Subaru Liberty & WRX
Subarus Liberty and WRX: Family Entertainment
You dont have to be snowbound to appreciate these all wheel drivers from Subaru in the form of their WRX wagon and larger Liberty. In fact you would be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable driving vehicle that offers this utility for the money. Of course there is a downside and that is the fact that shift action on the highly recommended standard transmission does not fond of being rushed and most importantly Subarus rising prices are pushing the Liberty into the near luxury field. Overall these are immensely capable truly enjoyable and environmentally friendly family transportation. Indeed if you had to sell your sports car when you started your family this is a chance to get it back without anyone being the wiser.
It is no secret that turbocharging is an inexpensive way to get mid-range power increases especially from small displacement engines. The added bonus is that fuel efficiency is not impacted as much as that from supercharging or building heavier larger engineers to gain the same performance. The downside is that it is difficult for some manufacturers to build one that does not have what is called turbo lag which is a pause between the application of pressure to the accelerator and engine response. In the case of the manual transmission Subarus there is virtually no turbo lag. We dont know if that would be the case with the automatic however we would recommend this transmission option if you make daily commutes in congested areas as the Subaru clutch and shifting linkage wear on you after a while. Of course you do sacrifice both in gas mileage and acceleration with the automatic. Our recommendation get the manual transmission and move to the country because it is so much more fun.
In terms of concerns about these two Subarus they were limited to a metal gearshift handle in the WRX and the lack of a fold down rear seat in the Liberty sedan. Of these by far the most bothersome was the gearshift. Difficult to grip almost always too hot to grab in the summer and simply a poor ergonomic shape the shift knob was at best an irritation and at its worst something that had to be covered with a tool on sunny days to keep it from being too hot to grasp. It would certainly be too cold in the winter but gloves would mitigate the metals harshness.
Moms view: The WRX was a bit too small for my money especially since it is priced just a few thousand dollars less than the larger nearly as fast Liberty GT. Of course the racier WRX is more responsive to driver inputs even when equipped with mud and snow tires that nullify some of its brilliant handling abilities.
The Liberty is more relaxed although the steering is precise and its potential literally limitless. Let me explain in detail. A Subaru GT wagon or sedan is priced tens of thousands less than an Audi S4 and yet the Subaru in only a half second slower to 60 mph and has more room. That performance is amazing. This unobtrusive workhorse with its well proven all wheel drive feature can stay with such acknowledged sporty sedans as the Infiniti G35 and Lexus IS 300.
I especially liked the improved interior which has a modern look although it could be more elegant considering its price. The red-and-white gauges are very easy to read and I love the way they sweep once the ignition is keyed. The seats are also comfortable although the WRXs are a bit thin for me. Both cars have good interior space especially in wagon versions but I would have appreciated if the rear seats in the Liberty sedan folded down rather than just offering a ski pass-through. Neither car offers adequate cupholders and both could use more interior storage bins. The basic point that I am making is that this is a vastly better Subaru interior but it is not a class-leading interior.
My biggest concern about the Subaru was its pricing. People who can afford entry level Mercedes Benz Lexus Jaguar and Infiniti nameplates are probably not going to be looking for a Subaru even though they are similarly priced. In other words those potential credit worthy buyers might pass on the Subaru for a more upscale brand. For example a base model Jaguar X with all wheel drive you would have to pay more get less power and not nearly the handling of the Subaru. Of course the interior of the Jaguar is much nicer and the ride more pedestrian. Lets just put it this way girls would you rather tell the group you bought a Jaguar or a Subaru? Enough said.
Overall the WRX is fast handy and almost cuddly. The Subaru Liberty GT is articulate well mannered and muscular. Either way they were perfect gentlemen during my test but I would prefer the larger GT with its smother approach especially at my age.
Dads view: Both of these cars are serious performers well capable of doing daily duty as family haulers while providing badly needed stimulation for those times when you need a little adrenaline. The ride in the WRX is choppy owing to its short wheelbase and that of the Liberty more akin to that of a Camry SE with low profile tires.
The Liberty has been redesigned and its was handsomely done. However the big news isnt the sheet metal but in the form of a modified version of the WRX STi’s 2.5-liter turbocharged engine that produces 250 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque. This four-cylinder engine is going to make you fall in love especially when equipped the standard manual transmission. The five-speed automatic takes some of the edge off acceleration but I would prefer it in daily use. You can save money by opting for the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder but dont drive this model after you test the turbo because you would most likely feel that you left the parking brake on. Dont downplay this engine though because it is less expensive to buy operate and insure and you still get the reassurance of Subarus proven wet weather traction.
Perhaps the greatest praise I could give the WRX is that it is so handy that you tend to forget it is a just a few alterations from being a rally car. As for the Liberty I would prefer it to the excellent Mazda 6 and the similarly priced Honda Accord. In fact I would prefer it to pretty much anything in this price range. Of course you should know that we have owned and enjoyed Subarus in the past so we have a bias.
Young sandwich making males view: Both cars needed premium fuel and with gas prices just this side of home ownership that is something to consider with this pair. Although gas mileage was seldom under 20 mpg it was also seldom close to the 25 cited by the government either. Perhaps it was the irresistible spine straightening acceleration that produced such low gas mileage numbers.
The quick steering on the WRX makes highway travel tiring over time. Just a little input results in lane changes whereas the GT is more lenient. If you talk on a cell phone dont drive the WRX because it does not take kindly to distractions. Braking for both cars is exceptional although the Liberty pedal feel is much too spongy for such a high performance car. It should be pointed out that both of our test cars had very low mileage and that could impact on the mileage and braking performance.
The WRX wagon had a very tight back seat should only be held responsibly for two adults. The Liberty offered more room and better seats. Visibility was very good in these cars and that includes the headlights and night interior lighting.
It is difficult to ignore either of these cars but since the Liberty has been served up with a better chassis thanks to the use of lighter metals a longer wheelbase for more room and better handling a repositioned engine that lowers the center of gravity and a more mainstream exterior I would go that route. Although the WRX is fun the Liberty is more so. In fact I believe that if Subaru has any sense at all they are going to simply put the 300 horsepower STi engine in the Liberty and create BMWs worst nightmare a station wagon that can outperform all but its most expensive machinery.
Young working womans view: This dynamic duo made me yearn for a less responsible nature. They did everything well and never drew negative attention. Standard equipment on the Liberty was four-wheel antilock disc brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution front side-impact airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Another valuable safety feature is front-seat head restraints with dynamic whiplash protection. And with cars this swift safety is a concern because they both can get to 60 mph in six seconds or less making them among the fastest family vehicles you can buy.
We all agreed these were quick cars but what about living with them on a daily basis? Well that is difficult to answer because both of our test cars had standard transmissions that made them eager but demanding to drive especially the peaky WRX. I never did feel at easy with the Subarus clutch despite its easy nature. Other than that the cars were very compelling only straining our relationship with an occasional hick-up while stopping at a traffic light with the air-conditioning on high. The heater was superior the heated seats worked rapidly and the defroster more than adequate to handle an ice storm. Thus I would buy the Outback Liberty wagon with the automatic forget the more expensive turbocharged version and get that English Mastiff from the rescue people I have been pining away for since the family dog died.
Family conference: This one-two turbo punch from Subaru are must drives if for nothing else to help dispel the stodgy image that once befell this manufacture. We highly recommend the Liberty for its value and fun. As for the WRX wagon nothing comes close to it for getting the family pet to the hospital in a hurry. Although the WRX is much more of a hardcore machine it still has a pleasant side. Try the automatic version too. We strongly believe that this latest effort from Subaru is certainly going to capture sales from the competition if potential buyers are interested in family fun in a responsible car.
Written by the Car Family