Subaru Liberty


Dec 11th, 2019

Subaru Liberty

The Subaru Liberty (generally known outside of Australia as the Legacy) is a mid-sized car. It has been on the market since 1989 and is about to enter its seventh generation in 2020. The timelines for each generation are:

  • First Generation (1989-1983)
  • Second Generation (1993-1999)
  • Third Generation (1998-2004)
  • Fourth Generation (2003-2009)
  • Fifth Generation (2009-2014)
  • Sixth Generation (2014-2019)
  • Seventh Generation (Starting 2020)

There's a noble reason why it's called the Liberty in Australia. Subaru chose not to use the name 'Legacy' out of respect for a non-profit organization focused on taking care of military service veterans' families called Legacy Australia

Between 1989 and 1994, this vehicle started in the form of a compact car. Since then, it's been classed as a mid-size car. This car is known for coming with all-wheel drive (AWD) and Subaru's Boxer Engine in all of its variants across the board. These vehicles are assembled either at the Ōta, Gunma (Japan) plant or the Lafayette plant in Indiana (United States).

Car owners and enthusiasts view the Liberty differently, depending on the variant and trim level they have and the market or region where they belong. Some consider it a family car, while others see it as an affordable luxury car. 

Quite a big difference considering that at its core it's the same vehicle!

That comes as no surprise, though, judging by the full range of body types available through all seven generations. There's no question that this flagship car by Subaru is a truly versatile vehicle.

Let's see what each generation has in store.

First Generation (1989-1993)

The first generation came by many names. In Israel, it was known as the B4, while in Japan it was also briefly known as the Isuzu Aska. 

In Australia, it wears the Liberty nameplate instead of Legacy and is available in either 5-door wagon or 4-door sedan body style. One reason why people saw it as somewhat of a luxury vehicle was that it came with accessories that were typical of expensive cars. These items include tech features like power windows and central locking, things that were considered pretty fancy for the late ‘80s to the early ‘90s.

Three trim levels were available, namely, GX, LX, and DL. The GX was considered to be the up-market version of the car, while the LX was the more affordable type and the DL was the most basic version available. All of them came standard with AWD, as mentioned earlier.

In terms of power, the Australian market had access to the SOHC 2.2-Liter engine (100kW, 270 Nm) and the DOHC 2.0-Liter engine (110kW) as options.

Second Generation (1993-1999)

The second generation saw a complete change in its body and chassis, as designed by Olivier Boulay who briefly worked with Subaru. Generally, it came in sedan, standard raised-roof wagon, and flat-roof wagon body types.

The engine types available for the second generation were:

  • 2.0-Liter SOHC EJ20 H4 (with 101 kW of power)
  • 2.0-Liter DOHC EJ20 H4 (with 110 kW of power)
  • 2.2-Liter SOHC EJ22 H4 (with 102 kW of power)
  • 2.5-Liter DOHC EJ25 H4 (with 123 kW of power)
  • 2.0-Liter DOHC twin-turbo EJ20 (with 206 kW of power)

The transmission during this generation was either 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual gearbox.

Most notable during this period was the creation of a sport utility vehicle (SUV) version of the Liberty. It was named after the Australian outback and called the 'Legacy Outback'. Ironically, this version wasn't created in Australia but was created by Subaru of America as a way to catch up with competitors in the SUV market. They decided that it was more feasible to modify the Legacy instead of designing an SUV from scratch.

The Legacy Outback had either a 2.2-Liter SOHC engine (with 101 kW of power) or the 2.50-Liter DOHC engine (with 123 kW) and used either 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual.

Third Generation (1998-2004)

When the third generation of the Subaru Liberty went on sale, all of its models came with Subaru's new symmetrical all-wheel drive (AWD) as a standard feature. The car was classed as a mid-size vehicle, though its emissions matched that of a compact car.

The models that made it to Australian shores were known as the 'B4', and they had an engine producing 190 kW of power for the manual transmission version and 176 kW for the automatic. 

Subaru had to recalibrate the engine specifically for the Australian market. Apparently, the difference in octane ratings in Japan and Australia caused the car's engine to underperform when running on Australian fuel. Even though the rest of the car was great, it was the problematic engine that caused the model to be unpopular in Australia.

Apart from that slight hiccup, the Aussie version of the car came with some seriously high-tech security features. Two good examples of these were the car key immobiliser and a dual-stage security system. The immobiliser ensures that the engine doesn't start if the wrong key is used. The dual-stage system was quite unique in that the remote transmitter acted as the first stage in disarming the alarm system, while a numerical keypad mounted at the car's console was the second stage.

Pretty intense stuff!

Fourth Generation (2003-2009)

After a complete redesign and using a whole new platform, the fourth generation was introduced in 2003. Inside it, the first thing drivers would notice when they started the car was the new electro-luminescent instrument cluster that came on even when the lights on the outside were off. This feature alone gave the vehicle a very modern vibe from the get-go.

Engine types offered for the Australian model were the:

  • 2.0i with 103kW of power
  • 2.5i with 129 kW of power and 227 Nm of torque
  • 2.0GT with 210 kW and 343 Nm
  • 3.0R with 180 kW 297 Nm

The transmissions available during this time were either 4/5 speed automatic or the 5/6 speed manual.

In Australia, the Liberty initially came in BL (with a sedan body type) and BP (with a wagon body type) variants. Some of these variants came optioned with ‘packs’. The Luxury Pack came with a leather interior, power driver seat, sunroof and even a CD player in the dashboard. The Safety Pack, as the name suggests, came with dual airbags on the front and the side curtains. A Premium Pack was also available, combining the features of the Luxury and Safety Packs.

Fifth Generation (2009-2014)

The fifth generation was introduced to the world as a concept car in the US at first. The version that eventually came to Australia was unique. For the most part, it was similar to the European version, but it carried certain features that were only available in the Japanese model.

This version came with some state-of-the-art features like dual-zone climate control inside the car. In Australia, the model also offered satellite navigation through the "WhereIs" service by the Telstra Corporation. 

The Australian models came in three types:

  • 2.5i (with an engine output of 127 kW of power and 230 Nm of torque)
  • 2.5GT (with an engine output 198 kW of power and 350 Nm of torque)
  • 3.6R (with an engine output 191 kW of power and 335 Nm of torque)

Sixth Generation (2014-2019)

The sixth generation of the Liberty saw a better overall build quality for the car. Keeping up with the times, Subaru gave the cabin a much smarter look, which matched its increased connectivity and its suite of driver-aid tech.

Inside, the car is equipped with a navigation system by TomTom as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, allowing effortless smartphone mirroring. Apart from these tech updates, the interior welcomed a cabin redesign and additional storage features. 

In Australia, the car came in three models:

  • 2.5 with an engine producing 129kW and 235 Nm of torque
  • 2.5 Premium with the same outputs but with premium features
  • 3.6R with an engine producing 191 kW of power and 350 Nm of torque

Seventh Generation (Starting 2020)

There's not much information yet about the seventh generation version of the Liberty. What's known for now is that it's mostly keeping the exterior styling of the sixth generation. 

However, it will utilise the torsionally-stiffer Subaru Global Platform. Advance info leaked saying that it will be 40mm longer than the previous version, but the rest of its dimensions will remain as they are.

What we know this early is that two of the upcoming generation’s engines are the 2.5-Liter FB25 H4 engine (with an output of 136 kW and 239 Nm) and the 2.4-Liter FA24 H4-T engine (with an output of 194 kW and 374 Nm).

Subaru has yet to decide when it will be made available in Australia, but be in the know by visiting our website for the latest news, automotive guides, and sources for car maintenance parts in Australia. Check us out now or inquire from! 

- Rasyad 'Ray' Hasbollah