1 Sep 2009
SUBARU’S fifth-generation EZ5-series Liberty range landed in Oz in early September. Built on an all-new platform, its body boasted big gains in space, refinement, driveability, safety, economy and emissions reduction.
The long-serving mid-sized Japanese sedan and wagon range included symmetrical all-wheel drive plus higher equipment levels.
While Subaru carried over modified versions of the existing 2.5-litre four-cylinder boxer engines, the larger 3.6-litre horizontally opposed item (sedan only) from the Tribeca SUV replaced the old 3.0-litre six-cylinder unit.
Furthermore, in the name of significantly better economy and emissions, the volume-selling naturally aspirated 2.5-litre powerplant gained an all-new stepless CVT transmission dubbed Lineartronic.
Meanwhile, the turbocharged 2.5-litre and all six-cylinder models make do with a five-speed automatic gearbox, although the former can also be had with a six-speed manual shifter.
An electronic park brake arrived while more expensive models also get light-sensing headlights, rain-sensing wipers and keyless entry and start.
The newly installed driver’s knee airbag is fitted to every vehicle, helping the Mk5 range to score a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating. Aiding this feat is a cabin that has been strengthened in key areas, as well as an engine cradle that folds to better-absorb impact energy, according to Subaru.
Purists may be disappointed to learn that the latest Liberty finally consigns Subaru’s frameless door fetish to the dustbin in the name of better access through a wider opening arc, as well as improved refinement and strength levels.
Also to that end, the engineers created a single-cradle engine bay that is also said to benefit ride and stability properties.
The 2.5-litre single-overhead-cam normally aspirated horizontally opposed four-cylinder petrol engine produces 123kW of power at 5600rpm and 229Nm of torque at 4000rpm, representing a 4kW drop and a 2Nm increase over the old four-pot Liberty.
Subaru says the combined fuel consumption average and carbon dioxide emissions ratings are 8.9 litres per 100 kilometres and 209 grams per kilometre for the manual (down slightly), while the 2.5i Lineartronic CVT improves on both with 8.4L/100km and 198g/km respectively.
More performance is available in the Liberty GT’s turbocharged and intercooled 2.5-litre twin-cam version, which delivers 195kW at 5600rpm and 350Nm at 2400rpm.
Its consumption and emissions figures are 9.8L/100km (auto: 9.7) and 230g/km (auto: 228) respectively – much improved over the old Liberty GT.
The 3.6-litre boxer six-cylinder engine ups the ante to 191kW at 5600rpm and an equalising 350Nm – but at a higher 4400rpm than the turbo four.
Its respective economy and CO2 emissions are 10.3L/100km and 242g/km – and again these are better than the previous 180kW/297Nm 3.0i unit. Furthermore, the 3.6R can run safely on just 90 RON unleaded petrol, for a two per cent deficit in performance and economy.
As before, the Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive) system is part of the Liberty GT and six-cylinder model specification, delivering a trio of different driving experience choices in the same car.
Subaru says the chassis is lighter than before despite the increased measurements.
Furthermore, prototypes were sent to Australia for testing and retuning – mainly to the suspension and involving the damper and spring rates as well as anti-roll bar size – to make the latest Liberty better suited to local buyer taste.
The front suspension uses a MacPherson strut-type construction with a larger anti roll bar while a new compact double-wishbone rear suspension set-up similar to that found on the latest Impreza small car is mounted to the sub-frame.
Braking has been improved thanks to a newly designed booster that includes a higher response valve for a 20 per cent performance increase.
Bigger than before, the wagon grows in length (+65mm), width (+50mm) and wheelbase (+80mm), while the sedan’s length and width has been stretched 80mm.
The larger and more aerodynamic body liberates space for cargo as well as passengers, Subaru says, thanks to a 30mm rise in the width between the front seats and a 68mm length increase between the front and rear rows, which results in a 99mm and 62mm boost in rear legroom and shoulder room respectively.
Wagon buyers now have an extra 31 litres of cargo space to play with, due to the 19mm gains in width at the wheel arch and an extra 35mm at the quarter panel. Sedan boot space edges up to 47 litres.
Weight gains over the last Liberty (and Outback) are in the region of 17 to 94kg, depending on which model is being assessed.
Standard features include a full suite of safety gear including stability control, as well as dual-zone air-conditioning, 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Subaru released its first dedicated people mover in late 2009 in the form of the Liberty Exiga with aggressive pricing and generous equipment levels.
Unveiled in Japan at the 2007 Tokyo motor show, with sales commencing the following June, the Exiga is specifically designed as a people mover, with a taller-than-normal roofline and extra wide rear doors that open to almost a 90 degree angle to allow for easy entry and egress to and from the 2+2+2 cabin arrangement.
When it was new