Subaru challenges Japanese rivals
Subaru's price cuts of up to $14,000 look set to put pressure on the pricing of rival Japanese brands.
The car maker has unveiled the new Liberty and Outback models with big packages of additional features, yet was able to slash prices by 13-30 per cent.
The move puts the dramatically better-equipped Liberty entry- level sedan under $30,000 — extraordinary value for a high-tech, all-wheel-drive medium sedan.
It means the Liberty is poised to take Subaru into a head-on collision with Honda’s Accord, Mazda’s 6, VW’s Passat and Ford’s Mondeo.
In particular, the pricing for the six-cylinder version exceeds the Holden Commodore for value for money.
Indeed, Subaru boss Nick Senior sees the Liberty fulfilling the needs of many lost souls who won’t be able to buy a Commodore or a Ford Falcon when production ceases.
The cuts have come from manufacturing efficiencies as well as making a move before the free trade agreement tariff cuts come into play.
The Liberty comes with a lot of high-tech gear, such as the active torque-vectoring cornering aid and EyeSight collision-avoidance system.
There’s also a vastly improved entertainment and communications system wrapped in a new slinky body that runs on Subaru’s renowned all-wheel- drive.
Having said that, Liberty is still the captive of Japanese conservatism in the styling department.
Despite the new model’s cleaner lines I suspect a Californian or European styling studio would have presented a shape as head-turning as the car’s road performance.
Liberty is 97kg lighter and 63mm lower than the Outback SUV and it shows in better ride and handling.
A 167 per cent improvement in torsional rigidity helps the suspension mightily.
Not widely known is that Liberty scored 35.99 out of a possible 37 in those ratings, making it the safest passenger car in the medium sector.
Road noise is minimal, and the new aero tweaks mean there is little wind noise that I could hear. The cabin provides better shoulder room and a more spacious overall feel.
Vision is outstanding, helped by the small window forward of the A pillar, which itself has been moved forward 50mm.
It allows the pillar to be bulky and strong but not affect your vision when cornering.
Liberty interior is chock full of soft-touch material, leather trim and quality controls.
The large touch screen brings Subaru into the present and even ahead a bit in this price range.
The transmission is the best CVT type I’ve driven.
Although the transmission steps as if it has hard ratios, the torque flow is constant, as in a conventional automatic.
It’s faster than a dual clutch unit and does it without the banshee wail of many of the others.
There’s a tricky programmable boot opening switch.
You set it like morse code, and if you lock your key fob in the car, or lose it, you enter the code on the boot switch, the car happily beeps at you, and then unlocks itself.
Now that Subaru has played its hand, you can expect the other Japanese importers to follow suit — they have to.
Put it this way — if you are buying a new Japanese import other than a Subaru, you might insist on written protection against price reductions in the first year of ownership.
Without that, your joy at driving your new car could turn to tears as you see the resale value plummet on the back of an unexpected price cut from your car’s importer.
Value for money is the Liberty story.
Subaru builds about 20,000 Libertys a year in Japan and Mr Senior only expects to sell 150 a month here.
I think they might be asking for more as the word spreads.
Models Liberty 2.5i CVT; Liberty 2.5i Premium CVT; Liberty 3.6R auto
Prices $29,990; $35,490; $41,990
Engines 2.5-litre 4-cylinder; 3.6-litre 6-cylinder
Outputs 129kW and 235Nm; 191kw and 350Nm
Transmission Lineartronic CVT
Thirst 7.3L/100km; 9.9L/100km
Image: Via subaru.com.au
© The West Australian
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