I have had this car for a few years now, as a second car to run myself and kids to work/school, plus the occasional fun drive on weekends. So it had to be affordable, reasonably practical, reliable, and still have enough power and good handling for occasional winding road blasts.
I have always loved the look of the Gen 4 Liberty, this being my fifth Liberty and second Gen 4. The interior isn’t huge, but it is practical enough as a second car with four doors and a good-size boot. Also, it is very well made and everything is laid out nicely. Being an older car now, it has no Bluetooth and such as standard, but has a good sound system and all the normal comfort features.
The main reason for picking this car is that it’s one of the few that on the right road everything just gels together. The way the engine just revs so smoothly and makes decent power, the gearbox and gearing are just spot on. It keeps the engine on song and has a brilliant smooth but defined STI gearbox that never feels strained or clunky. The engine makes enough power to have fun, but the beauty of it is just how smooth it revs and never feels unwilling.
You have the combination of a great-feeling drivetrain and the handling of constant AWD, then you add in the Bilstein suspension with decent-size 18-inch wheels/tyres. So it doesn’t roll like a normal sedan can and has a neutral handling feel. That gives you confidence to push hard through the corners, and makes it a really nice driver’s car combination.
It has been reliable in the sense that it has never, ever let me down or broken down, but has needed some normal maintenance items: new front brakes, front wheel bearings, and I just put a new clutch in. But it can be argued those are all normal wear and tear items – especially with how quickly it sometimes gets punted around tight, twisty roads. The car still feels tight with no rattles or annoying noises. No major work looks like needing to be done any time soon.
I have considered replacing it for something newer many times, but to get something that ticks all the boxes and has that feeling of everything gelling together like it does in this car is either (a) hard to find or (b) not justifiable in price for a second car that sits at work all day.
Fuel economy is not the best, but for the extra performance and smoothness of the 3.0-litre boxer over the 2.5-litre four-cylinder, it is worth it. And driven sedately, especially on a highway run, it can actually be surprisingly efficient.
It is a shame Subaru does not do a new Gen 6 Liberty 3.6R with the STI manual gearbox and Bilstein suspension, as this would be an awesome car to replace it with. This only really leaves the WRX manual or another brand of car. But there is just something about the boxer six and STI gearbox combination.