Those playing in the mid-size sedan segment are up against a serious number of competitors, not to mention the popular small SUV segment which seems to dominate the market.
So it’s no surprise that the Subaru Liberty is often overlooked, unrightly so.
While the Liberty’s competitors have made significant strides in their new generations, the staple Subaru sedan was beginning to tire. Thanks to the facelift earlier this year, the Liberty is back in the game.
Many of the changes are minor cosmetic ones and the much-needed addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as upgrading to the latest generation of Subaru’s safety system, EyeSight, which includes Lane Keep Assist.
The 2.5L variants also received changes to the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) and engine. You can read more about the changes for this facelift in our preview article from earlier this year.
The refreshed exterior design may not be immediately obvious, but somehow there is a subtle shift away from boring sedan towards a more stylish design with sleek lines and angles.
The range benefits from new 18” alloy wheels and a revised grille and bumper design. The 3.6R gets chrome treatments throughout.
On test here is the range-topping 3.6R variant which is powered by a 3.6-litre horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine producing 191kW @ 6000rpm and 350Nm @ 4400rpm.
When on the road, the Liberty provides a liner delivery of power and responsive steering with minimal road noise, aside from a little generated around the side mirrors.
Subaru’s renowned build quality is evident with no irritating rattles, even when travelling at speed.
Refinements to the Liberty’s shock absorber settings are said to reduce the amount of roll and “push up” from the road and when on test, the changes are noticeable.
Subaru’s signature All-Wheel Drive makes the Liberty a standout in wet and slippery conditions, but it still fairs well on the dry blacktop. It corners beautifully, but it can still get a bit upset if you happen upon a mid-corner bump.
Where the Liberty really shines is on longer road trips where it is an excellent freeway tourer. I actually got fuel consumption down to 7.5L/100km on the freeway.
Inside, the Liberty design really contributes to its premium feel. Black glossy panels, top quality materials, stylish stitching details and convenience features throughout make the Liberty a standout for interior design and quality.
The leather seats are incredibly comfortable, with the all-important lumbar support and heating function, and while some say that Subaru crowds you with information from the driver’s seat, I find it rather intuitive.
From the steering wheel you can control audio, Bluetooth, cruise control and the multi-function display which is displayed between the two dials and houses information relating to audio, speed, Bluetooth, stop/start, EyeSight, outside temperature, clock, SI Drive and trip information with fuel economy.
An 8” touchscreen displays the satellite navigation (which is now powered by TomTom), radio (but sadly no digital radio yet), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth and USB connectivity as well as all the other standard features.
The Liberty 3.6R also gets an impressive 11 speaker Harman Kardon speaker system. Those in the rear aren’t forgotten with air-vents and two USB charging ports. Knee and head room are rather generous for an average sized adult.
The Liberty is so comfortable and provides an effortless experience, I actually found myself comparing it to the Lexus IS.
When it comes to storage, all four doors have pockets and bottle holders (that, shock, have actually been designed to hold bottles) and there’s plenty of space for knick-knacks in the center console.
The long boot space is benefited from 60/40 split near-flat folding seats and while it is still a sedan, the space is usable and could easily accommodate a couple of suitcases for a weekend away. It also comes with a full-sized spare.
A surprising feature of the Liberty 3.6R is it can tow up to 1,800kg (with brakes), even though it’s a feature that probably won’t be used all that often.
However, worthwhile considering for those who don’t think a sedan can fit their towing needs and instead look straight to a SUV.
Safety has always been a strong point for Subaru and the Liberty, as with the rest of their models, gets a 5 star ANCAP safety rating. The entire Liberty range benefits from the latest generation EyeSight technology which encompasses
- Adaptive Cruise Control;
- Brake Light Recognition;
- Lane Departure Warning;
- Lane Keep Assist;
- Lane Sway Warning;
- Lead Vehicle Start Alert;
- Pre-Collision Braking System;
- Pre-Collision Brake Assist;
- Pre-Collision Throttle Management; and
- Pre-Collision Steering Assist.
The 3.6R also gets the Vision Assist suite which includes:
- Adaptive Driving Beam;
- Blind Spot Monitor;
- Lane Change Assist; and
- Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
The last two features of Vision Assist, a front and side view mirror, are a favourite feature of mine. Coupled with the rear view camera, it makes parking in any situation an absolute breeze.
With a Manufacturer’s List Price (MLP) of $43,140, the long list of features, particularly in the safety arena, included as standard on the Liberty can’t be matched by rivals such as the Mazda 6 GT ($42,690) or the Toyota Camry SL V6 ($43,990), making it a strong offering with a competitive price point.
Covered by a 3 year/unlimited KM warranty, the Liberty requires servicing every six months (or 12,500kms) and Subaru’s servicing plan will set you back a considerable $2,711.42 over the first three years for the 3.6R, which includes a required interim check-up at three months (or 5,000kms).
When the Mazda 6 GT costs $1,581 to service over five years (with 12-month/10,000km intervals) and the Toyota Camry V6 a mere $975, this is where the Liberty loses big points.
The Subaru Liberty 3.6R will surprise those who dismiss it as a boring sedan for the elderly. In reality, it is a refined vehicle with a prime level of standard convenience and safety features.
While servicing costs and warranty may let it down, if you’re after a prestige feeling and premium package for a competitive price, the Liberty is the mid-size sedan for you.
Subaru Liberty 3.6R
The Subaru Liberty offers a refined ride, the safety of Subaru EyeSight and All-Wheel Drive technology and a premium feel thanks to a top-quality interior and convenience features, all for a competitive price. It is however let down by high servicing costs and 6 month service intervals. It remains a top competitor in the mid-size sedan segment.