2006 Subaru Liberty 3.0R Spec B owner review

Viranga
Author
Published
PROS
  • Smooth and sweet sounding flat 6
  • Super easy to maintain yourself
  • Attractive and practical wagon body
CONS
  • Aluminium and steel panels dent/chip easily
  • Best suited to 98RON petrol
  • Needs minor suspension upgrades to be it's best

About the Subaru Liberty

Viranga purchased this Subaru Liberty used for $10,000 (including all on-road costs) in 2018. Viranga would buy this car again because: “It’s a goldilocks car for me. That sonorous flat-six up front, manual gearbox in the middle, all weather traction, and do-it-all wagon body make this car such a perfect fit for my lifestyle.

As a used buy I’ve never had a more rewarding ownership experience. With affordable and easy to find genuine and aftermarket parts, and very DIY-able maintenance complementing Subaru’s stellar build quality the 4th-gen Liberty definitely suits enthusiasts.”

How reliable has your car been? Tell us about any issues.

Subaru’s EZ30 flat-six has a reputation for being one of the company’s most durable, and reliable motors. With 16 years, 235,000km under its belt my Liberty has been very reliable over the 4 years I’ve owned it.

The only mechanical failure that’s left the car stranded (luckily at home) was a worn out starter motor which is par for the course on any older car. As a testament to how easy these cars are to work on, I was able to yank it out with basic hand tools in 10mins and have it rebuilt for $88 by my local auto electrician.

I’ve maintained the vehicle myself during my ownership, and have rebuilt the front steering and suspension as a COVID lockdown project, replaced the brakes, replaced the cat-back exhaust, and replaced radiator hoses. Electronics have been almost faultless, with just a non-operational power seat switch that I was able to carefully pull apart, clean-up and reassemble to get working again without encountering any of the sort of brittle plastics typically found in European and American cars of this vintage.

It would be remiss if me not to mention that the engine will need to come out in the next year or so with the original clutch getting close to the end of its life at this mileage, and I’ve got a weeping timing cover, and slightly worn engine mount that will need to be sorted at that time.

Of all the vehicles I’ve owned the Liberty has been the easiest to work on, with the compact flat-six layout mostly providing lots of space on top of and under the engine to access parts, and the quality of genuine Subaru parts is outstanding. I’ve even found dealer parts prices to be generally reasonable.

What do you think of the ownership experience with your car?

My first reaction after buying my Liberty, and driving it home was “What have I done?”.

I’d given up my old six-cylinder BMW E36 that I’d owned for 12 years for a car that at first glance didn’t look, steer, ride or handle like the BMW. All it had was that turbine smooth, wailing flat-six, and lovely six-speed shift that dominated the driving experience.

As time has gone on, and I’ve sorted all of the previous owners sketchy maintenance (mismatched no-name tyres, worn suspension components, scratches and dents to bodywork etc.) my affection for this car has surpassed that of any other vehicle I’ve owned.

Its balance, stability, and steering feedback on our twisty high country roads always makes snow season special, and there’s still nothing like the sound of that flat-six!

Are you happy with the price and features of your car?

As a teenager in the ’00s the 4th gen Liberty/Legacy wagon was a pretty cool thing. With its floating roof, frameless doors, and athletic lines it seemed like Subaru was aiming at a more premium market.

The closest I thought I’d ever get to owning one was the virtual one I built in Gran Turismo 3. Thankfully depreciation and an adult wage make dreams possible. $10k in 2018 felt a bit steep to me, but my old BMW was on its last legs and destined for the scrap yard.

Four years on, it’s been the best car-buying decision I’ve made. The 3.0R Spec B Liberty has super comfy power leather seats, sat nav that I still use, a large sunroof that I don’t. Otherwise it’s pretty basic for anyone used to a modern car.

What do you think of the performance and economy of your car?

With 180 kW/300Nm and a 0-100 time in the sevens the 3.0R does everything I want for daily driving with the occasional spirited jaunt that I do. Fuel economy has been surprising as my mixed driving average is 10.5 -11L/100km tracked religiously every tank these last four years.

Even after 16 years I’m still getting better economy than the original fuel label in the glove box would suggest. One thing that may put of prospective owners, these EZ30 engines have a propensity to knock so 98 RON is highly recommended if you can get it.

What do you think of the technology in your car?

It’s 16 years old… but has sat nav. So that’s a plus. Single-zone climate control isn’t cutting edge even for 2006 but works superbly, and that’s the takeaway I guess.

Everything just works like it should. Make sure any vehicle you buy has had its Takata airbag recall done.

What do you think of the ride comfort and handling of your car?

The Spec-B Liberty takes its name from the factory fitment of Bilstein dampers. They are still doing their job well, but in factory form the Liberty drives with a very conservative nose-heavy attitude, with a fair bit more body roll than you’d encounter in a BMW of this vintage.

Ride quality is much better at speed, and generally it’s pretty good around town considering the beautiful factory 18-inch Enkei wheels but expect a little busy-ness around train tracks, potholes, and tramlines.

Steering feel isn’t old-school BMW but is a revelation compared to most modern electric assist systems. I’ve found the car transformed itself with a rear sway bar, and Superpro bushings on the control arms and steering rack, and the usual tired tie rod maintenance.

Turn in is miles sharper, cornering balance more neutral and flatter, and the car is just so much more rewarding for it.

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Ratings
Overall7.8
Show Breakdown
Technology 6
Reliability 8
Ride & Handling 8
Price & Features 7
Performance & Economy 8
Ownership Experience 10