Subaru liberates new-generation Liberty

27 February 2019

JUST a mere decade ago, sedans were a dominate force in the Australian marketplace thanks to the likes of the home-grown Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon.

Now however, an SUV is essential for success in the local marketplace, sending the four-door family hauler tumbling down the sales charts.

As a result, Subaru’s all-new seventh-generation Liberty – revealed at the Chicago motor show in US-spec Legacy form – is under a cloud for introduction to Australian showrooms.

Subaru’s seventh version of the Liberty sedan was revealed in early February at the Chicago motor show, but whether the car makes it Down Under is still to be confirmed.

The Japanese manufacturer is remaining mum on whether it will build the mid-size sedan in right-hand-drive form, which casts a shadow over Toyota Camry-fighting all-wheel-drive Liberty.

What is known though, is that a turbocharged engine is returning to the Liberty nameplate – at least stateside – in the form of a force-fed 2.4-litre boxer unit.

With outputs reaching 194kW/376Nm, the continuously-variable transmission-equipped Liberty can accelerate from zero to 60mph (97km/h) in just 6.1 seconds, which should be enough to give the 170kW/420Nm front-drive, turbo-petrol Mazda6 pause.

Though not an STI version, a turbocharged engine will finally return to the Liberty, this time in the form of a 194kW/376Nm 2.5-litre unit.

However, the sad news is that this new turbo-petrol engine will likely replace the current 191kW/350Nm 3.6-litre six-cylinder flagship in service in the 3.6R-spec Liberty.

Meanwhile, the other engine also available in the new Liberty includes a 136kW/239Nm 2.5-litre direct injection four cylinder (shared with the newest Forester), which is expected to replace the current car’s 129kW/235Nm unit.

The shift to a new generation also means the Liberty now moves onto Subaru’s new global platform that already underpins the Impreza, XV small SUV and Forester.

The new-gen Liberty also migrates to Subaru’s new global platform, meaning a lighter chassis, increased stiffness and boosted safety gear.

This means that all versions of the new Liberty feature active torque vectoring, automatic engine idle-stop and, as with the rest of Subaru’s range barring the Toyota co-developed BRZs, all-wheel drive.

The suspension setup has also been tweaked for improved dynamic performance, while brakes also increase in size and the new platform affords a lower centre of gravity.

As expected, safety equipment also receives a huge boost too, with an up-to-date EyeSight front-facing camera system featuring, as well as the expected reversing camera, autonomous emergency braking and lane-keep technology.

Styling though, largely stays the same in the new Liberty, with understated and mature lines melding together to form a grown-up aesthetic.

Inside, dimensions have grown with more shoulder room for front occupants, more legroom for rear-seat passengers and increased hip room for everyone.

The infotainment system is now also an 11.6-inch full high definition touchscreen unit, which the brand is boasting is its “largest, most advanced infotainment screen ever”, and sports the usual array of features such as WiFi, Bluetooth connectivity and output to a premium Harman Kardon speaker system.

However, the one thing that seems to have remained fairly constant is the Liberty’s styling, which largely mirrors its predecessor that was in production from 2014 until now.

Sixth-generation Subaru Liberty.  Because styling has not departed too much from the previous version, the sixth-generation Liberty still feels modern and fresh.

For those that want a bit more performance however, it was in the fifth-generation Liberty where things got a bit spicier with the Japanese-only 2.5GTs, which featured STI enhancements that improved handling.

The fourth-generation Liberty, in production from 2003-2009, was also granted a GT grade that was tuned by STI, as well as a full-fat Japan-exclusive version with a 210kW/392Nm turbocharged 2.5-litre motor.

Third-generation Liberty was also treated to an STI version in 2002, with only 286 units produced out of a targeted run of 400, underpinned by a twin-turbo 2.0-litre engine and uprated brakes.

Third-generation Subaru Liberty STI.  For those that want a bit of performance with their practicality, the third-generation Liberty even featured an STI version complete with a twin-turbocharged 2.0-litre engine.

The era of Liberty we remember mostly fondly though, is likely the second iteration that was in service from 1993-1999, likely because there was only always parked up the street of our family home.

Kicking things off was the first-generation version that was in production from 1989-1994, kicking off the nameplate that would celebrate its 30th birthday this year.

Despite the ups and downs of each successive generation of Liberty, you have to give credit to Subaru for keeping around for so long since competitors such as the Mazda 626 and Holden Epica have either had to rebrand themselves or disappeared altogether.

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