When the Honda Legend was originally launched, it was designed to be the Japanese automakers most luxurious vehicle, and with an advanced AWD system the company hoped it would be a technology leader to boot.With Lexus selling more cars anyone would have thought possible ten years ago, Honda clearly wants a piece of the action.
Whatever the case, the new Honda Legend is more than just an unwieldy luxo-cruiser: it’s got intent.
Underneath its conservative styling, Honda has replaced the previous front-wheel drive transmission with a more appealing 4WD system – one that uses a range of features normally seen on highly-strung performance vehicles.
It can be said that the Honda Legend succeeds on a number of levels, one of the most important of which is making a strong first impression.
Before you even get into the Legend you are greeted with clearly illuminated door handles, courtesy of cleverly placed LEDs.
The doors and their seals are of a decent quality and they lend the car a robust, classy feel as you open then shut them.
Once inside the stately Japanese vehicle, a cavernous interior with enough room for four fully-grown humans, and even a fifth in comfort, is in evidence, plus there’s leather everywhere, electric everything, the restrained use of glossy materials and enough buttons and dials to make any gadgeteer grin.
It’s got a pair of adaptive headlights that can light corners for you at night and I must say that the car is incredibly quiet on the road, making use of what Honda calls ‘active noise cancellation’.
As the name suggests, the system reduces low frequency external noises, firstly by recognising them via cabin-mounted microphones and then by transmitting a special signal through the cars 10 speakers to mask them.
And the stereo is a top shelf unit. Built by Bose, it’s a 260-watt system with 10 speakers (including a sub-woofer), a 6 CD in-dash changer that can read MP3, WMA and DVD audio classes.
The audio quality that comes through it is very impressive, with good clarity and rarely any distortion, even with bass-heavy audio.
It’s not quite as crisp as the Mark Levinson audio systems that can be optioned with some Lexus models, but it’s streets ahead of most vehicular sound systems.
Sitting in the Honda Legend you do get a sense of luxury, but not in a European way; it’s very smooth and comfy, but felt as though it was lacking the sense of occasion that you sometimes experience in top end German cars.
The front seats are upholstered in medium quality leather, but the cushioning is very nice and makes you feel quite relaxed as soon you plonk yourself down.
There’s 8-way power adjustable front seats and a 4-way power adjustable steering wheel, so there’s little chance you’ll pull a muscle when customising your driving position.
The view from the driver’s seat is rather nice, with a curving roof over the instrument cluster and a fairly intuitive centre console, all of which is trimmed with a combination of brushed aluminium and maple wood grain.
Some other neat features included the electric rear sun-blind, which is operated with a switch on the driver’s overhead console, and it even retracts when you slot the gearbox into reverse.
There’s the usual features in there too, such as dual-zone climate control, complete with ‘sun sensors’ that will detect direct sunlight and adjust the air flow and temperature automatically, and if the weather turns foul, automatic rain-sensing windscreen wipers will play their part.
Spending time in the Honda Legend is quite relaxing and very comfortable – it’s got all the luxury trimmings that are often only the reserve of prestige cars in the six figure bracket, and high levels of engine power too.
To my mind the crux of any Honda is always its engine. Granted, the Legend is aiming higher – much higher – than most Hondas, and as a result the cabin, the luxury appointments, the technology and its ease of use are probably more important for buyers in this bracket, but it still has a very good engine.
Powered by a 3.7-litre V6, the Legend’s engine is exactly these things.
It has plenty of go, but continuing the luxury car aesthetic it’s remarkably quiet and refined. Even when you hit full throttle and the engine revs rise, you can barely hear what’s going under the bonnet – without the aid of the rev counter it would be an eerie sensation.
The 6-cylinder engine is paired with a relatively slushy 5-speed automatic gearbox, which however suits the car’s character with soft and smooth gear changes that are never abrupt and so won’t spill your beverage.
At the same token, the gearbox is probably the Legend’s weakest link in drive-line terms, especially when you discover that this thing can navigate corners at a brisk clip.
It’s great in the city with its soft gear changes and relaxed feel, but doesn’t have the urgency or response time needed when you start going faster.
The steering wheel paddles are relegated to being a quaint curiosity, and if you’re charging hard through a mountain pass you’re better off leaving it in ‘D’ drive.
Fitted with SH-AWD, or super handling all-wheel drive it takes on all road surfaces with a minimum of fuss.
Though the steering feel is a little woollen, with a somewhat floaty (Honda would call it luxury) feel, the Honda Legend rarely exhibits understeer thanks to the SH-AWD system.
It is possible to get the car’s nose to push wide, but to do this you need to be hacking into very tight corners at very high speeds.
Driven progressively and getting to know the cars limits was a surprisingly rewarding experience because the car is very capable of tackling apexes rather nicely.
Granted, it’s no Integra Type R or mid-engine NS-X, but the 4WD system gives this overweight luxury car a good deal of stability.
As well as having a clever AWD system, the Honda Legend makes use of an aluminium bonnet (and boot), front bumpers, sub frame and even some of the suspension components are all aluminium, which reduces weight at the front of the car and gives the car relatively sharp turn-in.
Braking is taken care of by ventilated disc brakes front and rear (320mm and 310mm respectively) and they manage to cope quite well with the Legend’s considerable bulk.
The big Honda can be surprisingly adept on any given stretch of winding road, but in everyday traffic the Honda Legend is in its element.
It keeps outside noises to a minimum, the gearbox is ridiculously smooth and you needn’t strain to get things done – just point and shoot.
It effortlessly goes where you ask it, and even has the presence of mind to offer you a range of luxury comforts, plus it’s a formidable cruiser, able to eat up Australia’s expansive highway system thanks to its plush ride, quality interior, and impressive V6 power reserves.
NUTS and BOLTS
- Engine 3.7 litre V6 producing 226kW and 370Nm
- Transmission: Six-speed auto
- Safety: Five stars
- Warranty: 3yrs/100,000kms
- Origin: Japan
- Price: $79,990