Honda Legend

28 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Honda Legend
Honda Legend

Honda Legend

(March 2007)

A uniquely Japanese approach to luxury and dynamics

Model: Honda Legend

RRP: $74,500

Price as tested: $74,500

Also consider: Lexus GS300 (here). Audi A6 3.2 FSI (here). BMW 325i (here). Chrysler 300C 3.5 V6 (here). Holden WM Caprice (here). Jaguar X-Type V6, Mercedes-Benz C230, Peugeot 607, Volvo S80 3.2 (here)

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0

Engine/Drivetrain/Chassis: 4.0/5.0

Pricing/Packaging/Practicality: 4.0/5.0

Safety: 4.5/5.0

Behind the wheel: 3.5/5.0

X-factor: 3.5/5.0

Ever since the flawed first Honda Legend was facelifted in 1988, Honda’s flagship luxury sedan has been remarkably consistent in what it offers.

The Legend badge has always defined a high-quality, silky smooth luxury model with generic styling, beautiful detailing and exquisite quality, limited only by its front-drive starting point, smooth road suspension and Honda’s tendency to anaesthetize the driving experience.

For Legend buyers, that is exactly how they want it. And while the latest model doesn’t deviate from this brief it does add several new dimensions not seen before in a local Honda luxury sedan.

For its third generation, Honda swapped from the transverse drivetrain layout of its smaller models to the Audi-style longitudinal layout for better suspension control.

The latest fourth-generation model reverts back to a transverse layout (with a whopping 11.6m turning circle) but adds an advanced all-wheel drive system.

Styling is a conservative but pleasing mix of the latest European and Japanese trends.

The result is a highly-polished and safe luxury sedan that won’t make any demands on the driver to the point where it won’t register on any excitement scale either.

The fact that it features Active Noise Cancellation designed to dramatically reduce low frequency exhaust booming noise in the cabin sums up the Legend’s priorities. According to Honda, this system cuts 10dB by fighting low frequency sounds with a reverse-timed audio signal pumped through the door speakers and rear sub-woofer.

While the powerful 3471cc V6 is as sweet as a nut and delivers 217kW and 351Nm, the substantial 1855kg and Active Noise Cancellation doesn’t leave much to quicken the pulse. The overwhelming competence and lack of anything extraordinary is such that any memory of my time with the Legend is almost a complete blank.

It is as if the Active Noise Cancellation works on the human brain as well. Fortunately, I took copious notes.

As if to highlight the addition of the advanced Super Handling All-Wheel Drive System, there is a digital representation in the dash of how much torque is going to each axle and how it is then split between left and right wheels.

Honda claims its Direct Yaw Control can direct extra torque to the outside rear wheel during cornering to counteract understeer.

A comprehensive system of electronic controls in conjunction with an extra planetary gearset at the rear axle monitors and responds to lateral forces, yaw rate, wheel rotation rate and steering angle to counteract the usual factors that can make an AWD vehicle resist turning.

In practice, 70 per cent of the torque goes to the front wheels in most light throttle applications while up to 40 per cent can be directed to the rear under full acceleration.

This front-drive bias is still enough to generate front wheel spin if you get too excited taking away from the lights — at least until the giant electronic hand steps in.

During hard cornering, Honda claims the system can then shift 70 per cent of torque to the rear wheels and of this torque, up to 100 per cent can be directed to the outside rear wheel.

The planetary gear set can then step in to accelerate that wheel by a further five per cent over the average speed of the front wheels to tighten the cornering line at the critical point.

All this techno-trickery represents an exhaustive effort to rid the Legend of its high-speed front-drive handling traits while preserving front-drive traction with all wheel drive back-up so favoured in slushy northern hemisphere conditions.

In fast Australian sweepers, it works. Just at the point when you brace yourself to add extra lock, back-off or counteract the tyre scrub of a normal front-drive chassis mid-corner, the Legend takes over and carves a tighter line.

As clever as it is, it’s uninvolving for an enthusiast driver when you miss out on the throttle adjustability and balance of a responsive rear drive chassis. However, it adds safety and won’t spook an average driver.

Honda Legend

Will it eventually join Honda’s binned four-wheel steering as yet another countermeasure for front-drive scrub understeer? Because Australians are spoilt for choice of affordable and highly competent rear-drive chassis, the Legend’s achievements in this area are not going to have the big local impact it might have elsewhere.

Because Honda’s fairly large V6 engine and five-speed auto plus the all wheel drive transfer gears fill the area above and ahead of the front wheels, it still feels and drives like a front-drive model. This also dictates heavily-assisted steering that is no worse or better than any other powerful front-drive model but leaves it with that numb, elastic-band feeling.

While the Honda Legend appears to offer an outstanding $40,000 saving over a similarly-equipped BMW 5 Series or Mercedes-Benz E-Class, it ultimately comes down to how much you value extra driver involvement. The Holden WM Caprice which offers a sublime luxury feel similar to the Legend’s with an involving, rear-wheel drive chassis, suddenly looks cheap at $6000 under the Legend.

But the Legend hasn’t played its best card yet. Its body and structure, which is 33 per cent stiffer than the previous Legend, is made from an exotic combination of high tensile steels and aluminium. This allows Honda to angle the windscreen pillars for extra vision and generate amazing clearances around the side glass.

It oozes quality and generates outstanding five-star crash safety.

On test, passers-by couldn’t resist examining it in detail. This Legend has real presence.

The cabin is striking inside with lashings of real maple wood and a range of stitched finishes on the dash and doors. Thick glass and exhaustive sound deadening measures deliver unbelievable serenity over most sealed road surfaces.

On Australia’s broken surfaced roads, the suspension gets a little busy and sometimes ruffled but this is not its home ground. The Legend is a car that will allow you to waft around town without demands while you play your particular brand of Monopoly, zip up country if needed, then take your friends or clients out at night in top-shelf luxury. It’s better than many German rivals and the L Brand in the comfort stakes.

Although the rear and side glass is served by sunshades, the windscreen exposes the driver to the direct sun, demanding more of the dual-zone climate control than usual.

A GPS-based system that keeps track of the sun will adjust it for you automatically — I kid you not! I can just imagine a local mechanic telling an owner if it’s not working in ten year’s time that they don’t make satellites like they used to or the one looking after the Honda climate control has fallen out of the sky. You have to wonder whether it might be better to design a roof that could provide shade for the front of the cabin.

Although a hybrid control system resembling BMW’s iDrive complicates the controls, the eye-level screen and general layout are outstanding. It looks and feels expensive.

Although it doesn’t have satnav, it has a compass and a sensitive altitude readout. I found myself plotting a mental map of the areas to avoid around Melbourne if sea levels rise. The gadgetry will keep you amused for at least a month before you decide which is useful.

Power adjustable front seats and steering column should take care of just about any driver. The Xenon headlights with cornering function were outstanding and the progressive brake light intensity is clever. The bonnet has a pop-up function to reduce pedestrian injuries.

The premium sound and standard sunroof operation are as good as you would expect. Even if the blue glow emitted from the centre of each instrument is gimmicky, the graphics and calibrations are refreshingly clear.

The steering paddle controls for the auto are your best hope of entertaining driving but ultimately, the auto is best left to its own devices when it is one ratio short in this company.

An average fuel consumption of 13.7lt/100km given the mix of high speed and city driving was good given the weight, heat and current draw of all the luxury equipment. At steady speed freeway cruising, it could better 10lt/100km.

So that’s the Legend — overwhelmingly competent in every area yet it couldn’t be more different from the more involving European or Australian approach to luxury.

All those Toyota Cressida Grande or Mazda 929 owners who lament the loss of a replacement your new car is waiting. Except, this time it wears a Honda badge.

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Published. Thursday, 15 March 2007

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