Subaru Liberty 3.6R is a wolf in sheep’s clothing
What is it?
The Subaru Liberty 3.6R, the flagship of the current Liberty line-up, and the only Liberty fitted with the 3.6 litre flat six engine.
What’s it cost?
The Subaru Liberty range opens with the Liberty 2.5i priced from $30,240 (plus on roads) and then climbs to the Liberty 3.6R as tested here, which has a recommended retail price of $43,140 plus on roads.
Standard equipment is more than generous. All Liberty models are equipped with all-wheel drive and a six-speed CVT as standard, but the 3.6R is packed with goodies such as Subaru’s EyeSight system that includes adaptive cruise, autonomous emergency braking and blind spot monitoring.
There’s also front, side and rear cameras, satellite navigation, a Harmon/Kardon stereo, climate control, leather trim and seat heating for the front seats.
What’s it go like?
The Liberty 3.6R is a hoot to drive, is a sensible and refined way. Let’s start with that engine. The 3.6 litre Boxer six produces a healthy 191kW @ 6000rpm and 350Nm @ 4400rpm and it delivers its power and torque smoothly and enthusiastically. Unlike Subaru’s four cylinder engines, the six has a raspy, throaty and addictive exhaust note that eggs you on to push the Lib just that little bit further. And when you do, you’re backed up by informative steering, predictable handling and a tightly controlled body.
The ride, is slightly firmer than that out its more adventurous Outback brother, but it’s more than comfortable enough, with only the sharpest of bumps making it through to the cabin.
Perhaps the only chink in the Liberty’s driving experience armour is that Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT). It doesn’t seem well matched to that engine. That 3.6 litre powerplant is refined and smooth, but a little peaky and we feel that the CVT’s relaxed nature is at odds to the athletic engine. Drivers can swap between six artificial cogs via paddles mounted on the steering wheel, but we feel a conventional six-speed automatic would be better suitor.
Still, Subaru claims the Liberty 3.6R will hit 0-100km/h in 7.2 seconds and we believe them and there are number driving modes available through the SI Drive system. Interestingly – and perhaps mercifully for some, unlike the 2.5 litre models, the 3.6 isn’t fitted with a fuel saving start/stop system. Subaru claims it’ll do 9.9 litres on a combined cycle and we managed a relatively close 10.5 litres. Not bad for something of this size and performance.
What’s it like inside?
The Liberty 3.6R’s interior is a little bit like its exterior – restrained, fuss free, elegant if a little too understated. All materials are of high quality and the seats are fabulously comfortable, managing to be both soft and supportive.
Up front, there’s plenty of head and legroom for driver and passenger. In the back, leg and shoulder room is fine, but passengers over six feet tall will find themselves having to slouch, otherwise their heads will be hard pressed against the roof lining.
The dash layout may be a little bland to behold, but the instrument cluster is clearly legible, the voice control is effective and Subaru’s infotainment system is easy to fathom. The Harmon/Kardon stereo is outstanding offering up huge power and clean, crisp sound.
Overall, the Liberty 3.6R cabin is a very pleasant place to sit.
What we like:
- That characterful six-cylinder engine
- Impressive performance
- Equipment levels
What we don’t:
- CVT blunts the driving experience
- A little too understated for a performance sedan, and there needs to be more differentiation between the Liberty 3.6R and other models in the Liberty range. The Toyota Camry SX V6 is similarly priced, just as fun to drive and more visually aggressive.
- That infotainment system can look a little cheap
- Parking sensors are only available as a dealer fitted option
Sale or no sale?
Yes, we’d buy a Liberty 3.6R. Fast, fun, a little different and good value.