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Subaru Liberty 2004 review

But in soul the pair of all-wheel-drive Libertys could not be further apart.

There is the 3-litre R and a 3-litre R-B.

The B stands for Bilstein, giving it a performance edge in the suspension. These Bilstein uprights make all the difference by lavishing the B-spec variant with a harder edge for greater body control, hard-nosed cornerning and a push-me-to-the-edge of adhesion approach.

About the only other way you can tell these two apart without actually getting behind the wheel and haring into a complex of flowing s-bends is by the black leather trim and the 18-inch seven-spoke wheels and Bridgestone Potenzas that are hooked up to either end of both axles in the B-spec.

Both are powered by the silky 3-litre six-cylinder engine that produces an impressive 180kW of power.

A figure that is not too shabby considering its relatively low capacity and reliance on natural atmospheric conditions rather than artificially rammed air.

First-up the B-spec Liberty that uses a version of the WRX STi's 6-speed manual gearbox is blissfully sweet. There is a European feel to its performance with its sprinting capabilities at 80km/h or 100km/h in fourth gear giving it the power to overtake slower traffic without a whimper.

Around tough off-camber corners, the B-spec turns another trick, offering balance, body control and stability from the stiffer Bilstein suspension. While the ride is flat and firm it remains compliant even over chopped-up bitumen of the kind that springs up on Queensland B-roads after heavy summer rains.

The engine and suspension are highlights of a package that remains inherently Japanese in style and flavour but wants for nothing in substance.

Up front the balance of the horizontally opposed boxer engine's low reciprocating mass and positioning well back from the front of the car gives it an almost four-cylinder feel in weight.

But it's not until you press the right pedal with more authority and let all the horses gallop that you are reminded there are six cylinders firing on song.

There are hardly any dull moments in the B-spec which is endowed with soft leather seats with perforated seat cushions, and as with the standard 3-litre and the 2-litre GT which have just joined the 2005 Liberty family, it is pumped with the dynamic 13-speaker McIntosh sound system.

Stepping into the 3-litre R is a bit of a shock; a shock in that it is armed with a totally different persona from the B-spec jigger.

It is powered by the same 180kW motor that extracts almost a neat 300Nm of torque but instead of the close-ratio 6-speed manual, it uses the responsive 5-speed automatic with the Sportshift sequential capability.

While the auto is unsurprisingly a bit tamer than the manual, it is the undercarriage that first emerges as the major difference. It is way softer and the body floats around a bit more when stressed but this characteristic is sure to win its share of admirers.

Away from the harder black interior the standard 3-litre R is dressed with ivory leather inside for a more luxurious feel. The tone of this car strikes a fine balance between luxury and performance whereas the B-spec is slanted toward the latter as its main trait.

Inside there is a change to the trip meter which now displays fuel consumption in litres/100km instead of kilometres a litre.

It's a change for the better although the electronic readouts are a tad hard to read in certain degrees of sunlight.

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Range and Specs

2.0i 2.0L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $4,400 – 7,150 2004 Subaru Liberty 2004 2.0i Pricing and Specs
2.5i 2.5L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $5,100 – 7,920 2004 Subaru Liberty 2004 2.5i Pricing and Specs
2.5i Luxury 2.5L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $5,500 – 8,580 2004 Subaru Liberty 2004 2.5i Luxury Pricing and Specs
2.5i Premium 2.5L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $5,400 – 8,360 2004 Subaru Liberty 2004 2.5i Premium Pricing and Specs