The new Subaru Legacy saloon and Sports Tourer are now available in high-performance 3.0R spec.B variants.

These driver-focused range-toppers are aimed at premium European marques, with some customers also expected to trade up from the Impreza WRX and STi.

The Legacy spec.B – which complements the five-speed automatic 3.0R – will be priced at £26,500 on-the-road for the saloon and £27,500 as a Sports Tourer – £500 more than the Legacy 3.0R.

Its official unveiling is at the Paris Motor Show on Thursday, 23 September.

Key to the new Legacy 3.0R spec.B is a new six-speed close-ratio manual gearbox.  Based on that fitted to the Impreza WRX STi, more than 50 per cent of the parts – such as the casing and gear teeth – are new in order to suit the character of the car.

For example, the clutch and gearchange operations are both lighter, while reduced noise, vibration and harshness give a more relaxed drive.  This has been achieved by using a special honing process which polishes the gear teeth, together with fitting a synchroniser sleeve which reduces engine-induced gearshift vibration.

In addition, a clutch control mechanism electronically connected to the accelerator works as a stall-resistant electronic control system to provide a smooth take-off.

The 3.0R spec.B’s MacPherson strut front suspension features inverted struts similar to the Impreza WRX STi. This gives more rigid control of geometry during severe, high-load cornering or while covering bumpy surfaces. As a result, grip and steering feel are both increased.

Bilstein front and rear shock-absorbers are also fitted which improve both roll-resistance and damping sensitivity, giving a smoother, better-controlled ride.

The conventional hydraulic power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering has a special damper valve which reduces kick-back during hard cornering. Meanwhile, response to initial steering movements is enhanced by a new low-hysteresis cannon mount for the steering gearbox.

Like all Subarus, the new Legacy 3.0R spec.B boasts a symmetrical all-wheel drive system which feeds full time power to all four wheels. Once either the front or rear of the car begins to slide, torque is rapidly fed to the axle with the most grip.

As a further boost, the Legacy spec.B has a rear limited-slip differential allowing torque to be shared between both rear wheels. This LSD facility gives sharper turn-in and more throttle-adjustable handling.

Unlike some 4WD cars – with their power-sapping transfer boxes – Subaru’s AWD system is simple and effective. Because the ‘boxer’ engine is in-line with the gearbox which is, in turn, in-line with the propshaft and rear differential, frictional losses are kept to a minimum. In addition, the drive shafts are of equal length for a ‘pure’ division of power.

The Legacy 3.0R spec.B is powered by a 3.0-litre horizontally-opposed six-cylinder ‘boxer’ engine. This was first fitted to the automatic-only saloon, Sports Tourer and Outback at their introduction in November 2003. Featuring twin overhead camshafts per bank, maximum power is 245 PS at 6,600 rpm with 219 lb/ft of torque at 4,200 rpm.

Improvements over the previous engine include Active Valve Control for the intake air plus variable valve lift. The engine also has a fast-response electronic throttle, re-profiled pistons, a lighter, quieter crankshaft and 3-port, 6-2-1 exhaust system which boosts power and lowers emissions.

The result is a top speed of 151 mph for the saloon and a 0-60 mph time of 6.5 seconds with the Sports Tourer not far behind, recording 145 mph and 6.6 seconds for the 0-60 dash.

The spec.B features understated styling and equipment upgrades.  Key differences to the Legacy 3.0R automatic include dark metallic headlamp surrounds and dark metallic 7-spoke 8JJ x 18  alloy wheels with 215/45 R18 tyres.  Inside are special black leather seats and door trim, aluminium pedals and a new design of ‘easy-grip’ gear knob.

Equipment levels are similar, meaning eight-way electrically-adjustable front seats, a six-stacker CD system, electrically-powered sunroof, front, side and curtain airbags, satellite navigation, climate-control air-conditioning, four electric windows, heated front seats, door mirrors and windscreen de-icer and electro-luminescent instruments which swing in a full arc every time the ignition is turned on.