2018 Subaru Liberty 2.5i Premium Review
Isaac Bober’s 2018 Subaru Liberty 2.5i Premium Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Refreshed Subaru Liberty has seen a raft of changes and minor price rises. The 2.5-litre models also copped suspension, CVT and engine tweaks.
2018 Subaru Liberty 2.5i Premium
Price $36,640+ORC Warranty three years, unlimited kilometres Safety five star ANCAP Engine 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol Power 129kW at 5800rpm Torque 235Nm at 4000rpm Transmission CVT Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 4800mm (L) 1840mm (W) 1500mm (H) 2750mm (WB) Boot Space 493L Spare full-size Fuel Tank 60L Thirst 7.3L/100km
THIS GENERATION SUBARU LIBERTY arrived here in 2015 and obliterated the bloated-looking and faux-wood filled previous-gen… and sales went through the roof. Sure, the new-look and a free-trade agreement with Japan that saw the price of the Liberty tumble sure helped boost sales by around 300%.
Fast forward to now and Subaru has learned its lesson. It no longer makes wholesale and drastic changes to its refreshed models, focussing more on improvements to the vehicle. And that’s exactly what it’s done with the refreshed 2018 Liberty.
What is the Subaru Liberty?
The Subaru Liberty, or Legacy as it’s known in some markets, has been with us for almost 30 years and was originally conceived as a vehicle with which Subaru could crack the US – indeed, new Subarus are often revealed at US-based motor shows. Main sparring partners include, the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Mazda6, but the Liberty, throughout its history, has even taken aim at premium brands via performance versions of the Liberty…anyone remember the B4? And, before the arrival of the WRX, it was the Liberty RS that was the brand’s giant-killer with its all-wheel drive and turbocharged engine. But I digress.
This refreshed Liberty has copped a raft of updates including a new front bumper, grille, headlights and wing mirrors, but without parking them side by side I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t notice. On the inside, there’s a new infotainment system, the same as that in Impreza and XV, meaning it’s now got Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The updated Liberty also gets Subaru’s latest-generation EyeSight system and many Vision Assist updates.
The 2.5-litre variants, we’re testing the 2.5i Premium, have copped suspension, engine, transmission and steering tweaks to improve things like fuel consumption, ride and driver feel. As in the refreshed Outback, the big-banger 3.6-litre six-cylinder variants are unchanged beyond the suspension and steering tweaks.
Pricing for the entry-level Liberty is unchanged with other models in the range only a couple of hundred dollars more expensive than their predecessors. The 2.5i Premium and 3.6R variants have risen to $36,640+ORC and $43,140+ORC. This is up from $36,240+ORC and $42,740+ORC, respectively.
What’s the interior like?
Much as we said for the refreshed Outback we reviewed a couple of weeks back. The aim of the revised Liberty was to improve on only those areas that needed it, like the infotainment system and some minor contrast panels.
There’s plenty of soft-touch materials and even the stuff that isn’t soft, feels good to the touch with no sharp edges to catch your finger on. Door bins are usually one area where makers go a bit light the quality control, but that’s not the case with the refreshed Liberty. Indeed, the quality of materials and the fit and finish in the new Liberty, from front to back, is first rate. We picked and poked but couldn’t find any ill-fitting bits.
There’s plenty of storage space strewn around the cabin, like the two cup holders in the centre console and the large storage bin with lid at the base of the dashboard, there are USB and 12v outlets in here. There are further outlets stashed in the storage beneath he centre armrest.
The main controls you’ll want to access all day, every day are easy to reach with the steering wheel controls easy to read and use when you’re on the move. There are additional buttons situated down low and on the right-hand side of the car, just behind the steering wheel. These are for things lane departure warning, etc… these buttons were in the same place on the old car and while some might gripe that it’s tricky to read them on the move, they’re the sorts of buttons it’s unlikely you’ll ever need to press.
The infotainment system in our 2.5i-Premium is 8.0-inches wide; the entry-level variant only gets a 6.5-inch unit which seems a bit miserly in this day and age. Like the system in the Impreza and XV there’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity as well as native sat-nav. It’s a good system with an easy to understand menu structure and, of course, the smartphone mirroring makes it even easier to use. Below the infotainment screen are climate control functions and these too are easy to use.
The front seats are broad but there’s enough support in the seat back to keep you in place when cornering, and there’s excellent under thigh support for comfort when doing long stints behind the wheel. The A-pillars are nice and thin and the addition of the small window at the leading edge of the main side windows improves vision further when you’re pulled up at a zebra crossing…some cars I’ve tested it’s been possible for people to end up in a blind spot as they’re crossing the road. And, the reversing camera and side view monitor as well as the new forward camera make parking and pulling out of intersections a doddle.
Over in the back there’s plenty of room for adults and you’ll fit in three in a pinch. There are ISOFIX mounts on the two outboard seats and top tethers for all three seats, as well as two USB ports and rear air vents.
The boot is unchanged and offers the same 493 litres of storage space as before – it’s a decent size but the shape isn’t amazing. It’s possible to drop down the back seats (60:40 split) but you can’t do this from the boot. Beneath the floor is a full-size spare.
What’s it like on the road?
This sixth-generation Liberty was launched here in 2014 and refreshed in 2016. At that time, among other things, Subaru tweaked the shock absorbers…that was a good move, creating a more premium ride. And the engineers have been at it again on the 2.5-litre variants (the 3.6R is unchanged). Yep, the shock absorbers have been fiddled with to reduce body roll and to reduce the amount of ‘push up’, as Subaru describes it, you get after hitting a bump in the road. It makes for a flatter riding and handling experience than the old 2.5i Premium, not that it was exactly a roly poly thing to drive.
The steering too has been tuned to provide a more consistent action once off-centre, which makes for a more natural feel when cornering. The brakes too have been tweaked for a more progressive action, dialing out some of the wooden-ness from the old car’s pedal.
It’s all well and good to read about the changes, but out on the Practical Motoring road loop it was immediately obvious that the tweaks had made a good car much better. No-one would ever accuse the 2.5i Premium Liberty of being a performance car, that’s for its more-power 3.6R sibling, but the engine (while output is unchanged) has more than enough grunt to keep up with traffic and the tune on the CVT does a great job of keeping the vehicle moving in its sweet spot; with great adjustability via the throttle – thanks to a shorter CVT chain.
Indeed, while the CVT has had it ratio coverage expanded from 6.28 to 7.03 for improved fuel efficiency it doesn’t feel any less spritely. To match the expanded ratio coverage, the CVT has been upped from six ‘simulated’ steps to seven.
While the engine’s output is unchanged there have been some fiddling with it to improve, if not performance, than its responsiveness. A new kickdown mechanism ensures a faster throttle response than the old 2.5. The engine is also slightly lighter.
On the move, body movements are well controlled and while the Liberty feels great at around town speeds, it, like most Jaguars, feels even more supple with a bit of speed under its wheels. The Liberty will shake off mid-corner bumps and turn into corners with improved agility…grip, as ever, is impressive thanks to permanent all-wheel drive.
In all, the refreshed Liberty 2.5i Premium features only subtle tweaks here and there, but they amount to this feeling like a much better car than it was. It feels more energetic, rides better, and more sporting in corners too; the Liberty is now right at the sharp end of the segment.
What about safety features?
The refreshed Liberty continues the original car’s five-star ANCAP rating (it scored 35.99 out of 37 in 2014) but has copped tweaks to its EyeSight active safety system, in that it now gets the latest-generation (Generation 3) which offers an improved cameras, better low-light performance, and faster object recognition thanks to an improved 3D processor. The system can now see further and wider than before. The new EyeSight system is also a slimmer thing and mounted closer to the front windscreen which means you barely notice it now. Part of the latest-generation EyeSight is that the pre-collision braking range has been improved from a speed differential of 30 to 50km/h which is a huge improvement.
There are the usual airbags (six of them) traction and stability controls as well as permanent all-wheel drive, rain sensing wipers, and dusk-sensing headlights, active cruise control, hill hold and rear cross traffic alert. In all, it’s an impressive active and passive safety package.
So, what do we think?
Like the Outback, Subaru has kept its tweaks to the Liberty to those areas where it felt improvement was needed most or areas where it had newer gear available, like infotainment and EyeSight. It’s a comfortable and safe family car that’s better than it was and one of the top picks in the segment.