1 May 1986
By CHRIS HARRIS
DEVELOPED with Britain’s Austin-Rover Group in the early 1980s, the resulting ‘XX’ cars spawned the Rover 800 and Honda Legend. But only the Japanese car – Honda’s flagship – remains today.
The Legend was also the backbone of Honda’s then-unique move to create an upmarket brand in the United States known as Acura. Since then it has flourished, with its success inspiring Toyota’s Lexus, Nissan’s Infiniti and Mazda’s doomed Eunos ventures.
In effect it was Japan’s first true international luxury car, and the whole world was watching very closely.
Against such history the Legend itself was rather less than one.
The ’86 Mk1 original looked like a bloated contemporary Accord sedan, but did have the required equipment, refinement and performance to cut it as a luxury car at the time.
It was powered by a 2.5-litre SOHC 24V V6 delivering 120kW of power and 213Nm of torque through the front wheels via a four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission or, until the end of ’87, a rarely-specified five-speed manual gearbox.
Critics of the day praised the build quality, smooth and revvy nature of the V6 and obvious value for money, but lamented the Legend’s overly light steering, soft handling properties and disappointingly harsh ride – in spite of its independent wishbone and strut suspension.
Air-conditioning, alloy wheels, cruise control, power windows, power steering, electric mirrors and a sunroof were all part of the standard Legend package.
A facelift arrived from January ’88, boasting a revised front and tail treatment, updated trim, more standard features and the adoption of a 128kW/226Nm 2.7-litre V6 – essentially addressing one of the haute Honda’s biggest weaknesses, its lack of mid-range oomph.
But the Legend’s dynamic inadequacies remained much the same despite some progress there too.
A little earlier – from November ’87 – a two-door coupe was added to range, powered by the same 128kW 2.7 V6 but featuring a completely new – and rather lithe – body style.
As part of Honda’s golden era of coupes – CRX, Integra and Prelude – the Legend Coupe sat as the company’s flagship model.