Subaru Liberty X Road Test
Review by Tristan Tancredi - 20 March 2013
Subaru have introduced to the market a Liberty Variant with a notable raised ground clearance: The Subaru Liberty 2.5X and the Subaru Liberty 3.6X.
It was time to get to know these two models, thus began our "Two Week Subaru Liberty Road Testing Adventure". First up, we were given the keys to the Liberty 2.5X which is fitted with a horizontally-opposed boxer 4-cylinder petrol engine. Week Two arrived and we became acquainted with the more powerful big brother, the Liberty 3.6X. Increased power was the sticking point due to a 6-cylinder petrol engine.
Let's take a closer look at how both of these Fifth Generation Liberty models stacked up.
Despite being a smooth, refined drive with a suitable and highly capable CVT transmission, the Liberty 2.5X disappoints when the driver really needs the car to perform (It failed to impress on our steep incline test by struggling up the hill). The 6-Cylinder 3.6X outperformed the 2.5X and maintained a well-balanced, highly balanced drive.
The Liberty 2.5X and the Liberty 3.6X are both fitted with a heap of driving aids to improve the driving experience. The most impressive driving aid is Subaru "Eyesight".
Eyesight Driver Assist System is a second pair of eyes watching the road ahead to prevent any unfortunate accidents. A pair of cameras are fitted inside the roof of the Liberty and point toward the path ahead. Included with "Eyesight System" are a host of features including; Pre-collision braking system, Pre-collision throttle management, Lead vehicle start alert, Adaptive cruise control, Pre-collision brake assist, Lane sway warning, Lane departure warning and Electronic Throttle Control system (ETC).
We tested out the Pre-Collision braking system (Purposely and Safely) during our thorough testing of the vehicle. A warning beep will initially sound if closing in too fast to an object (vehicle) in front. If the driver fails to react or brake after the warning, brake assist will kick in and automatically slow the vehicle down. From our experience, this feature works wonders and is a fantastic addition.
On the flip side, Lane Departure Warnings are damn annoying! We see the benefit of said warnings, we just had to turn them off to stop us going stir-crazy. Lane Departure warnings are a great idea. However, in this case, they sway from being ridiculously sensitive to completely useless (failed to work at night in the rain).
The 2.5X and the 3.6X both run via Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, this translates to even control across all four wheels of the vehicle. The results are a dynamic, well handled driving experience (Even more-so utlising the paddle shifters).
The vehicles are fitted with a Vehicle Dynamics Control System, this features; Electronic Stability Control, ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Brake Assist, Traction Control System, Hill Hold Assist and a Reversing Camera.
The 3.6X incorporates Subaru Intelligent Drive. Three modes; Intelligent (Fuel conservation), Sport and Sport # are on offer.
The Subaru Liberty 2.5X houses a horizontally-opposed boxer 4-cylinder, petrol engine. The 3.6X is powered by a bigger and better horizontally opposed boxer 6 cylinder, petrol engine.
The 4 Cylinder engine is slightly underwhelming. Despite delivering a smooth driving experience, the engine strains rather than performs when administered with full throttle. That's not to say it is slow, just surprisingly lack-lustre. Maximum Power figures for the 2.5X are 127kW @ 5600rpm and maximum torque is 235Nm @ 4100rpm.
A step up from the 4 Cylinder engine, in both performance and price, is the 6 Cylinder engine fitted to the 3.6X. This engine is clearly the pick of the Liberty range. An increase in maximum power (191kW @ 5600rpm) and an increase in maximum torque (350Nm @ 4400rpm) results in improved on-road performance, greater speed and more enjoyment behind the wheel, albeit at a greater cost.
Subaru lists The 2.5X as consuming 8.0L per 100kms. Expect that figure to be a little generous (we assume there was a lot of downhill driving during testing). We racked up 10.3L per 100kms. For the 3.6X, Subaru has listed 10.3L per 100kms, again this seems to be generous as we were closer to 12.0L per 100kms. Fuel consumption is the weakest aspect of this Liberty range.
Engine noise for both the 2.5X and 3.6X is pleasant and quiet resulting in a peaceful cabin experience.
The most notable exterior feature that distinguishes this vehicle from fellow Liberties is the high ground clearance. The 2.5X and the 3.6X are high-riding vehicles, this means, the vehicles sit high on the road, more-so than other Liberties in the model range.
The extra clearance give prospective car buyers an option to buy a mid-sized vehicle more capable for outer-city, country roads.
Both variants include 18" Alloy Wheels, an Electric Sunroof, Automatic Headlights and Wipers and a stylish, sophisticated design. 476 litres of boot space is available.
The Subaru Liberty is awarded with a 5-Star ANCAP safety rating.
A host of safety features are crammed into both the 2.5X and 3.6X. These features include; dual front SRS airbags, dual front side SRS airbags, curtain SRS airbags, drivers side knee airbag, whiplash reduction seats and safety pedals.
Subaru "Eyesight" features Eyesight™ featuring: Pre-collision braking system, Pre-collision throttle management, Lead vehicle start alert, Adaptive cruise control, Pre-collision brake assist, Lane sway warning, Lane departure warning, Electronic Throttle Control system (ETC).
The Liberty also features a Vehicle Dynamics Control System, this includes; Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist, Traction Control System (TCS), TCS Limited Slip Device, 4-wheel disc brakes, Electronic parking brake, Hill hold switch and a Rear view reverse camera.
Classified as a mid-sized car, both the Subaru Liberty 2.5X and the 3.6X have a surprising abundance of space. Space is not only limited to the front passengers. Rear passengers are well looked after in this department.
Comfortable leather seating is on offer, for a price tag in excess of $40,000 for a mid sized car, it bloody well better be. A welcome addition to the leather seating is heated front seats which work wonders to warm your bum on cool mornings. The drivers positioning is quite high (due to the added ground clearance) and allows for unrestricted views to the road ahead.
The 3.6X differs from the 2.5X with the addition of Electroluminescent gauges (with colour MFD), steering wheel "Eyesight" controls and slightly more aesthetic trims and finishes. Both vehicles incorporate Push Button Start and an Electronic Park Brake.
Now forgive me whilst I rant here, but I have to get the disappointment of the McIntosh Entertainment System off my chest.
The major problem we encountered with the Entertainment system was the lock out of the touch screen. To put it plainly, You can't browse an iPod whilst the car is in motion! Sure you can browse songs within an album (using steering wheel controls), but to change an album the car has to be stationary.
Therefore, hypothetically, if taking a road trip you would have to pull over each time you wanted to change an album. It is beyond stupid. (Before anyone chimes up, we searched the settings, we scoured the manual, we just couldn't turn this off!)
As well as this, the standard sound system is poor and the 10 speakers within the cabin are sub standard. Surely a premium audio system should be standard for such a costly vehicle.
Bluetooth, Radio, AUX and USB connectivity is all standard. A built-in satellite navigation system is easy to use and works quite well. The entertainment and navigation systems are displayed on an 8" touch screen that dominates the centre console.
Despite the Entertainment System concerns, inside the Liberty is a pleasant place to be. Spacious for front and rear passengers, comfortable leather seating and a well designed front dash (Albeit with a little too much cheap plastic for a car of this price).
The Subaru Liberty X is a mixed bag of sorts. On one hand it has an abundance of space, handles smoothly and takes corners with precision. Yet on the other hand, it has a flawed entertainment system, strains when administering full throttle and is expensive.
It's hard to recommend this car plainly due to it's retail price. The 2.5X is priced from $44,490 and the 3.6X is priced from $55,990. Simply put, there are cheaper cars available that offer a similar driving experience.
Nonetheless, it is a spacious, comfortable mid-sized sedan. Oozing style and class, be sure to take one for a test drive.
* Prices are manufacturer list prices only, for the drive away price please contact your local authorised Subaru dealer.
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