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Private Fleet Car Reviews: 2018 Subaru Liberty 3.6L and 2.5L.

Subaru‘s Liberty sedan continues to be a pillar of the Japanese brand’s sales success. The current three tier range has the 2.5L engine in the 2.5i and 2.5L Premium before a 3.6L flat six trim. Private Fleet goes back to back with the Subaru Liberty 3.6L and 2.5L Premium.The Liberty range itself received a mild facelift in early 2018, with a change to the front lights and bar, the rear lights, and a freshen up inside. Software such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto was added to a touchscreen that was slightly larger than before, Lane Keeping Assist was added to the safety package, plus the Premium gains a updated safety package. Premium variants add a suite of Vision Assist features including: Steering Responsive Headlights, Adaptive Driving Beam, Side View Monitor, and Front View Monitor.Underneath there were changes to the suspension and drivetrain. There’s a smoother and more refined feel to both engines, and the seven speed CVT autos in both also feel crisper and smooth in the changes. However, in this driver’s opinion, the suspension is a backwards step, being floaty, soft, far too short in travel and banging quickly to the bumpstops on even the smaller speed inhibitors in shopping centres. There’s more noticeable skipping sideways as well, with a two and a half day trip to the Kiama and Illawarra region, south of Wollongong, finding plenty of spots where the rear would suddenly move sideways and too easily on the Dunlop 225.50/16 rubber and alloys.The two different engines require, like all petrol engines, plenty of spin to see the maximum power. The 2.5L four sees 5800 rpm for 129 kW, and the bigger six 6000 rpm for 191 kW. However real driving relies on torque, and it’s here the six wins with 350 Nm at 4400 revs. The smaller donk has 235 Nm and 4000 revs, a still not inconsequential amount for its size. Both do a sterling job of pulling the 1577 and 1655 kilo machines around, however the four suffers in comparison on the uphill runs. There’s noticeable drop-off quicker which requires a firmer right foot. That relative lack of torque in a vehicle that weighs as it does sees a zero to one hundred time of 9.6 seconds, and a full 2.4 seconds quicker for the flat six in an eighty kilo heavier car.Economy on the 2.5L shows that it’s otherwise a brilliant highway performer, with the return figure from the Illawarra standing up at 6.4L of standard unleaded per 100 kilometres from the sixty litre tank. That’s on par with Subaru’s claimed 6.2L/100 km for the highway. The 3.6L is quoted as 7.5L per 100 km and driven in a more urban environment wasn’t far from the quoted combined figure of 9.9L/100 km. It’s the quoted figure of over fourteen litres for every hundred kilometres for the urban cycle that’s the concern.In profile it’s a handsome machine with a full 4800 mm length, and with the LED C shaped tail lights glowing at night, the auto swivelling headlights at work, and the white metallic paint glinting in the night, looks eye-catching and appealing. There’s also door mounted puddle lamps which cast a LED light over a broad area. Inside, the bigger touchscreen is easy to use, is well laid out, and features satnav, apps, and compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The powered seats are heated but not vented, and lack enough side bolstering for genuine comfort. There’s no shortage of shoulder or leg room though, thanks to a wheelbase of 2750 mm, width of 1840 mm overall, and a long but height shallow 493L boot. There piano black trim on the steering wheel looks and feels cheap and is at odds at the otherwise classy interior.There’s a good level of tech on board with Active Torque Vectoring, and the Premium & 3.6L feature the Vision Assist package which is Front View Monitor, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Side View Monitor, and Adaptive Driving Beam. Seven airbags including the driver’s knee bag means occupant safety is high. Height adjustable seat belts enhance that level. Reverse camera is standard across the range. But, and this is a big but, neither car had rear sensors and in an age where these are virtually mandatory this level of oversight is simply not good enough. What is good enough is Subaru’s Eyesight system. Stereo cameras mounted alongside the rear vision mirror, which is auto dimming by the way, rear the traffic ahead and are part of a safety bundle.Adaptive Cruise Control, Brake Light Recognition, Pre-collision Braking (which occasionally threw out some false positives), Pre-collision Brake Assist, Pre-collision Throttle Management, and Pre-collision Steering Assist work with the other driving aids to provide as much warning and support to drivers to avoid a crash as possible.But it’s the ride and handling that distinguishes this version compared to the previous and that’s not necessarily a good thing. It really does float, waft, and roll, and that suspension crash at low speeds just simply doesn’t feel good nor does it inspire confidence. It’s a chassis feel that a neighbour with a 2013 model Liberty said would turn him off from buying a new model. And it’s a chassis tune that feels aimed at more…mature drivers.

At The End Of The Drive.
Subaru’s list price for the 2.5L Premium is a reasonable $36,640. The six comes in at $43,140. Factor in on roads and those prices suddenly don’t look quite so attractive compared to the new Commodore and on a par with the Mazda 6 2.5L. The ride quality isn’t as good as expected, the lack of rear sensors may outweigh, in some buyer’s minds, the excellence of the EyeSight packagae, and the thirst around town of the six may also counter the positives. There’s always the Outback, though….Book a drive and make up your own mind, here: 2018 Subaru Liberty range

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