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by Jay Traugott
The Legend was Honda's first foray into the world of large luxury sedans powered by a V6. It also served as the flagship for the newly launched Acura brand.
The South Korean auto industry may be stealing the spotlight away from Japanese manufactures, but there was a time when the Japanese were doing the exact same thing to the Americans and Germans. The winning formula looks like this: Take any model you'd like to compete against, reverse engineer the heck out of it and find its faults. Then note what it does well. Combine all of that data into one package and add build quality and reliability too often ignored by your foes and you've got a future best-seller. Especially if you price it less than the competition.
Honda and Toyota did this year's ago and the rewards, as we know, have paid off big time. Hyundai and Kia are currently having their turn but the Japanese automakers also created their own luxury brands, with the sole purpose of taking on the likes of Mercedes-Benz and BMW. When Honda launched its luxury brand, Acura, back in 1986, the first thing it needed was a large sedan to prove it could run with the big boys. The Acura Legend was its top-of-the-line model and it showcased Honda's proven build quality and reliability along with very respectable driving dynamics.
Believe it or not, at that time German brands had a reputation for annoying reliability issues. Acura smartly exploited them to its benefit. The Legend was first offered with a 2.5-liter V6 with just 151 horsepower, but this was bumped up to 161 hp when the 2.7-liter unit came out the following year. The Legend was also the first production Honda to offer a V6 engine. Luxury buyers were as impressed as the automotive press with Motor Trend awarding the Legend title of 1987 Import Car of the Year. In addition to the sedan, Acura also offered it as a coupe.These body styles continued with the second-gen model, which launched in 1991.
Along with all-new styling, output was increased to 200 horsepower. The car also grew in size, both inside and out, and even more advanced features were offered, including speed-sensitive steering, a hands-free phone, automatic climate control, heated leather seats and four-wheel ABS. Today most of these features come with, or are at least offered, on cars as small and basic as the Chevrolet Sonic but remember, this was the early Nineties when MC Hammer was still considered cool. Power for the coupe was increased to 230 hp in 1993 and a six-speed manual came as standard.
This gave the car the seal of approval from many driving enthusiasts. In fact, Acura even considered increasing the engine size to a V8, but opted against it less it upstaged its halo car at the time, the NSX. Regular mechanical and optional updates continued through 1995 when the Legend was replaced by the RL: arguably one of the dumbest decisions made by Honda at the time. After building up name recognition and branding for several years, the Legend name was ditched because market research supposedly showed that customers knew cars by their model names first, and as an Acura second.
Although it was still called the Legend in other parts of the world, the US-spec model has continued using the "RL" in the name, with the latest generation having just debuted at LA called the RLX. But for many, the original Legend is still sorely missed. This second-gen 1995 model that's up for sale on eBay appears to be in excellent condition considering its age. It has 87,461 miles on the clock but still runs and drives great. It's fully loaded with all of the best features you could expect for the time and is priced at $6,995, though the seller is accepting lower offers.