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Subaru Liberty 2005 Review

That is just what Subaru has done with its latest little tweak of the wonderful Liberty 3.0-litre.

Answer: a really, really good car with some different characteristics. That is just what Subaru has done with its latest little tweak of the wonderful Liberty 3.0-litre.

Towards the end of last year, Subaru rolled out its 3.0R-B with those same Bilstein shocks, the same 18-inch wheels and the slick six-speed manual from the WRX STi.

What they found was that, in the luxury-aligned Liberty market at least, there were plenty of folk who liked the idea of a car with a more sporty attitude, but damn it if they were going to spend their time changing gears.

The solution was to perform the same tweaks but leave the standard-issue five-speed sportshift auto in place.

The result is a car with all the really good things about the standard 3.0-litre flat-six Liberty but with a slightly tighter, more controlled ride and the willingness, if you are so inclined, to tip it in hard in the twisty bits,

As the automatic is the "garden" variety from the standard range, the new model, at $50,990, actually comes in $1000 cheaper than the six-speed manual. Personally, I'd pay the extra to get that STi box.

The five-speed automatic is reasonably well sorted, not prone to hunting, and can be a bit of fun to drive in its quasi-manual mode.

However, the only real advantage over the manual is in day-to-day traffic, when allowing the car to choose comes into its own.

The 180kW/297Nm 3.0-litre engine has reasonable low-end torque but definitely displays its finest character when stirred up.

In full automatic, the changes are not really aggressive enough to match the chassis, but if forced to hold its gears the 3.0R-B will stay on urge right through the rev range and up to the cutout at about 7200rpm.

You will pay for that sort of driving as fuel economy is not one of the boxer engine's highlight characteristics – more than 13l/100km was not unusual.

Heaven only knows what it would have reached without the active valve control and variable-valve lift technology, which improve fuel consumption and emissions while also maximising power.

The crisp dynamics of the chassis with Bilstein assistance are complemented by sharp steering that makes the Liberty a delight to push.

The ride is acceptably firmer without too much trade-off in quality – a little extra harshness noticeable at low speeds. However, that is forgotten when the speed ramps up, with the B-spec Liberty taut and forgiving. All-wheel drive adds all-weather security to its impressive road-hugging capability. Body: On the highway the cabin is quiet with little noise intrusion to spoil the effect of the brilliant 13-speaker McIntosh sound system. In common with the standard 3.0R, the B-spec car gets a full safety complement of six airbags and impressive five-star crash rating, electric sports seats, cruise control, climate control, dual exhausts, ski hatch, height/reach adjustable Momo leather steering wheel and sunroof.

The interior ambience is more European than Japanese – and that is a watershed. Without badges it would be impossible to nominate which of the prestige brands this one might be. There are some nice little touches that mean nothing other than offering a momentary delight – such as the speedo and tacho needles swinging through the full arch of their dials before settling back each time the car is turned on.

Silly stuff, but memorable nonetheless.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

2.0i 2.0L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $4,600 – 7,480 2005 Subaru Liberty 2005 2.0i Pricing and Specs
2.0i Luxury 2.0L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $4,500 – 7,260 2005 Subaru Liberty 2005 2.0i Luxury Pricing and Specs
2.5i 2.5L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $5,000 – 7,810 2005 Subaru Liberty 2005 2.5i Pricing and Specs
2.5i Premium 2.5L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $5,300 – 8,250 2005 Subaru Liberty 2005 2.5i Premium Pricing and Specs
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