Liberty back in the techno race.

Liberty has always been recognised for its engineering, but in the fifth generation was let down by its interior. That too has been addressed in what Subaru describe as “fixing the weaknesses.”

Subaru Australia managing director, Nick Senior, said buyers should also consider two small, but significant things, it comes with a full-size alloy spare wheel and metallic paint is a no cost option. Liberty, he said, also has a larger boot space (493 litres) than Commodore.

At present Liberty averages 75 sales a month and Subaru expects this to double to 150 a month. He said the added features over the current model represent $3000 in the 2.5i that was $39,490 and is now $35,490 in the new model.

MY15 Subaru Liberty

Like the Outback that was launched at the same time, the new Liberty has a refined version of the CVT transmission that now includes ‘steps’. These take away some efficiency as they act like conventional gears to suit drivers who have had difficulty adapting to CVTs. The steps only come into play when pushing the car hard. In normal driving the CVT accelerates seamlessly.

From the driver’s seat the new Liberty hits the mark immediately with forward vision significantly improved over the outgoing model. The A-pillar has been moved forward by 50 mm placing more distance between driver and windscreen which also gives Liberty a much improved airy cabin feel.

The side mirrors are now mounted on the door which again reduces the blind spot around the slim A-pillar.

In our road testing we drove the 2.5i Premium first and came away feeling the four cylinder engine would probably satisfy most drivers and their driving needs. It’s quick off the mark, quiet and with improvements to the engine, CVT and body aerodynamics now has a combined fuel consumption of 7.3 litres/100 km. This is down 7.6 per cent on the current model.

Subaru has done an excellent job in reducing NVH (noise, vibration harshness) in Liberty with little drivetrain/road/wind noise entering the whisper-quiet cabin. The 2.5i features an active grille shutter in the lower grille which closes when driving to reduce resistance and also when cold to warm the engine faster.

Rivals for Liberty 2.5i sedan include Mazda6, Ford Mondeo, Hyundai i40 sedan, Nissan Altima and Skoda Octavia.

The 3.6R is even quieter and more refined than the 2.5i. This six-cylinder boxer engine has the same 3.6-litre capacity as the outgoing engine, but in reality has been rebuilt from the block up with the intention of the making it more compatible with the revised CVT transmission.

This is where the more refined acceleration comes from and no doubt the lack of engine noise intrusion into the cabin. Liberty 3.6R has a braked towing capacity of 1800 kg, 100 kg more than the four cylinder variants. The 3.6R uses a high torque capacity variant of the CVT for efficiency and power delivery.

Both variants cling to the road beautifully and, unlike Outback, that exhibits some body roll and tyre squeal on tight corners, Liberty simply points into corners nicely and powers out in a no-fuss manner. Like Outback, Liberty now also has torque vectoring to reduce understeer when cornering. It works and works well.


Liberty 2.5i CVT: $29,990 (current model $32,990)
Liberty 2.5i Premium CVT: $35,490 (current model $39,490)
Liberty 3.6R CVT $41,490: (current model $55,990)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Subaru dealer for driveaway prices.

2.5-litre boxer engine, 4 cyl. DOHC naturally aspirated
Power: 129 kW at 5800 rpm
Torque: 235 kW at 4000 rpm

3.6-litre boxer engine 6 cyl. DOHC naturally aspirated
191 kW at 6000 rpm
350 Nm at 4400 rpm

Capped price servicing
Three years / unlimited km warranty

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