Honda Legend AWD

AutoTrader NZ
Published 3 September 2020

At Honda’s Takasu test track last year we were blown away by the consummate ability of the Legend’s chassis and its very clever all-wheel-drive system.

But we had to drive it on real New Zealand roads to find its flaws – though we also confirmed our initial impressions that, in handling terms, this car is very good indeed.

But first, the guided tour. In brief, as Honda has loaded the car with stuff. There are the leather-trimmed, eight-way power adjustable seats and such expected equipment as cruise control. But every feature also seems to have
a “wait, there’s more” factor.

For example, the Bose 10-speaker audio plays DVDs, and features an active
noise cancellation system that continuously quietens the car.

The two keys not only remotely unlock your Legend, but each can individually customise a vast array of settings such as seat position, the volume of warning beeps, the interior light dimming time, the level of light at which the auto headlights switch on. Programmable settings even let the driver or passenger adjust the airflow to slightly hotter or cooler than the average.

All that is set using a simple dial-and-buttons system on the fascia, the menu
visible on a high-mounted screen.

Meanwhile the trip screen can show a variety of functions – including the amount of drive to any one wheel.

But wait, there’s even more. The climate control system is a GPS-linked, solar-sensing, dual-zone dual-mode affair that does everything except make a good cup of tea. The GPS constantly monitors the position of the sun relative to the driver and passenger and combines that information with input from a solar sensor to automatically adjust the temperature and airflow from side to side to compensate, for example, for bright sun streaming through one side of the car.

Obviously there’s a full panoply of safety aids, including airbags which change their response if you haven’t buckled in, a reversing camera and headlights which let you look around corners.

You’ll need to look around them because this car corners exceptionally well, partly thanks to what Honda calls its “Super Handling All Wheel Drive” system, or SH-AWD for short. Brainchild of the same engineer responsible for the Prelude’s Active Torque Transfer System, it delivers torque front to rear, and at the back from side to side.
Under light loads, up to 70 percent of urge goes to the front. Put your foot down, and up to 70 percent goes to the rear if you’re cornering hard. The entire 70 percent can go to just the outside rear wheel if needed – and that wheel can be overdriven up to five percent.

That’s right, the rear wheels can be made to accelerate faster than the fronts.
The acceleration device fitted just in front of the rear drive unit uses a planetary gear set to spin the outside rear wheel faster than the average speed of the two fronts, thus causing the vehicle to yaw during the turn, which reduces understeer.

All this adds weight to the car, which despite extensive use of aluminium still
weighs 1855kg – or two tonnes with a couple of people aboard. Yes, the engine is working hard at times.

That engine’s a 3.5-litre V6 that uses variable valve timing and a two-stage intake manifold plus computer-controlled fuel injection. The result is 217kW at 6200rpm and 351Nm at 5000rpm, mated to a five-speed automatic gearbox.
And it’s this engine and gearbox pairing that proves disappointing. Drive the Legend with spirit, and you constantly want another ratio – or more power.

This car deserves it, for though the steering is slightly numb that SH-AWD system offers immense grip, plenty of feel, and the handling characteristics of a very talented car. No doubt the talent belongs to the electricians, but you feel as if it’s you that is driving like a demon.

But spear into a corner in third, tap her down – and she won’t tap. You’re going
too slow for second, yet the engine speed’s too high to haul out of the corner. You either have to button off for the auto to work, or slow exaggeratedly before the corner to manually engage second, for the car will hold your selected gear come hell, high water or rev limiters.

Of course most buyers will love the high-tech, they’ll love the comfort and they’ll love the grip. They’ll rarely go feral in this car, so won’t notice that the needs an extra gear – and perhaps a bit more pep.

But what might bother them is the $91,750 cost for what looks like a upgraded Accord.

If you like to own a sleeper you’ll enjoy the fact buyers of luxury Euros must pay a lot more for something this well specced. If you like to show off – you’ll pay more and go elsewhere.