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Honda's stuff of Legend

01/23/2007

Honda Legend
As part of its box of tricks, the Honda Legend has a system called active noise control, which works in the same way as the plane headphones. It's designed to cancel out low-frequency booming in the interior and works independently of the stereo. But despite repeatedly switching it on and off, we could not tell the difference.

It certainly sounded like a great idea and the Legend is full of them. Although most are not new, the result is an unconventional large luxury car with an amalgam of influences. It bears the hallmarks of being created for the US market but is unmistakably a Honda.

That's obvious almost immediately from what's under the bonnet. Honda may be the world's largest engine maker, but it doesn't make big engines. At least, not yet. Only one powerplant is offered: a 3.5-litre V6 driving through a five-speed automatic. That's two cylinders and one ratio short of what many will consider the norm for a large luxury conveyance.

It's a glorious engine, though, with a smooth, silky touch for the urban commute. Press on, and it has the Honda quality of delivering its best high in the rev range and keeps getting better the higher you go. In doing so, it goes from imperceptibly quiet to potently racy without a hint of exertion.

However, this engine lacks the low-rev torque that most will identify with luxury motoring and below 4000rpm there's a decided absence of punch. It can feel sluggish off the mark, overtaking requires a run-up and along tight and twisty roads, it's hard to keep the engine on the boil.

A wide spread of ratios in the five-speed automatic, with a big gap between third and fourth, doesn't help. On the positive side, the auto hangs on to the chosen gear at the redline and will accept downshifts high in the rev range with a slight lift off the throttle. Sensibly, the shifter allows fourth and fifth to be locked out and steering wheel paddles are also a plus.

One innovation unique to this car is its four-wheel drive system, which adjusts torque loads under hard cornering to help the car turn more effectively. In particular, it allows the outside rear wheel to turn faster, helping to negate understeer the tendency to run wide in a corner. It gives the Legend more dynamic ability than you might expect given its length nearly 5m and a kerbweight approaching 1.9 tonnes.

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Honda's stuff of Legend
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