2015 Subaru Liberty 3.6R review
Isaac Bober’s 2015 Subaru Liberty 3.6R review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.
In a Nutshell : Twenty five years after the Liberty debuted Down Under it’s back with a classy new look, better pricing, equipment and more room inside.
UNLESS YOU’VE BEEN living under a rock, you’ll no doubt know that Subaru has knocked a staggering 25% of the price off this range-topping 2015 Liberty 3.6R. That’s right, listing at $41,990 (+ORC) this Liberty 3.6R costs $14,000 or 25% less than its predecessor. Now, depending on where you are in the buying process that’ll either be a ‘wow’ or ‘ouch’ moment…
As we discussed in our review of the Liberty 2.5i Premium, Subaru’s designers have clearly worked out how to design cars again and this new Liberty looks and feels more premium and better built than they have in quite some time. Indeed, and we said it before, but this new Liberty looks and feels like a more expensive car.
Subaru has worked hard to eke out as much interior space as possible with the new Liberty and one of the standouts of the car is that there’s room for a family of five inside, yet its exterior dimensions keep the thing in the medium car class – 4795mm;1840mm; 1500mm.
Indeed, the new Liberty offers an extra 10mm width-wise between the front seats with an additional 10mm of headspace being found. Shoulder room in the front has improved by 42mm, elbow room by 43mm and hip room by 35mm. The EyeSight camera cover has been shaved and is now barely noticeable. In the back, the front and rear seats have been pushed apart by 7mm while the front seat slide rails have been altered to give an additional 30mm in rear seat legroom.
Like I did with the smaller-engined Liberty, I fitted two child seats (one a booster and one a conventional harnessed toddler seat) and there was still room for an adult to set between the two seats. In the boot, Subaru has liberated an extra 17 litres of space, pushing the boot out, with the rear seats in place, to 493 litres.
Liberty has fold down rear seats, enabling full use of the combined, larger capacity, boot and passenger cabin as a wide cargo area. The fold-down function is activated by pushing the unlock buttons on the shoulder area of the seat backrest. Boot volume is increased by 17 litres to 493 litres. There’s a full-sized (18-inch) alloy beneath the boot floor.
Interior quality has improved out of sight in the Liberty with high-quality and soft-touch plastics everywhere. Like the rest of the Liberty range the 3.6R gets Subaru’s new Starlink infotainment unit which makes connecting your phone or punching in a street address a doddle. The large touch-sensitive tablet-esque screen is easy to see and use and the buttons are nice and easy to use even on the fly – although it’s also controllable via toggles on the steering wheel. The main difference between this unit and the one in the 2.5i Premium we tested is that this one gets a 12-speaker harman kardon unit which is awesome.
The seats in the 3.6R are swathed in leather and offer plenty of adjustment but, for me, the seats are just a little too broad but then an, ahem, larger boned driver might not have a problem. Quibble aside, the seats were comfortable on my daily 200km round trip commute. And thanks to the small quarter windows at the front, the thin pillars right around and the lowered dashboard, the Liberty offers excellent vision right around, and that’s not something too many car makers think about.
Under the bonnet, as the name suggests, the 3.6R gets a 3.6-litre six-cylinder Boxer engine that produces 191kW at 6000rpm and 350Nm of torque at 4400rpm. It’s mated to a Lineartronic CVT and returns 9.9L/100km which, for a car with this sort of grunt, is pretty good – it’s also an, ahem, 3.9% drop on its predecessor. Interestingly, in weight-saving move, Subaru dropped the size of the fuel tank from 65 litres to 60 litres, giving a touring range, based on combined fuel consumption, of approximately 600 kilometres.
Press the starter button and the Liberty 3.6R fires easily into life before settling into a growly idle. Prod the throttle and the engine note rises pleasantly and the car moves easily away with the throttle responding nice and progressively. Once up and moving the Lineartronic CVT works smoothly and is well matched to the engine; should you take over and use the steering-mounted flappy paddles the on-board computer tells the transmission to behave “like” a six-speed auto.
On the road, and the new Liberty leaves its predecessor in the dust. The steering is well weighted and quick in its response although it lacks for ultimate feel. The ride is impressive with the Liberty soaking up all but the worst of the road without ever feeling spongy (torsional rigidity has been improved by 167%). Indeed, throw the 3.6R into a corner and the grip from the all-wheel drive and the body’s balance through both long and short, fast and slow corners is impressive. The brakes, like the throttle response, are progressive and meaty in their feel.
Although Subaru has improved the aerodynamics of the new Liberty and improved insulation and added new engine mounts to make the thing quieter, coarser sections of bitumen still see tyre roar creep into the cabin, and beyond 80km/h wind noise from around the A-pillars whispers inside. But, that said, it’s on-par with competitors like the Mazda6 and Ford Mondeo.
Subaru is known for its quality, durability and reliability and after a week with the new Liberty 3.6R I see no reason why that might change with this new car. Everything feels well built and solid with the plastics resisting minor marks (via my thumbnail test), which bodes well for family use.
The entire Liberty range gets Subaru’s clever latest-generation EyeSight which adds colour recognition (meaning it can recognise when the car in front applies or releases its brakes) and pre-collision steering assist, with pre-collision braking (AEB) and adaptive cruise control tweaked to improve performance.
In ANCAP testing the Liberty achieved 35.99 out of 37 making it the best performing Subaru ever and achieving a five-star ANCAP rating. In addition, the Liberty gets seven airbags, EyeSight, all-wheel drive, active-torque vectoring, while all seatbelts have pre-tensioners, a reversing camera (although there are no front and rear parking sensors), and more.
What do you get for your $41,990 (+ORC)? The 3.6R gets sat-nav, leather interior, sunroof, keyless entry and heated seats, LED lowball headlights, electric adjustment for front seats, dual exhaust, chrome accents, harman kardon sound system, three-mode SI-Drive and more. Servicing costs for the Liberty have been detailed in our review of the 2.5i Premium, but it’s worth remembering that based on Subaru’s recommendations you’ll need to service your car twice a year.