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Honda Legend 2007 Review

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.

The brakes held up well on a twisty run down into a NSW gorge and while they don't have the greatest pedal feel they were a class above the tiller for intimacy. There's an indirect and artificial quality to the steering that makes it easy to overcorrect lane-keeping on freeways, for example.

On smooth surfaces the ride quality stays good, although rougher roads give it a fidgety edge that the best luxury cars avoid, and the tyres can be heard coping with coarse or broken tarmac.

The interior is welcoming with leather generously applied and the stepped dash design has a tier of woodgrain. Cabin space cannot match that in locally built large cars and the angle of the side glass means the roof could encroach a little on headroom. That said, four large adults are unlikely to feel cramped.

The situation is similar in the boot, which with 452 litres capacity falls short of locally built premium models but is fairly capacious nonetheless. A ski-hatch and tie-downs help compensate for a floor that isn't flat. Underneath a space-saver serves as spare.

Despite the visibly pleasing seat contours, we had sore legs after one five-hour stint in the saddle and came away feeling there was a slight compromise in the driving position.

Certainly, there are some issues with forward visibility. The length of the bonnet is impossible to gauge and the A-pillars could have been designed to obscure traffic approaching from left or right at a T-junction or roundabout. The wing mirrors are excellent, though.

The controls are a little scattered, but there's logic in their placement. The hardest ones to find quickly are those grouped together on the small centre-console — although steering wheel buttons more than compensate. In common with a lot of new cars, there are too many little information screens, all of which differ in terms of typeface, resolution and layout.

A rotary knob very reminiscent of BMW's iDrive is used to navigate through menus and with a relatively modest number of functions, it's reasonably easy to get around although it means changing the fan speed, for example, becomes a multi-button procedure.

Another reminder of Munich came in the shape of the interior door handles; as in the 5 Series, they are too close to the hinge for easy leverage and strain visibly when closing the front doors.

With only one model priced at $74,500, the Legend comes well-equipped with leather, active headlamps with light sensor, foglights, rear parking camera, power heated front seats, dual zone climate control, cruise, sunroof, auto wipers, and side and rear sunshades.

Safety equipment includes six airbags — rear passengers miss side bags — stability control and a pop-up bonnet, similar to the one which debuted recently on the Jaguar XK, to lift pedestrians clear of hard engine surfaces in the event of a collision.

With so much gear it would be churlish to grumble, but we did miss a lane-change blinker function, mute button for the stereo and, in particular, parking radar for the unguessable front — although the rear camera is an aid to reversing.

A compass and GPS display compensate a little for the lack of satnav.

Getting the Legend on to the Australian market has already taken some time, with some US buyers now several years into ownership. Its stateside priorities are evident in its bland and derivative big-car design, which lacks the sharp style of the Honda Euro, say. Another tell-tale of the car's stateside priorities is the foot-operated parking brake — very much an American device.

In the US the Legend is sold under Honda's premium Acura badge — the equivalent of Toyota's Lexus — and as you would expect, it feels thoroughly well-engineered and built.

It also seems like a lot of car for the money, not least because the new model is substantially cheaper than the one deleted two years ago.

Not even Honda expects it to have widespread appeal here — in many ways, it runs counter to Australian notions of what a large luxury car should be. Buyers who go in with their eyes open will get a unique take on the segment.

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Range and Specs

(base) 3.5L, PULP, 5 SP SEQ AUTO $8,400 – 12,980 2007 Honda Legend 2007 (base) Pricing and Specs