MY Subaru connection goes back to my childhood with many happy hours spent in both the back and the front seats. (Oh, get your minds out of the gutter.)
The very second I was old enough I slipped behind the wheel, but she was a four-speed manual with tiny 43kw output. Still, it did the job and after many lessons I was the owner of a shiny new license, which has taken a dreadful battering since then.
I must admit to not being a huge fan of the exterior of some of the Liberties of the past. They seemed a bit slab-sided, and despite driving very well, were just not interesting. The new model is still quite big but looks and feels as if it has slipped into another level of quality and sophistication altogether. This is a good thing because the slip was upward. It now has a sense of premium sophistication.
We drove the perky Outback a few weeks ago and like it very much. It felt like it could go anywhere. The Liberty has the same asymmetric AWD system as the Outback, the same gear box and the same cabin appointments. The Liberty is a saloon version of the Outback’s station wagon body so feels exactly the same to drive. The Liberty has also grown over the years and is now not far off being Commodore size. You can certainly fit four chaps in without anyone having hissy fits over their cramped quarters. You get a choice of two colours of interior, black, and not-so-black. I’m not at all sure about Ivory as a choice for a car because the merest suspicion of dirt completely ruins the look.
There are a few surfaces and knobs that don’t feel quite as good as elsewhere in the interior. Hard plastics are considered a bit last week but on the whole the cabin has the quiet, comfortable, cosy feel of a gentleman’s club/panic room on wheels. You feel like you can lock yourself away from the traffic madness in complete safety, turn on some soft calming music and sit in your own lounge room right in the middle of the road. The entertainment system is easy to use with the touch screen controls, At times the ride is so good that you feel more like you’re watching a surround-experience on a wide screen TV, especially if the cruise control is doing the traffic management for you. Soon, a driver will be completely irrelevant to the road experience. Imagine sitting in the back chatting to a friend, sipping on a cocktail, or eating a tasty hot snack while letting the electronic chauffeur do its thing. It isn’t too far off but in the meanwhile this will do nicely.
The Eyesight system helps to stop you from hitting things at low speed and making a complete boob of yourself. None of the safety systems are meant to replace driver awareness, though. You’re meant to be keeping your eyes on the road. A little radar/camera system keeps you a safe distance from the car in front regardless of how fast it goes. Set the system at 110kph and the car does the rest. In really heavy traffic it will even slow to a complete stop. Once the traffic moves off again you need only tap the accelerator or flick the resume button and you’re off again. If the cruise control is not active the system will still tell you if you’re getting too friendly with the bloke in front by flashing the entire instrument cluster a rather nice red hue. You won’t mistake the warning.
The flat six cylinder engine sits low in the engine bay which means a low centre of gravity that helps handling. It surprised me in that the Boxer engine’s horizontally-opposed pistons make a sound ever so slightly like a Porsche. There is a distinctive note that is pleasing to the ear and I like it. However, a Porsche won’t seat five adults.
The 3.6L petrol engine puts out 191kw and an even more respectable 350Nm. It isn’t just the power but how the Subaru gets that power to the road. It is smooth and silky and very confident. Fortunately the AWD system, with its active torque split and torque vectoring, means there is no nasty torque steer. If you do stick the boot in you’ll get to 100kph in about 7.2 seconds which is not too shabby.
I wouldn’t call Liberty sporty exactly, but it does a very nice job of sweeping bends. And on the highway, all is sublime. The ride feels posh and indeed much better than a car of this price has any right to be. It is of decent value at $46,527 (drive away) which is about $1500 more expensive than Holden’s base model Calais. The difference is that the 45 grand Calais doesn’t have as much gear onboard, and the Subaru will take you up many a muddy track without getting bogged at the first fence.
Would I buy a 2015 Subaru Liberty? Yes, if I was ever to be coaxed out of a sports car then why not? However, if the sports car has no roof, then no chance. Sorry, Liberty.
Subaru Liberty 2015
Price: From $46,527
(drive away NSW)
Engine: 3.6 boxer petrol, 9.9l/100k, 191kw/350Nm
Drive wheels: all wheels – Asymmetric All Wheel Drive with torque vectoring
**This story was first published in the June edition of the Star Observer, which is available to read in digital flip-book format. To obtain a physical copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.