Would I recommend a Subaru Legacy (Liberty in Australia)? You bet. The 2007 2.5 wagon I bought last year proved to be a capable, reliable car with a great ride and handling balance and a peppy engine. It was arguably the most practical purchase I had ever made, even for a person as pragmatic and frugal as myself. So why did I sell it after only 9 months?
I didn’t love the Liberty. I never did. It never received an affectionate nickname. I never took many photos of it other than on its last day. I don’t even recall making a celebratory Facebook post after buying it, or rushing to show it to my friends. But, by God, I respected it. And I will stand up and recommend this car to any used car shopper.
You may recall my most recent COAL on my 2007 Holden Calais. I had gone through the process of becoming an Uber driver and right as I was about to earn some money, the Calais developed a series of ghastly noises. It needed relatively expensive repairs but it had already ticked past 200,000 km and I just didn’t see it being worth the expense. In record time, I undertook a hunt for a replacement car and bought one before I had even found a buyer for the Calais. Ironically, I only ended up driving for Uber for two nights. Turns out, almost a decade of working in customer service was enough for me. Despite my short time with Uber, people still ask me to this day what it’s like to work for them.
My “new” car was this 2007 Subaru Liberty 2.5 wagon, with an impressively low 115,000 km/71,000 miles (or so) on the odometer. It was equipped with a luxury pack that included leather seats and a touch-screen infotainment system with satellite navigation. Still, I had to forego the niceties I’d come to love in the Calais—there were no power seats or front parking sensors, nor was there an AUX input. There weren’t even any steering wheel audio controls.
So, it sounds like we were off to a bit of a rough start. But then I was surprised by how responsive the 2.5 four was, despite being mated to a four-speed automatic transmission and producing only 170 hp and 166 ft-lbs. This car felt barely any slower than the Calais, which had a whopping 90 more hp and 83 more pound-feet of torque but weighed over 800 pounds more. I appreciated the manual shift mode, a feature I had become familiar with in the Calais. The mellifluous engine noise of the flat four under the hood was also delightful—I love the sound Subarus make! I also loved how the car looked, as this was arguably the best-looking Subaru ever made (and, surprisingly, the 2006 facelift made the wagon look even better).
Driving along Brisbane’s pockmarked, rough roads also proved a revelation. The Liberty absorbed the bumps, it didn’t crash over them! The car felt solid and planted, like the Calais, but in a much more refined manner. Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive helped the car grip the road, while steering was responsive if a tad light.
It was the lack of an AUX input that proved to be the first annoyance. In the Calais, I had simply plugged in my phone with an AUX cord and listened to music. With the Liberty, I had to buy an FM radio transmitter to plug into my phone. Those things are better than they used to be but even after you select a station to use for your phone, static can build over time and you’ll have to select another station. The same applies if you’re driving to another city where your selected frequency is already being used.
A minor inconvenience, sure, but manageable. Except there was always a bit of static present, even when using the transmitter and especially while listening to the radio. I looked into getting an AUX input fitted as the one wired in by a previous owner didn’t work. However, because the luxury pack used some special kind of infotainment system only offered for two model years, it meant a particular part had to be ordered from Japan that would cost over $200. I dithered over whether I should buy it or not.
I think I only washed the car twice
That infotainment system was nothing flash, either. There was no clock on it, nor was there your typical default infotainment screen with the air-conditioning and radio station readouts. You had to skip past a legal liability message each time, even when somebody was calling you and you wanted to answer via Bluetooth. The navigation also required an update disc.
The radio reception sucked because the antenna was located in the tailgate. A tailgate that rattled. Sometimes, I drive around with no music on. I couldn’t do that in the Liberty without getting annoyed by the sound. I believe the source was a piece of plastic on the inside of the tailgate but I was unable to fix it and my mechanic claimed not to hear it.
Are you tired of my bitching? Well, hang in there, because I’ve got a couple of other things to moan about.
The frameless windows were a source of bemusement to my friends and family, many of whom clearly had not been around older Subarus before. Frankly, I’m glad Subaru ditched them. They look weird when they are wound down and a door is open, and the doors never closed properly on the first go.
These mostly sound like easy fixes, right? I probably could’ve sorted out the rattle with a bit of elbow grease and gotten an AUX input wired into the dash for around $250. But then I found out the next service – at 125,000 km – was going to be a more intensive and costly servicing job as the timing belt had to be changed. Did I really want to spend the money on a car I had no attachment to?
To quote my mother, I simply “wasn’t fussed on it”. Funnily enough, one person who was “fussed on it” was my mother. She had driven it a couple of times and found it to be a remarkably pleasant car to drive. Growing up, ours had traditionally been a two-car family but in recent years my parents were sharing a car. This irked my mother considerably but she bristled at the thought of my father purchasing a pickup (or “ute”, as we call anything with a tray here). She had had to drive Dad’s old company trucks on occasion and always disliked them.
My father had told me a year or so ago that he wanted a pickup. A cursory search revealed any pickups under $10k were more than 15 years old and had high mileage. This is undoubtedly because these vehicles are seen as workhorses that will last a long time, and therefore cresting the 200,000 km mark doesn’t dampen resale value as it would with a passenger car.
I presented Dad with some alternative options within his price range, including crossovers, station wagons and minivans. Was it worth buying an older, less safe, less comfortable vehicle for the use of a tray or bed? Considering this was a man who managed to wedge an obscene amount of stuff into a ’95 Suzuki Swift, I argued a pickup wasn’t necessary. Evidently, my father came to agree and so my parents agreed to buy the Liberty.
I think I only hauled my bike twice
My dad will utilize the cargo-hauling ability of the Liberty a lot more than I did. In fact, he’s already used the roof racks that I took off right after I bought the car (they sounded like tea kettles!) I’m more than happy with a sedan and its enclosed trunk, which hides cargo from passers-by better than a cargo blind and muffles the sound of objects rolling around.
I had bought the Liberty because it was such a sensible option. I had haggled the seller down to a good price. It had low mileage for its age. It was a Subaru, and thus reliable and well-built and I figured resale value would be better on it than with some of the other cars I checked out. It was spacious and my friends and family all seemed to like it. It used less fuel than my last car (albeit more than a four-cylinder ideally should) while feeling about as fast. It rode well. It handled well.
I just didn’t love it. It didn’t feel “me”. And those minor annoyances just exacerbated my indifference to the car. I feel rather sorry for it in hindsight. It was such a good all-rounder and yet I never connected with it. At least I know it has gone to a good home, while I have purchased a car more my style. In fact, I bought the car I should have gotten all along.