Give us Liberty: Looking back at the Subaru Liberty’s time in Australia

Australia’s not getting the new Subaru Liberty, so it’s nostalgia time

Goodbye Subaru Liberty

It’s official, the new Subaru Liberty (or Legacy, as it’s known elsewhere in the world) isn’t coming to Australia after more than 30 years on our shores.

We’re rather big fans of the Liberty, here at MOTOR, and our colleagues across the WhichCar network are too.

Hot versions of the Subie sedan have graced the pages of MOTOR many times, while our mates at Wheels Magazine have given past iterations of the Liberty the coveted Wheels Car of the Year award. Twice.

By 1991, two years after launch, the car had sold 10,000 units here and by 2009, more that number was more than 120,000. The past decade has been quieter for the Liberty, but it’s still been there, likeable and, according to Subaru, with a “reputation for engineering, safety, durability and retained value.’

We thought we’d gather some of our favourite reviews (and some from Wheels!) and take a look back to remember a car most of our readers seem to share a soft spot for. Enjoy!

1990 Subaru Legacy RS RA Handling Jpg

Celebrating 30 Years of STI - 1990 Subaru Legacy RS RA

In 2018, we set our veteran journo David Morley out to gather some of Subaru’s hot heroes, badged with ‘STI’, for Subaru Tecnica International and not the other thing.

Joined by a ’98 22B and a 2000 WRX Type R was a Subaru Legacy RS RA, the car that kicked it all off for STI.

“Just as a Walkinshaw VL will always be the seminal HSV and that crazy, 6.8-litre 300 SEL racecar is revered as the first AMG, so too does the Legacy RS RA represent a line in the sand. As STi’s first full model, the RA is the grand-daddy of them all.”

2001 Subaru Liberty B4 vs Volkswagen Bora V6 4Motion

Another first, the Liberty B4 marked the beginning of turbocharging for the Liberty.

2001 Subaru Liberty B 4 Handling Jpg

Our writer at the time notes: “Not impressed? Then realise this; the Liberty B4 has almost the same power as a 5.0-litre V8 yet weighs about 150kg less than an XR8.”

Against the Bora V6? The verdict seemed to put the Liberty way out in front.

2004 Subaru Liberty 3.0R-B review

“The 3.0-litre Liberty Spec-B is one of the finest cars we’ve driven this year,” wrote former MOTOR Editor Jesse Taylor back in 2004.

2004 Subaru Liberty Rear Jpg

“The addition of the 180kW, 3.0-litre flat-six (first seen in the Outback), along with the six-speed manual WRX STi gearbox and stiffer, Bilstein-equipped suspension transform the Liberty from able family truckster to wicked wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing sports sedan.”

2007 Subaru Liberty GT Spec B review

The GT was the saviour during what another former MOTOR Ed. (and now WhichCar Editor) Tim Robson called at the time “a bit of a lean patch” for hot Subaru Liberties.

“With a tweaked-up 2.5-litre turbo boxer, a STi-spec six-speed manual option, and matched Bilstein dampers, the reborn GT provides a drive worthy of the title.”

That boxer was putting out 184kW and 339Nm, very respectable at the time, while rolling on pretty 18s and just generally being a bit of a sleeper. Perfect Liberty, then!

2008 Subaru Legacy STI S402 review

“The best-performing, best-handling Legacy ever,” is what we called the Legacy STI S402. Okay, so it’s a Legacy and one we never got here in Oz as a Liberty, but the thing could do 0-100km/h in a claimed 5 flat. That thanks to a 210kW version of the 2.5 Boxer turbo.

2008 Subaru Legacy STI S402 rear

Plus, featuring in our Sep 2008 issue means it kind of came to Australia… right?

2016 Subaru Liberty review - Wheels

The later Liberty, the one we’re now saying farewell to, wasn’t quite the super sleeper we’d become used to in the past.

Our mates at Wheels spent more time behind the more recent generation than we did.

“Not a drivers’ sedan, but it does offer practicality and spaciousness in a package with good resale and reliability.”

2018 Subaru Liberty 3 6 R Front Jpg

2018 Subaru Liberty 3.6R quick review

Similarly, we took the atmo flat-six 3.6R (guess the engine capacity…) for a quick spin not too long ago and found that while it felt a sturdy thing, it wasn’t exactly an involving driver’s car.

We imagine part of the reason it won’t be here any longer is to do with slowing sedan sales, while there’s also the fact its competition has surpassed it, but we’ll not soon forget the good times the Subaru Liberty gave us.


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