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Acura Legend
aka Honda Legend, Acura RL
Production 1986 - 1996 (Legend, 1997-2008 (American RL)
Class Mid-Size Executive
Body Style Sedan, Coupe
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Transmission Automatic 5-speed, Manual 5-speed, Front wheel drive
Engine 2.7L SOHC V6 (C27A), 3.2L SOHC V6 (C32A)
Power {{{Horsepower and Torque rating}}}
Similar {{{similar (competition)}}}
Designer {{{Designer (lead designer if it was a team effort)}}}

The Acura Legend, sold as the Honda Legend outside the U.S., Canada, and parts of China, was a luxury vehicle sold from 1986 to 1995 as both a sedan and coupe. It was the first flagship sedan sold under the Acura nameplate, until being renamed in 1996 as the Acura 3.5RL. The 3.5RL was North American version of the (KA9) series Honda Legend. In Japan, the Legend was only offered at Honda Clio dealerships.

The opportunity for Japanese manufacturers to export more expensive models had arisen with the 1980s voluntary export restraints, negotiated by the Japanese government and U.S. trade representatives, restricting mainstream car sales.[1] When the Legend made its appearance into the market, rival companies in Europe, Japan and North America took notice, and quickly introduced or revised current products that could be compared to it. Toyota began development in 1983 with the F1 project, the code name for a secret flagship sedan effort that became the Lexus LS, Nissan updated their premium flagship the President initially introduced in 1966, and in 1988 Lincoln took a new approach to the venerable Continental offering for the first time a front wheel drive sedan with a V6 engine. General Motors introduced the GM H platform (FWD), Audi took a fresh approach to the 100 and in 1994 introduced the A6, and BMW introduced the BMW 5 Series (E34) in 1988.

First generation (1986-1990)[]

First generation
1988 Acura Legend "LS" sedan
Production 1986–1990 KA1-6 chassis
Engine 2.5 L C25A V6
2.7 L C27A V6
Transmission 5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
Wheelbase Sedan: 108.7 in (2,761 mm)
Coupe: 106.5 in (2,705 mm)
Length 1986-88 Sedan: 189.4 in (4,811 mm)
Coupe: 188 in (4,775.2 mm)
1989-1990 Sedan: 190.6 in (4,841 mm)
Width 1989-1990 Sedan: 68.9 in (1,750 mm)
1986-88 Sedan: 68.3 in (1,735 mm)
Coupe: 68.7 in (1,745 mm)
Height Sedan: 54.7 in (1,389 mm)
Coupe: 53.9 in (1,369 mm)
Related Rover 800-series
Sterling 825/827

Honda introduced the model in Japan on October 22, 1985 to be their premier luxury model and in North America in 1986 as the top of the line model for its then-new Acura lineup. Sedan models came to the market first, powered by a 151 hp (113 kW) 2.5 L C25A V6, with coupes making their first appearance in 1987, powered by a new 161 hp (120 kW) 2.7 L C27A engine. Sedans received the new engine for 1988.

The Legend was the first production Honda vehicle to offer only a SOHC V6 engine worldwide. The Legend was a result of a joint venture with Britain's Austin Rover Group called Project XX that started in November 1981 with the Austin Rover-Honda XX letter of intent signed by the two companies to replace the Rover SD1 and to provide a luxury vehicle for Honda. The Rover Company had a long established reputation as a luxury car in the United Kingdom and Europe, demonstrated with the Rover P6, and Honda wanted to introduce a luxury car for both domestic Japanese and the United States markets. The joint development produced the Legend and the corresponding British version was the Rover 800-series, of which only the top of the range version - the Sterling - was sold in the United States in competition with the Legend.

Rover also wanted to return to the American market when they had reportedly sold only 1,500 cars in 1971, and a brief return in 1980, selling 800 Rover SD1s by offering the Sterling[2]. The Sterling name was used in France instead of the Rover name.

The Legend won Car and Driver's Ten Best three years in a row and Motor Trend's Import Car of the Year for 1987. Manual-equipped models could sprint to 60 mph (97 km/h) in under 8 seconds and reach a top speed of 135 mph (217 km/h). Sedan models had a coefficient of drag of 0.32, while coupes were only 0.30. The combination of relatively light weight, low belt-line, responsive engine, and double-wishbone suspension made the Legend a driver's car that is still enjoyed by enthusiasts decades after the production of the first generation car stopped.

1987 Acura Legend sedan

When the Legend was introduced, Honda's newly established luxury car division just for the Legend was called Acura, using the advertising slogan "Precision Crafted Performance", and the Legend was offered with one factory installed option, the choice of transmission used, and one trim level. In the 1986 sales brochure, the Legend's full name used was "Legend Touring Sedan". The vehicle was virtually identical in luxury content to the Japanese market V6Zi, but was identical in size and the longer overall length of the top level V6Xi to comply with United States crash standards, using the larger 2.5 V6 engine. The Technics supplied 80W four speaker cassette tape stereo offered four user programmable equalizer settings, and was equipped with a dual diversity antenna, meaning it had a conventional extendable power antenna and an embedded antenna in the front window. One of the novelty items was a simple volume control rocker switch and a pre-set radio station channel selector installed on the instrument binnacle within reach of the right hand; the opposite side of the instrument binnacle had a button to open, tilt or close the standard equipped glass moonroof with sun shade.

The North American Legend was not offered some of the items offered in Japan, such as automatic, one touch climate control, and 100% wool cloth interior in brown. Blue interior was shared with Japan and North America, but brown was not offered in North America, and "sand gray" was offered instead. Exterior colors were matched to only one interior color choice and leather was not offered. Due to the success Honda had with the Legend, it served as an inspiration for the Subaru Legacy with which it shares many visual resemblances and dimensions both inside and out. There are also some appearance similarities with the 1988 Lincoln Continental.

Acura Legend coupe

In 1989, the sedan received some minor tweaks, upgrading to the one-piece front headlamps already in use in Japan since the 1986 introduction, a revised front bumper, trunk lid, tail light cluster, and an upgraded double-wishbone rear suspension, with a new alloy wheel appearance. By that time all Legends came equipped with a driver airbag and 4-wheel anti-lock brakes. Other features such as power driver's sear memory for 3 positions were added. High-end LS models featured a trip computer and electronic vehicle monitoring system in the center console and a Bose sound system. It was also joined by the Acura Vigor which set the stage for the larger second generation Legend introduced October 1991.

For the 1990 model year, all Legends came with body-colored side mirrors. Legend coupes had a revised body-colored front grille, new red & clear tail lights, and improved front seats. LS model coupes also received a trunk-mounted lip spoiler. All LS models featured burlwood interior trim. Production of the first generation models ended in 1990 as a second generation version became available for the 1991 model year.

From the exterior, there are only superficial similarities between the Legend and its Rover 800/Sterling cousin. Both cars share the 2.5L and 2.7L Honda engine and automatic transmission. The core structure and chassis design is also common to both cars, however the Rover version has its own exterior panelwork, interior and electrical systems. The Rover was also offered with a 2.0L in-line 4-cylinder engines in tune with European tastes, however the Legend was only available with V6 power regardless of market.

Second generation (1991-1995)[]

Second generation
2nd-gen Acura Legend coupe
Production 1991–1995 KA7-chassis
Engine 3.2 L C32A V6
Transmission 5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
6-speed manual
Wheelbase Coupe: 111.4 in (2,830 mm)
Sedan: 114.6 in (2,911 mm)
Length Sedan: 194.9 in (4,950 mm)
Coupe: 192.5 in (4,890 mm)
Width 71.3 in (1,811 mm)
Height 1991-92 Coupe: 53.5 in (1,359 mm)
Sedan: 55.1 in (1,400 mm)
1993-95 Coupe: 53.7 in (1,364 mm)

Daewoo Arcadia

Second generation units became available October 24, 1990, now using a 200 hp (150 kW) SOHC (C32A) engine mated to either a standard 5-speed manual or an optional 4-speed automatic. The second generation Legend was a larger, more streamlined-looking car (drag coefficients were actually higher at 0.34 for sedans and 0.32 for coupes). The Legend offered a host of features seen on luxury cars of today including speed-sensitive steering, hands-free telephone, automatic climate control, heated leather seats, heated mirrors, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, seat belt pretensioners and soft-close vacuum-operated doors (coupes only). The rear end appearance of the sedan was adopted from the first generation Legend coupe, as the first generation sedans appearance was very similar to the first generation Subaru Legacy, and Honda also wanted to visually align the appearance of both the Legend coupe and sedan to the Acura NSX. The segment the Legend originally filled was now being served by the Acura Vigor which allowed the Legend to position itself more towards the rear drive Lexus LS and the Infiniti Q45 sedans. Honda decided not to upgrade the size of the engine to a V8 because it would have upstaged the Acura NSX which has a V6 that introduced Honda's VTEC technology.

For 1991 and 1992 the Legend sedan was available in Base, L, and LS trims; the coupe remained available in L and LS through its entire run. The higher-end LS cars added climate control, a power 4-way passenger seat, burled walnut interior trim, and body colored side moldings. Honda made significant upgrades for 1993, making a 230 hp (172 kW) Type II version of the SOHC C32A engine standard on all coupes, along with a 6-speed manual transmission. 1993 also saw the addition of dual airbags as standard equipment all trims, the deletion of the black molding on the entry level cars, and a new wheel design with fewer spokes on the sedans (16-spoke vs. 20-spoke).

n 1994, all Legends received new front bumpers, a new front grille (L & LS Sedans only), revised trunk lids, and a power tilt-telescoping steering column; the word "Legend" was now spelled out in individual letters on the back. The base sedan, 4DR STD transmission, was dropped, while a new GS sedan became the new top-line variant, sporting the 230 hp (172 kW) Type II engine, upgraded brakes from the coupe, sport suspension from the coupe, a body colored version of the 1991 to 1993 grille, the same standard 6-speed manual found on the coupes as well as the special 16" 5-spoke LS Coupe wheels (better known as GS Wheels). Also in 1994, the LS version of the sedan lost the standard manual transmission. It was only available with an automatic transmission.

Added for 1995 was a limited-production SE sedan. Essentially a Legend L with a two-tone paint scheme, pre-1993 15" 7-spoke LS Coupe wheels, "Special Edition" floor mats, and automatic transmission.

1994-1995 Acura Legend sedan

The Japan Domestic Market version of the 1990 Legend (second generation) was the first vehicle offered with a 160 hp (119 kW) and navigation system, although it was not satellite-based and instead relied on a gas gyroscope. The tooling and intellectual property rights of the second generation Legend were licensed to Daewoo Motors of South Korea, where a clone of the Legend sedan, called the Daewoo Arcadia, was produced from 1993 to 2000. During this period, Honda also held a small stake in Daewoo Motors.[3]

The replacement for the Legend sedan is sold as the Acura RL in North America, although Honda continues to sell it as the Legend in most other areas of the world.


The Legend coupe was Motor Trend's Import Car of the Year for 1987. The coupe also made Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 1988 through 1990.

See Also[]

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