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Liberty GT in limbo land

Hiatus: Liberty GT will be unavailable for the first eight months of 2006.

Next year's tough new emission standards put Subaru's Liberty GT on the bench

Subaru logo10 Oct 2005

TO PARAPHRASE Mark Twain, any rumours about the Subaru Liberty GT’s death are greatly exaggerated.

That is the message from Subaru Australia as it prepares to send its Liberty GT model to the bench in the face of tougher emission standards that come into force from January 1, 2006.

Enthusiasts will have an eight-month wait for the return of the upgraded GT, which will feature a larger 2.5-litre turbocharged engine and close to 200kW in power.

Although Subaru is downplaying the hiatus, the loss of the GT could not have come at a worse time with the arrival last week of the piping-hot Mazda6 MPS.

Subaru expects to lose 100 GT sales a month until the new 2.5-litre car arrives, although executives are adamant the MPS will not steal sales from its own halo car.

Subaru Australia managing director, Nick Senior, also insisted to GoAuto last week that it had not left the barn door open for the MPS to consolidate a strong following.

"Theirs is only a manual and the GT is sold in automatic," he said. "I think the Mazda6 is 200kg heavier than the Liberty GT and I think spec-for-spec we stack up very well.

"Sure, it’s a bit of competition but I expected a much more aggressive offering from Mazda." In an effort to stem leakage to its Hiroshima-based rival, the remaining 300 "special edition" GT sedans and wagons go on sale within months after debuting at next week’s Australian International Motor Show in Sydney.

The GT special is expected to offer a lowered, STi-inspired suspension, subtle under-chin and rear spoilers and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Power will also be up 10kW for both the manual and automatic to deliver 200kW and 190kW respectively.

The cars are expected to sell for a $5000 premium over the outgoing GT, putting retail prices from around $55,000 to $60,000.

Subaru currently sells about 100 GTs a month and since its launch has sold more than 2400.

"Obviously we will lose 100 a month but we’ll sell the 300 limited editions," Mr Senior said. "So in eight months without a GT we’ll lose around 500 cars." As GoAuto reported last week, the MPS is hotly priced at $48,600, undercutting the Liberty GT by $4390 while offering the same peak power output of 190kW in manual guise.

The revised 2007 model year Liberty GT, which will feature a 2.5-litre turbo four, meets Step III emission requirements – and although Subaru refused to confirm power figures last week, GoAuto understands that it will offer close to 200kW.

The MY07 Liberty range is expected to gain some modest external makeovers, improved trim and more standard equipment.

Meanwhile, Subaru’s "special edition" wand will be waved over the new Impreza range next year with a return of the Impreza special edition luxury pack, which was a hit in the run-out of the previous model.

"We sensed about a year ago that there would be a bit of a market with the baby boomers – people who wanted to downsize but didn’t want to compromise on equipment," Mr Senior said.

He acknowledged that higher petrol prices had also forced a shift in buyer patterns.

The 300 Impreza special editions, which featured leather, a sunroof, dual front side airbags and 15-inch alloy wheels, were popular, despite a $2495 premium over the standard car.

Mr Senior said he expected the extra equipment being offered in the model year 06 to help continue the upward trend of buyers downsizing from larger cars into more fuel-efficient four-cylinders.

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