Subaru has shown off updates to the Liberty, Outback and Forester to members of the automotive media during a lightning visit to South Australia’s Mt Gambier. Prior to the drive sessions covering tarmac and gravel roads, a briefing was held at the Park Royal Hotel adjacent to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport. Here, the media was given information on where Subaru sits globally and in Australia in regards to sales figures before covering off a list of updates and changes to the cars.
Overall, Subaru saw a 7.6% increase in sales, to 43600 units. This puts Subaru into a 3.8% market share position for Australia. The powerhouse WRX STi contributed strongly, selling over 1000 units for the first time, with the Outback rounding out 2015 in fourth place for its segment. For the 2016 models, in the Liberty range, it’s expected the 2.5L Premium will take 50% of sales for the range, while the 2.5i and 3.6R will account for 25% each. The Forester range was the big seller, with 38841 units moved in 2015.
Subaru’s Eyesight package is already well known and available on every model Liberty however Subaru has added what they call a “Vision Assist” package to the Liberty 2.5i Premium and 3.6R. It includes: Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, High Beam Assist (automatically turns high beam on or off as required) and auto dimming rear vision mirror. Also available across the range is Emergency Stop Signal, which flashes the brake lights under an emergency stop situation.
Subaru brought in engineers to further fettle the Liberty’s suspension. The end result has been a fine tuning of the shock absorbers, reducing the sharper edge of impacts and bumps while raising the level of roll, pitch, dive and float control. Although already a fantastic and stable performer on tarmac, the changes have enhanced the handling on coarse and harsh surfaces plus floor vibrations have been reduced.
There’s also some “less exciting” changes, such as folding wing mirrors to the entry level 2.5i Liberty and the Subaru Map Update Guarantee. This will ensure that any buyer will get the latest available maps for the navigation system plus will also qualify for the Three Year Map Update program, whereby the system will receive the latest maps for free for three years.
A new colour will be added, Dark Blue Pearl and all Subaru cars stay with a full sized spare wheel.
The Liberty range itself is increasing its niche market hold in Australia, with an impressive 4097 units sold in 2015, an improvement of just over 293% from the prior year. Prices for the Liberty range remain largely untouched in real terms, with the entry level 2.5i CVT starting at $29999 plus ORC. The Premium CVT increases by just $500 to $35990 plus ORC with the range topping 3.6R moving to $42490 plus ORC, again a small increase of just $500. All prices quaoted are manufacturers list price.
The Outback range has proven to be very popular in 2015, with 10927 vehicles sold, a massive increase of 344%. Subaru Australia managing director, Nick Senior, says: “Outback’s appeal has never been greater. But with the strategic addition of Eyesight to our diesel variants, plus Vision Assist features in premium versions across the range, we can only see more growth opportunities for Outback.”
The third generation Eyesight system is equipped with colour stereo cameras, allowing them to “read” brake lights, which works hand in hand with the Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre Collision Braking and Assist, Pre Collision Steering Assist, Lane Departure Warning and Front Vehicle Start Alert. Outback also has had the same suspension tweaks, designed to suit the offroad capabilities.
The Steering Assist combines with the VDC, Vehicle Dynamics Control, to do whatever is possible to assist the driver to avoid a crash. The 3D image processing program will work to recognise vehicles close by and at a distance of up to 100 metres. With a range of zero to 100 kilometres per hour, the Adaptive Cruise Control adds to the safety factor considerably, with the driver controlling the actual gap distance between the Outback and vehicle in front.
The colour recognition system will allow the Outback (and all other Subaru cars fitted) to see a brake light and provide the car with a smooth deceleration and will also work at intersections with the vehicle ahead performing a lane change. A new feature, the Forward Start Alert, will prevent the car from moving forward if the accelerator is accidently pressed and will sound an alarm.
Every auto (CVT) equipped Outback will now receive the Eyesight system as will all diesel variants. The 2.5i, 2.0i Premium diesel and 3.6R variants will receive Vision Assist packages as listed in Liberty.
Also, the Outback 2.5i and 2.0 diesel will receive the folding mirrors, the 2.5i Premium and 3.6R have a refreshed grille and all Outbacks will be provided with halogen DRL integrated with the front fog lights.
Outback will also be given the new Dark Blue Pearl and the Subaru Map Program applies to the 2.5i petrol Premium, 2.0 diesel Premium and 3.6R.
The seven model Outback range also receives incremental price increases, with the entry level 2.5i CVT staying at $35990 plus ORC, 2.5i CVT is $41990 plus ORC ($500 increase), with the 2.0L diesel manual moving to $36490 plus ORC, an increase of $1000. The CVT auto rises to $38490 + ORC (also $1000), with the Premium manual and CVT at $42990 and $44990, an increase of $1500. The range topper, the 3.6R CVT is $48490 plus ORC, a small increase of $500.
The Subaru Forester has received possibly the biggest range of changes, covering exterior, interior and chassis and engineering. All but the 2.0L XT have been given a refreshed front bumper, grille, head and tail lights plus the range toppers also receive new fog light surrounds. The 2.5i-S and 2.0 XT are provided with adaptive headlights, swivelling in response to steering wheel input and all but the 2.0L L spec receive new fog light surrounds.
Refreshed designs adorn the 17 and 18 inch alloy wheels fitted, plus a new colour, Sepia Bronze Metallic, will be made available. The headlights for the Forester 2.5i-S, XT and XT Premium are given a makeover, with C shaped LED Daytime Running Lamps and LED projector lit lamps, while the tail lights also get the C shaped LED lights. They are a red light only display.
Unseen but important are the changes to the suspension, improving NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness) levels and stability levels on and off road. Also inside with the Premium versions, there’s the addition of memory seating and Apple’s Siri compatibility. The instrument panel has new cushioning at either end along with extra sealer, to reduce NVH. Leather fitted Foresters will see quilting on the door arm rests and there’s more padding in the seat cushion. Interior comfort has been raised by virtue of thicker window glass (3.5 mm to 4.0 mm front, 3.1 to 3.5 rear)and better door sealing, with an estimated 5.0% reduction in NVH.
The SI Drive system has also been tweaked, with the I and S drive programming providing a smoother driving experience whilst staying in CVT mode, with harder acceleration giving the feel of an eight speed auto. The S# system sees a more traditional stepped feel, with eight ratios programmed into the transmission under drivng consitions, with all autos providing manual control via paddle shifts.
An added safety feature comes in the form of a control logic program added to the EPS (electronic power steering) with manual control still available for a short time should power fail from the engine. Torque vectoring is on board, adding extra brake pressure to an inside wheel in the event of serious understeer, as a driver may find on rutted or gravel surfaces.
As the Forester is Subaru’s best seller, ride and handling changes would have to be taken seriously, and they were. Minor yet important changes to the suspension and chassis were undertaken, with shock abosorber rates changed slightly bhut noticeably, front cross member rigidity was improved while toe in and camber angles were revised for even better straight line performance. Even the steering rack ratio was revised, to 14.0:1 from 15.5:1.
Pricing wise, the Forester range remains excellent value, with the entry level 2.0-L manual kicking off at $29990. The 2.5-L auto is $32990, 2.5-S auto stays at $39490. The 2.0L diesel range starts at $33490 for the 2.0-L manual, while the corresponding auto is $35490. The -S manual and autos also stay at an unchanged price, with the manual seeing $39490 and $41490 for the CVT. The range topping XT versions are $40990 and $47990. All prices are manufacturers list prices and are not inclusive of on road costs.
A Wheel Thing was part of the twenty plus strong media contingent flown to Mt Gambier by Subaru Australia, where the new cars were put though their paces. Each drive section for each model, being Liberty/Outback/Forester, was chosen to highlight the specific ability of each model, with the Liberty solely tarmac based while Outback and Forester were taken over limestone tracks, mud, gravel and tarmac, with a Wednesday morning session in the rain adding to the test of the cars and changes. Due to time constraints, largely imposed by the weather, only limited time was available in a version of the three.
The Outback especially impressed off road, with the diesel Premium being tested. A very late seen dip in a limestone gravel road resulted in a solid thump, yet with no discernable impedement to forward progress nor to the steering. All cars tracked straight and true, with some tight low low speed hairpins taken with no body roll or a feeling of losing grip. In the Liberty, set to I-Drive, a standing start saw the first gear change move directly to Third, not Second, and with a corresponding drop off in relative velocity.
The Forester tested, the XT 2.5 Premium, certainly drives well and as expected. However, the seats still lack a measure of side support in the bolsters, especially with the leather used to clad the seats, allowing more lateral movement than is desired.
In short, the changes mechanically to the three have made them even more approachable and user friendly while the exterior changes, although light, are enough to refresh the ranges, especially with the added aero efficiency of the Forester’s timely refresh.
For more information and driveaway pricing, please contact your Subaru dealer.
A Wheel Thing thanks Subaru Australia for the information and drive program.