_SUBARU'S _ new Liberty 2.5X is certainly a lot of things. You could easily describe it as all or any of safe family car, elevated SUV-wannabe or smooth-cruising saloon, all dressed up in a remarkably unassuming medium sedan package.
Fortunately, the 2.5X's personality as a whole comes across as more of a jack-of-all- trades rather than confused sufferer of multiple identities.
Subaru has aimed it at rural and regional drivers who spend a lot of time on gravel roads, and as such has added 18-inch alloy wheels and an extra 50mm of ground clearance for a total of 200mm.
To put that into perspective, it's only 13mm lower than the more off-road-inclined Outback.
Subaru says the extra clearance is handy for city folk to clear tricky driveway entrances, but in reality the main benefit of the elevated driving position in an urban setting is the ease of getting in and out of the vehicle.
On the road the 2.5X drives beautifully. Some may not enjoy it, but the smooth continuously variable transmission offers a hint of big-car luxury when combined with the elevated sitting position. It can sometimes feel like it needs a bit more than the 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine can muster, so some prospective buyers may want to try the 3.6X which has a 3.6-litre engine, five-speed automatic transmission and a bunch of extras for $55,990 plus on-road costs.
Features such as keyless entry and start, heated seats, and an automatic sunroof (which for some reason you have to close manually) play a key role in the 2.5X's driving experience.
But it's Subaru's Eyesight collision avoidance system which is most notable, and it comes standard in the 2.5X. Similar to Volvo's City Safety system, Eyesight uses two cameras either side of the central rear-vision mirror to detect other cars and obstacles (City Safety uses lasers).
An alarm will sound when the driver drives erratically, gets too close to the car in front or is close to drifting out of their lane.
Adaptive cruise-control means the car will slow down and speed up depending on the gap between the 2.5X and the vehicle in front.
Though it's rather stressful to test, if the car in front of you slows to a stop the 2.5X will do the same. Eyesight also offers a pre-collision emergency brake assist, but this reviewer wasn't quite game enough to put it to the test.
The system has its issues though. If it's getting on your nerves, turning off the lead vehicle start alert and lane-change monitor needs to be done every time you start the car and while the gap between vehicles can be adjusted on the adaptive cruise- control, it can't be removed.
The McIntosh stereo is brilliant, but its touch screen can't be used while in motion - quite frustrating when crawling along in traffic or when there's a passenger trying to use it. And baffling in that one can navigate to, say, the screen in which to adjust audio settings while moving but once you get there you're unable to actually make the changes.
A hyper sensitive seat means a bag can set off the seatbelt alarm.
Overall, there's a sense of Big Brother about the whole thing and you do feel like you're being beeped at a lot more than you deserve.
But anything which can improve the safety on our roads, especially to the extent Eyesight can, is to be roundly commended.
- SUBARU LIBERTY *
- Model * 2.5X
- Price *$44,490
- Engine *2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol
- Outputs *123kW/229Nm
- Transmission *Continuously variable transmission
- Thirst *8.3L/100km