2008 Honda Legend
– Super handling
– Classy cabin design
– Quiet comfortable ride
– Engine lacks low-end grunt
– Pedestrian exterior styling
– Complicated computer issues
The Honda Legend used to be among the most advanced luxury cars on the road a decade ago, even though it was front-wheel-drive and only had a V6 engine. Those deficiencies later made sure that the Legend became only a bit player in a segment dominated by rear-wheel-drive cars with big V8 powerplants. After taking a short hiatus, the Legend is back in the Middle East with oodles more technology.
Outwardly, the Legend looks a bit too pedestrian to be considered an upscale car. In fact, we came across many conservative people who thought the car looked great, but were shocked to hear that it cost twice as much as a basic Accord. Big 17-inch alloys, twin exhaust tips, HID headlights and LED tails don’t do enough to spruce up the bland styling.
But the interior is a different prospect altogether. The cabin design is so unique and trendsetting that it feels like stepping into a more flamboyant car. The dashboard and doors all feature substantial curves and beautiful finishing touches. All cabin materials are high-quality, and most upper surfaces are soft to the touch. The perfect leather stitching and the numerous bits of wood/metal trimmings all reminded us of cars like Lexus and BMW.
All seats and door panels are clad in leather. The front seats are electrically adjustable and feature good side-bolstering. Legroom and headroom are generous all over, although rear passenger space seems similar to that of an Accord. In fact, the Legend and the new Accord ride on the same wheelbase. The new Accord is also slightly longer than the Legend, and this becomes apparent in the relatively compact luggage compartment for such a sizeable car. At least four hidden cup-holders and other small covered cubbies enhance cabin utility.
On paper, the solidly-built Legend is littered with gadgets such as turning headlights, navigation, Bluetooth phone and a reverse camera. However, we never noticed the magic headlights, the navigation system did not respond to inputs on our tester, the Bluetooth phone was locked out by the nav system, and the reverse camera has no lines to show the width of our car so we still had to use the mirrors to aid parking. Other working features include a sunroof, power windows, electric mirrors, parking sensors, cruise control, retractable rear sunshades and tons of airbags.
The nav system seems to be an aftermarket Garmin unit somehow tacked onto the car’s computer, and we were not able to switch over to the standard computer system to change a/c and radio settings. So we read the manual and pressed every button on the lower dash console, but nothing worked. The nav system itself only worked after we found the Garmin remote and used it to play with navigation settings. Thankfully, the a/c and stereo had a few additional buttons on the dash, so we were still able to somewhat use them. The a/c worked strongly without issues, especially since it was stuck on “auto” and blasted us with cold air for the first few minutes of operation. The rear passengers get vents, but no separate a/c controls. The CD stereo system is also a solid performer, with an in-dash changer and 10 lively speakers, although we were locked out of the DVD function by the psychotic nav system. We still have no idea whether the nav system was malfunctioning or whether we never found the right button combination to turn off the damn thing. There was an instruction manual for the in-car computer and a separate manual for the nav, but no instructions were there on how to switch between the two systems.
Ignoring the computer hijinks, driving the Legend is a blast, for the most part. The V6 engine is somewhat of a weak point for the Legend. While it boasts an impressive 296 hp at 6,200 rpm from only 3.5 litres of displacement, its 351 Nm of peak torque at a high 5,000 rpm means the car feels lethargic at low revs. Flooring the throttle only results in a sleepy takeoff until higher rpm levels are reached, at which point the car flies. The super-quiet engine is aided by a five-speed automatic with decent paddle-shift functionality, although manual shifting sometimes results in engine stutters at lower gears. We managed a 0-to-100 kph run of 8.2 seconds at best, with traction control off. Even then, there is no wheelspin because the excellent all-wheel-drive system, dubbed “Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive” by Honda, kills all wheelspin and allocates power perfectly among the four wheels, as indicated by a little LCD displaying power distribution for each wheel. And this isn’t even the real function of the SH-AWD system.
The real purpose of the SH-AWD system shines through when the road starts curving. The Legend is simply phenomenal around corners, enough to make us think we were driving a BMW. The car just keeps on turning as we kept pressing on faster around turns. The tyres are only 235/50 on 17-inch rims, which are thinner than the rubber on the smaller BMW 330i we tested last year, but the Legend manages almost similar levels of grip by putting the SH-AWD to good use, overcoming physical forces with technology rather than brute force. The steering makes up for its lightness with its sharp response. The ABS-assisted four-wheel disc brakes are easy to control precisely, with strong stopping power at hand when needed. We pulled off mild slides of the rear end while braking hard into tight turns, and we’re glad the stability control system allows at least this much fun. There is some body roll, but it is kept under control by tight suspension tuning.
The suspension itself is another surprise, because it is very compliant and flattens bumps with ease without the slightest hint of firmness. Highway ride is extremely quiet, as the engine hardly makes a sound even under full throttle, and the wind hardly intrudes into the cabin, leaving only the mild rumble of road noise from underneath as the only noticeable sound at 120 kph. Apparently Honda has some amazing system to actively cancel out most annoying noises, except talkative passengers of course. All-round visibility is good, and the mirrors are decent even if a bit small. For a V6, we expected it to be slightly more economical, as we managed a fuel consumption average of 15.2 litres per 100 km, but then again this is a “Super-Handling” Legend, not a front-driven Accord.
The rejuvenated Legend is an excellent showcase of what Honda is capable of. However, we wish Honda had gone the few extra steps and given the engine some low-end juice, as well as hired designers from outside the Accord camp for the styling department. Computer issues aside, the Legend easily matches any other luxury brand in road handling, cabin ambience and ride comfort for the price. But the fact that we keep mentioning the Accord in this article is a cause for concern. We really wanted this car to be successful, but we are afraid this new one might sell only about as well as the forgotten car that it replaced.