The fifth generation Subaru Liberty has been spied, in jacked-up Subaru Outback wagon guise, at least 18 months away from its debut.
Wearing some body cladding, the Outback mule was snapped during testing in California, USA, and reveals a number of structural and styling changes compared with the current generation model, which is now four years old.
The new Subaru Liberty/Outback body is sleeker than today’s car, with a more heavily raked A-pillar and a rear door aperture that is less square.
Headlights get projector beams, and are smoother in shape than before, lacking the sharp outer edges of the current model – indeed, the lights look much like those on Holden’s recently released Malibu. It also appears that daytime running lights or blinkers flank the lower trailing edge of the headlight.
The bonnet is now slightly raised with a more prominent dip towards the front guards compared with the flatter bonnet of the current model.
An Outback tradition, the horizontal multi-slat front grille is now larger than ever, cutting lower in the front bar.
Door mirrors move from their traditional mould adjacent to the front windows, to hinge upward from the door skin, leaving room for a front three-quarter window for the first time ever. The Outback also follows the new generation Impreza, which also debuted a front three quarter window.
A more rounded design theme wraps rearward with a less upright tailgate with a prominent curvature rise towards the rear window, and wider number plate opening.
The rear tail-lights also appear to no longer stretch into the rear tailgate, the guard-mounted square units similar in shape to that of the current Impreza.
A near-undisguised interior shot reveals a similar door handle design to the current model, with three buttons for the seat memory settings on this obviously higher-grade test car.
The speedometer and tachometer are deeply recessed within separate oval-shaped binnacles covered by an angular hood. The plastics quality, and three-spoke steering wheel, appears to closely follow that of the current generation Impreza.
Square central air vents, split by a red hazard lights switch, appears traditional in design, encased within the vertical square centre stack itself, topped by what appears to be a speaker.
Having recently launched an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) that teams with the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel flat four cylinder engine, it is likely this combination will continue in the new generation.
The new-generation of petrol four cylinder engines that debuted in Subaru Impreza and Forester will also translate into the Liberty and Outback, complete with economy-chasing stop-start technology.
Depending on how much weight Subaru engineers can pull out of the car, which currently weighs 1398kg in base sedan form, the 2.0-litre non-turbo version with 110kW of power and 196Nm of torque may appear. If it does, it will be the first time a Liberty gets a 2.0-litre engine since the third generation model bowed out in 2009.
The 2.5-litre version will feature prominently in the range, however, now with at least 126kW and 235Nm – up 3kW and 6Nm on the current Liberty – which are the outputs of the current Forester.
With the Subaru Tribeca not being replaced, it is unlikely Subaru will develop a next generation six-cylinder boxer engine to replace the current 191kW/350Nm 3.6-litre. Instead the Forester’s 2.0-litre turbo four cylinder will replace it, which makes almost as much power (177kW) and the same torque, yet uses around 20 per cent less fuel.
That leaves room for an engine that won’t be found in the Outback, but will be grabbed by the Liberty GT from the next generation Subaru WRX.
Subaru has confirmed it is producing a tuned version of the Forester 2.0-litre turbo for the next WRX, that will offer greater outputs than the current 195kW/350Nm 2.5-litre in the Liberty GT, stretching towards the 221kW and 407Nm made by the current WRX STi (read more here). That strongly indicates that a 2.5-litre turbo petrol engine will fold with the 3.6-litre six cylinder, in favour of a high-power 2.0-litre.
The USA is an important market for Subaru.
Given the last Liberty concept was shown at the 2009 Detroit auto show, the WRX Concept was at the 2013 show, and the production WRX is expected at Frankfurt in September, all bets are on for a Liberty concept to surface in Motor City at the next show, in January next year.