Review and road test of the Honda Legend (1986 - 2004)
BY CLAIRE EVANS
You don't see many Honda Legends on the road, but that doesn't make them a bad secondhand buy. On the contrary, Honda's flagship saloon is an unusual and highly capable machine, which provides a more affordable alternative to its German and English counterparts.
Its sleek body is intended to evoke thoughts of a far more expensive Lexus LS400. Certainly, there's all the equipment and the refinement of larger, more prestigious rivals, even though in this case there's a V6, rather than a V8 engine under the bonnet.
First generation Legend - 1986-1991 2.5 V6 four-door saloon, coupe arrived in 1987 along with 2.7-litre enginesSecond generation Legend - 1991-1996 3.2 V6 four-door saloon and coupeThird generation Legend - 1996-to date 3.5 V6 four-door saloon and coupe
Honda developed the first Legend in conjunction with Rover whose 800 shared its inner body panels and V6 engine. The first V6 saloon, built by Rover in the UK, arrived way back in 1986 and was soon followed by a sleek Japanese-made coupe version. The original 2.5-litre V6 was replaced with a new 2.7-litre six a year or so later. Later again in the model run, assembly of the saloon was switched to Japan. The early cars came with an automatic gearbox as standard (five-speed manual was available). If you want the most comprehensively equipped version possible, look for cars with the special equipment pack which included air conditioning.
A new Legend arrived in 1991 complete with a bigger 3.2 V6 engine and a four-speed automatic transmission. This model featured a long list of standard equipment including anti-lock brakes, power steering, cruise control, air conditioning and leather trim. These cars provided a driver's airbag, but if you want one for your passenger too, look for a post-February 1993 model.
Another round of revisions followed in 1993. These brought improved suspension, better soundproofing, a smoother automatic transmission and larger alloy wheels. If you're after classy cruising on a budget, this is the model we'd recommend.
The coupe version was dropped in late 1995 and the all-new saloon arrived in June 1996, this time with a larger 3.5-litre 202bhp V6. This version was facelifted in early 1999 with a more prominent front grille and minor interior changes. The Legend eventually ground to a standstill in 2004.
What You Get
On the outside, alloy wheels give every Legend an imposing stance. Some would say that the interior of the latest version looks even smarter than the bodywork. Polished wood veneer has been tastefully applied around the cabin and the fixtures and fittings are just what you'd expect from a true luxury car. We won't run through it all here; suffice it to say that everything you can think of is included. This car was one of the first to introduce air bag technology to the UK and, as you'd expect, every conceivable safety feature has also been built in.
At the wheel, the Legend is an ergonomic masterpiece. Everything falls to hand perfectlyand works with a quality 'click'. Particularly praiseworthy are the controls for the stereo system on the latest cars. The system itself is impressively able and operating it is simplicity itself.
What to Look For
Check for corrosion around the boot on pre-1991 cars. On later versions the only problem areas are warped disc brakes (you'll feel a 'shimmy' through the pedal), occasional electrical faults and oil leaks. The main thing to remember with this usually reliable and hard wearing executive express is that a full service history is all-important; if it's not in evidence, don't buy. Maintenance is more expensive than more mainstream machinery, so it's worth getting one that's just had a major service.
Parts prices are rather higher than they would be for a more mainstream make. That said, the Legend, like all other Honda cars, is virtually bullet-proof when it comes to reliability and practicality. So, although it's likely to be costly to have major repairs undertaken, they won't need to be done very often, and once renewed the parts should last longer than normal.
Shock absorbers will set you back £160 for the front and £120 for the rear; brake pads will cost £63 and £60 for the front and rear respectively: a tail lamp will cost £92 to replace and headlamp £186, and should the alternator need renewing it will cost £375. All these prices are excluding VAT.
On the Road
Performance from the 3.2-litre model should be more than adequate for most, but if you're after sheer brute-force acceleration, we'd recommend the latest 202bhp 3.5-litre version. At the pumps however, given a fair amount of motorway work, even the largest engine should manage to record between 22 and 24mpg on a regular basis.
The latest Legend's four-speed automatic gearbox, besides being silky smooth, responds quickly to the driver's input. Rest to sixty takes just over eight seconds on the way to 135mph. Having said that, like most of its executive competitors, this car is most at home on the motorway. Whatever your speed, there's always an impressive sense of equilibrium which even the strongest undulations or the gustiest crosswinds can't upset. Inside, the atmosphere is almost perfect.
The Legend is one of those extremely competent, but almost forgotten cars which is a superb buy in the secondhand market for those in the know.
Honda Legend (1986 - 2004) review by CLAIRE EVANS