Car Review: 2016 Subaru Liberty Sedan.

Subaru has been an integral part of the Australian motoring landscape for close to five decades now and sells solidly, if not spectacularly. That looks set to change, if March 2015 sales figures are anything to go by, thanks to the recent update to the Liberty range.

There’s an overall increase for the Japanese car maker of five percent for March, with a three point five percent increase on a year to date basis; Liberty itself sold 425 units whilst the ever popular Outlander moved an impressive and record setting 1180.

A Wheel Thing samples the 2016 Liberty sedan, in Premium spec and 2.5L engine, to see what’s been done to impress an increasing number of Aussies.2016 Subaru Liberty 2.5L

The test car was powered by Subaru’s dependable 2.5L petrol engine. It’s also the familiar flat or “boxer” four cylinder configuration, with a hint of the throb the engine is noted for being emitted via the now single pipe exhaust. Power and torque (129 kW/235 Nm @ 5800/4000 rpm) go to all four wheels via Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT.2016 Subaru Liberty 2.5L boxer engine

As are all CVT’s nowadays, it’s programmed with shiftpoints, six in this case and allows manual selection via paddles on the steering wheel’s rear. Petrol is stored in a 60 litre tank, with the engine tuned to run on 91RON, with economy claimed to be at 6.3L/9.0L/7.3L per 100 kilometres (highway, urban, combined). It’s EURO6 compliant, with emissions pegged at 167 grams per kilometre.

The Suit.
The most overt sign of change is at the front, with a larger grille, a more upright look, an aluminuim bonnet and a more integrated headlight assembly, compared to the angular and over extended mess on the previous model. There’s globe lit driving lights on either side of the lower air intake, sitting deep inside the strakes of the aerodynamic front bar.2016 Subaru Liberty 2.5L 1

At the blunt end, tail lights are an evolution of the former, with a nicely styled look across the rear as they sit underneath the integrated rear deck spoiler.2016 Subaru Liberty 2.5L Premium rear

There’s some minor panel join changes, however you’d have to be an “anorak” to notice them. In profile, there’s some minor changes to the rear window line, there’s two crease lines joining front and rear and the Liberty sits on 225/50/18 Dunlop rubber, wrapping some gorgeous 10 spoke bare metal and black painted alloys.2016 Subaru Liberty 2.5L alloy

On The Inside.
There’s two easily spotted and used buttons to heat the well padded but flat seats for driver and passenger, placed on the lower section of the centre console (no cooling?). The driver’s seat was fully electric, the passenger seat was manual. There’s some bolstering to the sides and hips however the overwhelming impression was sitting on, not in, the seats. The driver does get, though, a two position memory.2016 Subaru Liberty 2.5L Premium interior

Dash and Console.
Simply stated: clean and uncluttered. A Wheel Thing appreciated good ergonomics and it’s here in bucketloads inside the Liberty range. The main dash dials are lit with a deep cobalt blue light, bisected by a full colour LCD screen with information showing instant fuel usage (expressed as a percentage), warnings such as Lane Departure and kilometres covered.

The centre dash console has a touchscreen, 7 inches on the Premium, with an elegant, almost piano black, look to the surrounds. There’s a set of menus, clearly laid out, taking you through to Settings, Navigation and more. It’s a clean and crisp look to the whole system and devilishly easy to use.2016 Subaru Liberty 2.5L 2

Heating and cooling is dual zone, with two large dials to select the temperature and a light gunmetal grey finish to the selection buttons. Temperatures are displayed in large and bright LCD’s; a downside to this section is the tiny clock display; it’s too small and needs to be relocated to a more visible point.

Steering Wheel.
It’s adjustable for reach (in/out) and rake (up/down), is well sized in diameter and has a good grip for the hand. There’s controls for audio on the left and Cruise Control on the right, with the aforementioned paddle shifts easily reached at fingertip length. Again, it’s an ergonomic highlight.
Driving wise, there’s also the SI Drive, featuring two electronic programs, being Intelligent and Sports.

Sound System.
The submenu is, again, easy to follow; there’s Bluetooth connectivity plus USB and Auxiliary, CD and six speakers (top of the range gets 12 speakers via Harman Kardon). It’s well weighted with the sound mix, enough bass to punch through and clear with midrange and treble giving a well defined sound stage, out of the box.

Subaru has its proprietary radar system called Eyesight. Mounted to the left and right of the rear vision mirror, much like human eyes and a nose, lay two cameras. They tie in with the cruise control, providing a distance and collision avoidance system, tail light recognition, pre-collision steering assist and more.Subaru eyesight

Naturally, there’s airbags aplenty and electronic assistance; acronyms abound with TCS, ABS, ECT and TVS, the latter standing for Torque Vectoring System, whereby torque from the all wheel drive is sent to the corner needing it most. Airbags feature for driver, passenger and rear seat with curtain ‘bags plus the driver gets a kneebag as well.

Other Highlights.
The front door arm rests have a blue LED highlighting the hand grab and there’s puddle lights in the bottom of the doors. Rear seats are 60/40 split fold and easy dropped down to a prone position via a lever at the top. There’s plenty of cargo space at 493L (seats up). Looking upwards, there’s a sunroof to provide some natural light.2016 Subaru Liberty 2.5L 3

On The Road.
It’s here that, for A Wheel Thing, this car displayed a considerable flaw. In this driver’s eyes, it’s the over sensitive and assisted steering setup. On pickup, the tyres were somewhat under pressured; when brought up to pressure, the ride hadn’t improved but the increase in tyre pressure was noticeable.

The steering had the Lane Departure warning system activating on a constant basis, such was the excess in assistance. Even the lightest of touches seemed to have the car veering left or right. To say it was disconcerting is an understatement. Left to its own devices, on a flat and straight surface, the car would track straight and true, but it rarely imbued the driver with a full feeling of confidence.

The suspension itself was well sprung, if a touch soft at times; again, that tyre pressure differential was noticeable. Over the short metal speed bumps in car parks, the give in the ride was apparent, however there was minimal body roll.

Acceleration is reasonable, not brisk, with those torques coming in at a relatively high 4000, it takes a good shove of the go pedal to reach them. There’s also that unavoidable delay between Reverse and Drive, taking somewhere between a half and full second for forward motion to be re-engaged. braking is good, with enough of a progression on the pedal to not feel as if the system is underbraked.2016 Subaru Liberty 2.5L boot

The Wrap.
Subaru’s 2015/2016 range of Liberty variants are good lookers; it’s a definite case of quiet evolution and it’s working, judging by the numbers I’m seeing on the road, even though the car hasn’t been on sale for long. It’s a handsome enough looker, reasonably frugal if you don’t have a heavy right foot, full of safety features and the interior freshen up has given it some new life.

The over assistance in steering, the odd decision to shrink the clock to almost insignificance and the somewhat weird (on the test car) suspension pull the Liberty Premium back a couple of notches. Pricewise, it sits just under $40K driveaway, putting it within reach of the lower level Euro cars.
Backed by a three year, unlimited kilometre warranty (falling behind compared to the Koreans) and a 12 month Roadside Assistance package, there’s peace of mind included.

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