The flagship of the Honda range has always been the Legend model, a saloon that aims to showcase the best of the brand. After a noticeable absence from the price lists, an all-new Legend arrived to take on the heavyweight names in the executive saloon sector. This Legend has a difficult task of beating premium badges where image is everything.
At first glance the Legend owes something to its humbler sibling, the Accord. It is a well proportioned and understated in design, but despite the prominent front grille and large jewel-like rear lights, the Legend is not the most distinctive car in the class. For some however this will be a plus point, and it is indisputably a clean and modern-looking car which will appeal to drivers seeking a degree of discretion.
Mechanically the Legend offers an unusual layout for this class. The 3.5-litre naturally aspirated engine uses the famed VTEC variable valve control system that boosts power output and fuel economy, but this power is transmitted to the road through an all-new four-wheel drive system. Dubbed Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, the system diverts power between the front and rear axles but also divides it between the rear wheels to ensure maximum traction and stability.
There are further innovations inside the Legend. It is fitted with CMBS, a safety system which detects an imminent collision and warns the driver, even braking the vehicle and tightening the seatbelts to reduce the severity of an accident. It is also available with ADAS, the Advanced Driver Assist System seen on the Accord. This high-specification cruise control system can maintain a gap to the car in front automatically as well as help to keep the car in its lane by making steering adjustments.
With just one model in the range, the specification of the Legend is comprehensive. The only available options are the ADAS system and parking sensors, while items such as climate control, high-end audio system, power seats and leather trim are fitted as standard. This compares favourably with rival cars, which often demand premiums for luxury items.
The Legend is a thoroughly competent luxury car which offers a surprisingly invigorating driving experience and the highest of specifications. It succeeds in almost all areas, but its understated image may count against it in a badge-conscious market such as this.
Running costs for the Legend will be relatively high, with a high insurance grouping and low fuel economy figures due to the large capacity petrol engine.
Despite its exterior dimensions, the Accord's cabin is not as generous as some of its rivals. However, for the vast majority of people there is plenty of head and legroom front and rear. The boot is a little shallow due to the four-wheel drive components, but 450 litres should be sufficient for most users.
The layout of the Legend can be initially confusing due to the large number of controls, but after a period of familiarisation it all operates in an intuitive fashion. The controls themselves are well labelled and operate smoothly, while the blue-lit instruments are particularly attractive.
Although the ride is slightly firmer than most, the Legend offers a very high level of comfort. The cabin is well designed and adaptable to all sizes of drivers, wind, road and engine noise are exceptionally low and the well sorted suspension copes with road imperfections easily. Comfort levels are also aided by the ADAS system, which significantly reduces fatigue on long journeys.
The Legend is also well stocked with security devices, including an alarm system, engine immobiliser and deadlock remote locking system.
The Legend should be one of the safest cars in its class, as it has a wide range of safety devices. As well as the typical features such as six airbags, ABS and brakeforce distribution, and the addition of items like the collision mitigation system and the pop-up bonnet give it a significant advantage.
The Legend manages the difficult task of being comfortable to drive and ride in but also controlled and fun to drive quickly when the conditions permit. The engine and gearbox work well together when cruising, shifting smoothly in automatic or manual mode, while the ride quality is impressive. On more challenging roads, the gearbox is best used in manual mode to access the engine's power and torque, but the handling and grip are highly impressive, and the Legend is an entertaining companion.
The Legend could perform family duties with some ease, thanks to its decent cabin space and comfort levels. An estate version would provide the extra boot space often required by larger families, but otherwise the Legend is more than capable.
The Legend is likely to be too expensive for the vast majority of first time drivers, while its high performance and complexity will exclude the inexperienced. However, its ease of driving is such that a new driver could get to grips with it quite easily.
The Legend does a good job of representing the quality standards of the Honda brand. Throughout the car the standard of finish is impressive, and all the controls operate with smoothness and efficiency. The materials are also of a high standard. The Legend's image is less well defined, particularly as previous generations had a limited following. This is likely to continue, as the supply of Legends into the UK is restricted. The benefit of this is the car will be a rare sight on the roads, adding to its appeal.
With chunky grab handles and wide opening doors, access to the Legend is easy. The electrically adjustable steering wheel also moves up and in when the key is removed, easing entry and exit for the driver. The boot also has remote operation, allowing hands free opening and closing.
Fitted as standard to all Legends is a high quality audio system, with a MP3 compatible 6 CD autochanger and tuner. The sound quality is very impressive indeed, and combined with the low noise levels inside the cabin creates an excellent environment for music on the move.
The Legend is available in a relatively small range of sober colours, which suit its restrained appearance. Inside the cabin is finished in a fine mix of wood, leather and plastics, which blend well together.
Although a relatively large car, the Legend is straightforward to park. Even without the optional parking sensors the extremities are easy to place, while the standard rear-facing camera is a useful aid.
Space saver spare wheel fitted beneath the boot floor
One engine option: 3.5-litre petrol (291bhp). Five-speed automatic transmission with paddleshift fitted as standard driving all four wheels. One trim level with high specification.
BMW 5 Series Even more sporting, impressive image
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Comfortable and attractive, less generous specification
Citroen C6 Unusual but attractive, very comfortable and distinctive
Audi A6 Desirable and highly competent