2015 Subaru Liberty 2.5i Premium review
Isaac Bober’s 2015 Subaru Liberty 2.5i Premium review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.
IN A NUTSHELL: Subaru’s designers have worked out which end of the crayon to use and penned a beautiful car that looks and drives brilliantly.
THERE’S NO mistake that the design of the Subaru Liberty went a bit wonky after the sleek looking fourth-generation model that spanned 2003-2009. Same goes for the Outback of the same period. Finally, Subaru’s designers it would seem have worked out which end of the crayon to use and this sixth-generation model wipes away all the design sins of the past.
From the front the new Liberty has a much stronger looking snout thanks to hawk-eyes and hexagonal grille. Looking towards the back, to my eyes at least, the thing seems reminiscent of the Chris Bangle-era BMW E60 5 Series, particularly the crease leading to the boot… Indeed, Subaru says its raised the rear quarter panel shoulders to give the car a deeper, more muscular profile. Looks good. Looks premium.
In terms of dimensions, the new Liberty certainly looks bigger and indeed it is, growing in width by 60mm to 1840mm, height has been reduced by 5mm to 1500mm and the wheelbase remains unchanged. The rear door hinges have been tweaked to open 15mm wider making it easier for adults to get in or out of the back, or to load and unload children from capsules or childseats.
Thanks to a greater use of high-strength steel and the fact the new Liberty is wider than its predecessor has meant there’s more room, especially shoulder and elbow room, in the front and back seats. In the front, there’s 10mm more headroom despite the car being 5mm shorter, shoulder room is up by 42mm, elbow room up 43mm, and hip room is 35mm greater. In the back, and there’s 30mm more legroom while the seat itself has been raised by 10mm to make getting in and out easier.
We set up two child seats, one’s a booster and the other a child seat proper and there was enough room to sit an adult inbetween, although the transmission tunnel does intrude meaning you’ve got to have one foot on one side of the car and the other on the, er, other side. For the two outer seat passengers there’s plenty of knee and legroom, thanks to the back of the front seats being scalloped.
In the boot, Subaru has managed to find and extra 17 litre of space pushing seat-up storage to 493 litres.
Like its exterior design, Subaru’s interior designers have been knocked for over-use of hard surfaces and cheap-ish plastic finishes, but that’s not the case with this new Liberty. Soft-touch, high quality plastics and trims (the 2.5i Premium gets leather) have been used giving the car a feeling of costing more than in actually does – I’d go so far as to say that it’s on par with Volkswagen Group product and a real step ahead of many of its key rivals.
The new Liberty debuted Subaru’s new tablet-esque Starlink infotainment system which is easy to use with nice big touch-sensitive buttons that are easy to use on the fly. And, thankfully, the map quality of the sat-nav is a giant leap ahead of the previous generation’s sat-nav unit. Like a smart device, you can flick, pinch and swipe the screen to move between menu items.
This new Liberty, in addition to Starlink, also debuts the latest generation EyeSight driver assist system which is slimmer than its predecessor to the point of it being barely noticeable. Up by the centre-mounted window are two cameras that are capable of recognising and interpreting brake lights, while the system now offers pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning. It’s a clever system that’s able to determine deliberate lane change (even without the indicators) and accidental wandering, it then warns the driver.
As the name suggests, our test car runs the 2.5-litre four-cylinder Boxer petrol engine which produces 129kW at 5800rpm and 235Nm of torque at 4000rpm. This doesn’t sound like a lot of oomph, especially when you consider the same sized engine in the Mazda3 SP25 Astina out-grunts it. But, on the road you’re never left wanting with this engine.
Partly that’s down to, and I do hope you’re sitting down, the genius of the Lineartronic CVT which is easily the best CVT unit in production. Unlike CVTs of old there’s none of the stretched-rubber-band sensation as you build speed, rather there’s just a swift, smooth gathering of momentum that gives the impression the Liberty 2.5i Premium will keep accelerating into next week. Fuel consumption is 7.3L/100km.
The steering wheel mounted paddles allow you to take control of the ‘gearbox’ with the on-board computers creating the impression of there being six gears. Our test car offers Subaru’s Si-Drive with two drive options to chose from: Intelligent (I) and Sport (S). Most people will leave it in Intelligent and probably never, ever notice the Sport setting and that would be a shame because while the Intelligent mode is fine, Sport makes the thing feel friskier. Indeed, after a 200km drive in Intelligent, I swapped into Sport and left it there for the rest of the week; reaction to the throttle feels more urgent and the car generally comes off feeling more eager to perform. The good thing is the car remembers the setting it was in and when you start it up again it remains in the last selected driving mode. Clever.
On the road, the Liberty 2.5i Premium impresses with its reluctance to roll in corners, grip thanks to permanent all-wheel drive (split 50:50), suspension that’s able to cushion the worst of the road’s imperfections without becoming sloppy at the first corner, and turn-in that’s as sharp as a scalpel. However, as well behaved and fun to drive as the Liberty 2.5i is the steering is not quite in the same league as the rest of the car and feels too light and I often found myself readjusting the steering mid-corner because I’d either applied too much lock or not enough. The brakes offer a nice progressive action with strong performance in daily driving.
As impressive as the on-road performance of the new Liberty is, it’s the work Subaru’s engineers have done on noise insulation and wind noise suppression that really impresses. Older Subarus could be described as feeling tinny, not so this new Liberty which feels every bit as whisper quiet as key rivals as well as more expensive, but similarly sized European machinery.
The Liberty 2.i Premium is well appointed for the money which, at $35,490 (+ORC) is a staggering $4000 less than its predecessor yet it gets Subaru’s EyeSight driver assist system as standard (as does the entry level Liberty 2.5i), 18-inch alloys and a full-size spare, powered folding mirrors, leather interior, heated door mirrors, electric sunroof, electric adjustment for driver and passenger seats, heated front seats, sat-nav, smart key and push button assist. Servicing costs for the Liberty 2.5i Premium range from $299.95 through to $539.22 for the 50,000km service – service intervals are 12,500km.
In terms of safety, the Liberty scored 35.99 out of 37 achieving the highest ever score for a Subaru in ANCAP testing. Beyond that it gets permanent all-wheel drive, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, EyeSight driver assist system, fog lights, seatbelt indicators for all seats, reversing camera, child seat anchor points (three) and three ISOFIX point and seven airbags.