VMR Canada

1991-95 Acura Legend


1992 Acura Legend

Great Car, but Alas, no Legend

When Honda introduced its upscale Acura division in 1985, no one was quite sure how it would be received. For the first time, a Japanese automaker had set it's sites on a market long dominated by well-established and prestigious European brands - the luxury sports sedan. Two models were offered: the moderately priced four-cylinder Integra, and the expensive six-cylinder Legend sedan.

The Integra was really not much of a reach -- there were lots of moderately priced Japanese sporty cars being produced and Honda and Toyota in particular found ready buyers. It was the Legend that everyone was watching, and many predicted that Honda would fall flat on their face. After all Honda had no "heritage", "breeding" or "prestige". Wrong. The public loved the car and Acura was a tremendous success.

Fast forward to 1991, and you'll find Acura launching the replacement for it's original Legend. Longer, lower, wider, more luxurious, more powerful -- and more expensive. And it was faced with a boatload of competition from newcomers Lexus & Infiniti and an awakening sense from Europe that it was time to hit back.

It's a bit of a stretch to say the Legend lost its way, but it's clear that it was being squeezed from above and below in the marketplace. After failing to hold off the competition, Honda killed the Legend name after the 1995 model year, leaving us with a great car but no legend.

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Quality
  • Reliability
  • Cabin environment
  • Ride
  • Styling
  • Only adequate power for class
  • Service schedule/costs
  • Traditionally strong resale value slipping somewhat

What's Available

The Legend was available in two body styles - 2dr coupe and 4dr sedan - and five trim levels. A base model in '91, '92 and '93, the L and the LS throughout the full four years, a sportier top-of-the-line GS sedan beginning in '94, and a last gasp SE sedan made the party in '95. All were well equipped, with only the early Base model doing without a power sunroof or leather interior. Leather was optional on the L and your only choice on the upmarket models.

The only engine available across the board was a 3.2 liter V6 making either 200 or 230 horsepower. Transmission choices were a 4spd overdrive automatic, a 5spd manual, or a 6spd manual on the coupe and GS sedan.

Exterior

Gazing at a Legend is easy on the eyes. Clean and contemporary, it looks sculptured and very substantive. The appearance of quality pervades everywhere, and the design has aged gracefully. There is a tasteful touch of bright work around the side windows and the front grille. The GS model incorporates a body-colored grille opening. Fairly prominent fender flares and a horizontal rub strip lend some relief to the sides and a subtly integrated spoiler adorns the trunk lid.

About the only criticism, and it's minor, is that the standard 15in tires look a little small for the vehicle. The coupe ('93 - on) and the GS, with their beefy 16 inchers, look just right.

Interior

The cabin of a Legend is a most inviting place. The dash is purposeful looking, and materials and colors are nicely matched and integrated. Again, everything shouts quality.

Fit and finish are uniformly superb, everything feels just right and the placement of the controls is exemplary. Except the radio, which is a little low on the console. Polished burlwood adorns the center console and armrests on LS and GS models.

Room and Comfort

Running Changes

1991- New model

1992 - Passenger air bag standard on all but base model

1993 - Sedans get new wheels; Coupes get hp boost to 230hp; Base model gets passenger airbag

1994 - New front grille; power tilt steering wheel standard; GS model added

1995 - SE sedan added; more paint choices

In the sedans, both front and rear passengers will find the legend a comfortable place to travel. With a standard multi-position power drivers seat, you'll be able to find a driving position that suits you without too much problem. Even without the tilt wheel in the '91 through '93 models, few people will be unable to get situated just right.

The seats themselves are a terrific compromise between firm support and comfort, with the emphases slightly on the latter. Leather seating surfaces accompanied all LS and GS models and was optional in the L, where a pleasing cloth adorned the seats.

Moving to the back, two occupants in the sedan will find room to stretch out in, thanks in no small part to the long 114 inch wheelbase. All Legends are equipped with a fold-down center armrest. The center rear occupant will be comfortable enough for short hops to dinner, but it's best to forget about a cross country jaunt. Shoulder room gets a little tight for everyone and the seat cushion isn't very comfortable in the middle. There are really very few cars that keep that rear center occupant comfortable -- at least the Legend makes an attempt.

The Legend is a quiet place to be. At idle you'd be hard-pressed to detect the motor running at all. Thanks to some road noise, at highway speeds it is not as silent as Lexus or Cadillac, but it's pretty close. Under full throttle acceleration, the usually quiet and unobtrusive motor morphs into its alter-ego and makes some wonderful mechanical noises that shouldn't be suppressed. Honda knows how to build engines.

Despite a curious compact car rating from the EPA for interior volume, a Legend sedan will carry four adults at a brisk pace in great comfort, leaving everyone fresh upon arrival. Just what a premium sedan should do.

Ride/Handling/Performance

Compared to the first Legend, the second generation Legend gives up a little in the handling department in exchange for a smoother ride. Some of this comes from a longer wheelbase, but the suspension was softened a bit too. Pushing hard elicits lots of body roll, and the steering sometimes feels a little disconnected. But the ride is always composed, and highway driving is serene. A unique feature for a front-driver is an engine that points north/south instead of the usual transverse design. It is a little less efficient packaging, but allows the engine to sit farther back for better weight distribution. In theory anyway, this creates a better balanced automobile.

The GS model and the coupes got a firmer setup, and (after '92) got larger 16" wheels. Both helped sharpen handling and response, with little or no penalty in harshness.

During hard cornering or aggressive driving, the Legend exhibits modest body roll, but remains planted to the road. In 99% of your everyday driving experiences, you'll never reach it's limits.

One of the Legend's strongest assets is it's engine. It is a jewel. Possessing only a single overhead cam and nowhere near a class leader in terms of output per liter, it is still plenty powerful, butter smooth, quiet and tractable. When you dip into the gas it responds quickly and lets out some wonderful mechanical noises. If that's not enough, as a bonus it delivers great gas mileage.

Both the automatic and the manual transmissions are world-class. In particular, the stick is among the best mated to any front wheel drive car . Throws are smooth and precise.

As you would expect, four wheel ABS equipped disc brakes adorn the corners of every Legend, with coupe and GS models receiving dual piston calipers and thicker rotors. They pull the Legend down from speed with authority. Stops are straight, short and true.

Safety

As previously mentioned, all Legends came equipped with 4-wheel disc brakes, ABS, dual front airbags. An advanced traction control, dubbed TCS, was standard on the LS Coupe and the GS model.

A 1995 Legend scored fairly well government crash tests. The driver received a "good" rating and the passenger got a "very good" rating.

Reliability

The Legend is a true luxury car. Sophisticated in design, and full of gizmos and power accessories, it's remarkable how utterly reliable it is.

The powertrain is strong and rarely breaks. The other mechanical parts, such as the suspension and brakes are equally solid. And all those power accessories have compiled an exemplary record for never failing.

Both published reliability surveys and our own customer help line bear out the durability of the Legend.

There have been, however, a fair amount of Technical Service Bulletins issued by Honda regarding various mechanical issues. Read through the list and pay attention to some of the more serious ones when looking at a specific car.

Service

Like many Japanese cars, the Legend incurs somewhat higher than average service costs during its lifetime. There are some extra maintenance items compared to a domestic brand, and parts costs are above average. This is somewhat less of an issue on a luxury car than, say an Accord, but it's something to be aware of.

The Legend's recommended service intervals include the timing belt and water pump at 90,000 miles, brake fluid every 30,000 miles, air-conditioning filter every 15,000 miles, and front differential oil every 30,000 miles. This adds up to pretty expensive routine service.

Recommendations

To us, the Legend is a nicely balanced blend of performance, comfort and luxury. And even though service costs are above average, it's reliability is without reproach. Perhaps most importantly, you can pick up a nice example for a relative bargain. Lexus, Infiniti, and those re-energized Europeans have seen to that.

Who cares if it'll never be a Legend?

What They Said When New

"Buttons, switches and levers are satisfying in their actuation and appearance. "......... Road & Track 1991

".....tackles the twisties with much more abandon than one could reasonably expect ...., it does exhibit a modicum of body roll and a slightly over-assisted on-center steering feel."....... Motor Trend 1991

"The Legend's long wheelbase pays dividends in both ride quality and interior room"........Road & Track 1991

"Competent, credible, reliable. For a coupe, a bit dull".........Car & Driver 1993

"I'm surprised that there is no tilt wheel or drink holder in a car this nice and expensive."..........Automobile 1993

"Cross-country cruising or tackling the twisties, the Legend GS makes one great traveling companion."........Motor Trend 1994

 

General Specifications

General

Trim Levels: Base, L, LS ('91 - '95), GS ('94 & '95), SE ('95)

Body Styles: 2dr Coupe, 4dr Sedan

Dimensions & Capacities

Weight: 3550 lbs

Length: Sdn 195"; Cpe 192.5"

Wheelbase: Sdn 114.6"; Cpe 111.4"

Width: 75.4"

Height: Sdn 55.1"; Cpe 53.7"

EPA Class: Compact

Interior Vol: n/a

Trunk Vol : Sdn 14.8; Cpe 14 cu. ft.

Fuel: 18 gallons

Mechanical

Layout: Front-engine, Front-wheel drive;

Engines: 3.2L (6cyl-200hp) 3.2L (6cyl-230hp)

Transmission: 4-speed automatic w/overdrive; 5sp manual; 6sp manual

Brakes: Front disc/rear disc

Performance (200/230hp - a/t/manual)

0-60mph: 8.1/6.7 seconds 1/4 mile: 16.4/15.4 seconds Top Speed: 131/142mph

EPA Mileage: (city/hwy) 19/24 (200hp - a/t) 18/25 (200hp - 5spd) 18/26 (230hp - 6spd)

 

Safety

ABS Brakes: Standard; Air Bags: Dual standard

NHTSA Safety Rating:

Driver *** Passenger ****

Key:

Best: ***** No or minor injuries probable

Worst: * Serious injury probable

IIHS 40 mph Crash Rating:

Not tested

Original Warranty:

4yr/50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper 4yr/unlimited miles corrosion

 

Parts/Service Costs

Parts Only Parts & Labor
Accessory belt(s)  $60-$70 $100-$125
Alternator (new) $220-$450   $300-$550
*Brakes (pads only) Front $16-$60 $150-$200
Rear  $18-$60

 $150-$200

CV Joints (outer ea.) $90-250 $220-350
Exhaust (full) $1200  $1400
Halogen bulb (low beam)  $6-$11  $26-$31
*Timing belt  $30-$55   $275-$325
*Water pump  $175-$200  incl w/ brakes

 

Safety Recalls

Nhtsa Number: 92V109000

Model Year: 1992; Manufactured from Dec 1991 to Feb 1992

Year of Recall: '92

Summary: THE PASSENGER SIDE AIRBAG ASSEMBLY WAS PRODUCED WITHOUT IGNITER MATERIAL. THE LACK OF IGNITER MATERIAL CAN CAUSE NON-DEPLOYMENT OR SLOW DEPLOYMENT OF THE PASSENGER SIDE AIRBAG IN CASE OF A VEHICLE COLLISION, REDUCING THE OCCUPANT PROTECTION OFFERED BY THE AIR BAG AND SAFETY BELT SYSTEMS.

REPLACE THE PASSENGER SIDE AIRBAG.

NOTE: ACURA HAS INFORMED NHTSA THAT ALL AFFECTED CARS HAVE BEEN REPAIRED.

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This article first appeared in the Summer 1999 issue of Used Cars magazine.