The launch of the 2006 Legend prompts a few key questions. One of the most pertinent of these is: why is a large-market manufacturer like Honda tackling the competitive prestige arena?
Well, consider it, if you will, as part of the bigger Honda picture. Legend is the next – and perhaps most important – stage of Honda’s rise up the class ladder.
The Accord has already made a significant dent in the German dominated Upper-medium D-sector. It offers not just supreme build quality with superior advanced technology to the class-leaders, it also has a distinct personality – reflected in the now infamous ‘Cog’ advertising. At Honda, we call this ‘warm engineering’. It proves a stark contrast to the cold, impersonal approach of the Teutonic car makers.
The launch of the 5-door Civic at the end of 2005 continued Honda’s push into a more prestigious market – maintaining high standards of quality and low running costs, while coupling cutting-edge looks with a sporty, exciting drive.
Now comes the really brave bit: another foray into the unforgiving E-sector with the Legend. And while the new executive saloon offers comfort, quality, trim and specifications to match even the strongest competitors – Legend also gives much more, in the shape of unique and class-leading handling performance and innovative safety features. It offers the expected, and the unexpected.
As such, this car epitomises Honda’s position in the car market. It delivers remarkable quality, an involving drive, contemporary styling, cutting-edge technology and the highest possible levels of safety. It does all this while maintaining a distinct personality.
So, perhaps for the first time, the 2006 Legend will live up to its moniker. Certainly, it can now offer a definite – and very different – challenge to the opposition.
A sleek and elegant body over a rigid frame
It may be technically superior in its category, but to really compete with the big boys, the Legend had to look good.
Fortunately, Honda’s body stylists have delivered. The car combines sensual, flowing lines with sharp-edged aggression over a short, wide chassis that helps optimise road holding and handling.
The styling features a steeply-sloping bonnet, with a bold, raised section leading down to the front bumper and its distinctive lower air intake openings. The headlights are of a large, angular design with the Honda signature five-sided grille in a chrome finish slotted between them.
A sleek cockpit, a rising beltline and a short rear deck accentuate the Legend’s dynamic, wedge-like shape to reflect the high-speed, sporting ability of the car.
But as well as looking the part, the designers concentrated on making the Legend body as smooth and aerodynamic as possible. Glass in the side windows is ‘3D’, in that it fits flush with the outer trim, including the B-pillar. The body also sports a boot-lip spoiler and a variety of under-floor covers that improve air-flow around the car.
Under the surface, the body structure of the Legend also plays a role in the overall performance of the car. Firstly, weight was of primary concern – to maximise the power-to-weight ratio. Therefore the choice of materials had to be lightweight, but also high-rigidity to ensure the chassis remained stiff. As a result, the larger body members are made from high-tensile steel, while the bumper beams, subframes, bonnet and boot are all aluminium parts to save vital kilograms.
Despite the low weight of the entire body, it’s 33 per cent stiffer than the previous Legend. This combination of light weight and torsional rigidity contributes to the superior handling and agility of the car.
Meanwhile, the Legend’s outer skin is as special as the interior – a new ultra high-gloss paint is used on the body to produce a premium finish. This is achieved by water polishing the intermediate coats before applying the thicker clear coats to create a deep, layered effect.
Luxurious materials surround innovative technology
While the Legend’s chassis dynamics and transmission technology help the car negotiate twisting B-roads at speed, inside the cabin remains a haven of serenity thanks to supreme levels of comfort and a host of advanced technology.
Central to the interior design is the wrap-around style dashboard, with all key instruments and gauges placed within the driver’s immediate view. Stretching across the dash is a wood-effect panel to enhance the overall appearance, while in the centre sits the smart three-zone console, housing controls for adjusting climate, audio and satellite navigation.
The advanced climate control system is both vertically and horizontally independent for precise temperature control. It’s also sensitive to sunlight, using optical sensors to determine the sun’s position, and auto adjusting the interior climate accordingly.
The Legend’s state-of-the-art audio equipment features a 10-speaker system developed by BOSE, which delivers extraordinary surround sound resolution to all seating positions.
It also features cutting-edge AudioPilot technology, or ‘in-cabin noise suppression’, which ‘cancels’ road, wind and other intrusive noise by sending out an opposite phase signal through the speaker system. This clearly helps to create a more relaxed, calming atmosphere behind the wheel with significantly reduced ‘boom’. It’s similar technology to that used in RAF fighter jets to cancel out exterior and engine noise.
Also fitted as standard is the voice activated satellite navigation system, installed with over 500 voice commands, an 8-inch display, comprehensive destination guide and 3D graphics. Flick the steering-wheel mounted switch and issue a command or destination and the Sat Nav will calculate the quickest route. Want to find a restaurant in the local area? Ask the system and it will give you a list of options, before showing you the best way to your choice.
The 8-inch Navi screen is also used in conjunction with a reversing camera, mounted under the numberplate surround. This automatically activates when the car is shifted into reverse gear.
Directly behind the steering wheel are the usual instrument panels showing speed, revs and warning lamps. In addition, there’s a multi-function screen that shows fuel economy, range, lapsed time, average speed and a monitor for the rear seatbelts. The dash display also features a useful torque indicator graphic that monitors torque distribution from front to back and across the rear wheels. Mild warning: observing torque travel to all four wheels is seriously addictive!
As well as the host of technological features, the interior of the Legend offers sumptuous comfort levels, with only the highest grade materials employed to create trim and finish.
The 8-way electrically-adjusted seats are covered with high-quality, hand-stitched, soft-touch leather. Both driver and passenger seats are heated as standard.
All three rear seats are fitted with head restraints, which for rearward visibility can be lowered automatically by the driver using a button within the centre console.
A rear sunblind is also available at the flick of a switch, and there are manual side blinds at the rear. Each blind provides shelter from sunlight and heat penetration, but still allows good visibility.
Engines and Performance
Providing more power than any other Legend engine to date, a mighty 24-valve, 3.5-litre VTEC lives under the bonnet, pushing out a peak of 295PS at the flywheel – more than any other V6-powered car in its class.
The all-important torque figures are just as impressive: at 5,000rpm there’s a useful 351Nm of torque on hand.
The engine itself is fairly compact, and has been designed to be as lightweight as possible in an attempt to significantly improve the overall power-to-weight ratio of the car. As such, the all-aluminium block sports a slimline magnesium cylinder head cover, and a two-piece aluminium die-cast intake manifold. Honda engineers also concentrated on making the engine as frugal as possible, using low-friction materials where possible, and employing drive-by-wire throttle control. These features help the Legend record a combined mpg figure of 23.7. Carbon emissions are also impressive for a V6 engine (282g/km), helped by a dual, close-coupled, under-floor CAT exhaust system.
The Legend’s VTEC V6 is mated to a similarly lightweight 5-speed automatic gearbox, which was designed for high-speed driving, and built with high quality and a clean, short shift feel.
It features Honda’s Sequential SportShift, which means the driver can switch from traditional fully automatic mode, to ‘manually’ selecting gears using the shift lever in the centre console. Alternatively, the sports paddles behind the steering wheel can be used to change cogs.
Vigorous torque and a unique all-wheel drive system that cements car to road
Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD)
Press packs from car manufacturers are often filled with hackneyed phrases and claims you’ve heard a thousand times. Too often the car doesn’t deliver the promise. But with the new Legend there’s one cliche we’re confident the car lives up to: This car corners like it’s on rails.
SH-AWD is Honda’s incredible new active torque distribution system that gives the Legend the cornering prowess of a sports car, while maintaining enviable levels of ride comfort. As well as varying torque distribution between front and rear wheels for optimum grip,
SH-AWD also shares the torque between the left and right rear wheels to accelerate the outer wheel and thus provide virtually neutral handling through bends.
The innovative transmission technology is the brainchild of Honda’s Senior Chief Engineer Yasuji Shibahata, who was also responsible for the Active Torque Transfer System on the Prelude in the 1990s.
While some AWD systems can distribute torque between front and rear using a centre differential, or between left and right rear wheels using a rear differential, Shibahata’s SH-AWD simultaneously controls torque from front to back and regulates lateral torque to the rear wheels – a world’s first.
During straight line cruising and mild cornering, the system delivers up to 70 per cent of the available torque to the front wheels, and 30 to the back. But during heavy throttle use or more energetic driving, up to 70 per cent of torque is directed to the rear wheels for increased acceleration and enhanced cornering ability.
At the heart of the system is a clever Rear Drive Unit, which uses twin, direct electromagnetic clutches to distribute torque across the rear wheels. Firstly, the Legend’s ECU calculates where the torque should go for optimum performance, based on input from engine speed, wheel speed, steering angle and lateral G sensors.
The feed of torque is then controlled by the Rear Drive Unit, which varies the magnetic forces to either clutch, pushing the available torque to one side or the other. Remember, up to 70 per cent of the available torque from the V6 engine can be fed to the outer rear wheel, significantly improving stability and reducing the effects of understeer. Conversely, if the Legend is decelerating during cornering, which might normally upset the balance of the car, the torque distribution is adjusted accordingly to help keep the car stable.
Because the outer rear wheel follows a path that’s wider than the average path of the front wheels, the Rear Drive Unit also includes an acceleration device, that ‘overdrives’ the rear wheel by up to five per cent. This means the extra torque given to that wheel can be transmitted efficiently to the road.
The result of all this intelligent technology is dramatically-enhanced steering feel, amazing stability and exceptional cornering performance in advance of anything else in the E-sector.
Safety and chassis
Honda’s chassis engineers have developed a new suspension system for the Legend that is specifically designed to work alongside the SH-AWD transmission technology. And the very presence of SH-AWD and the handling benefits it brings, have allowed the chassis experts to design a particularly compliant and comfortable ride.
The entire system is constructed from lightweight materials such as aluminium and comprises a double wishbone set-up at the front, with a multi-link design at the rear.
Huge, ventilated disc brakes with 4-piston callipers provide optimum stopping power for the large saloon at both front and rear, and these are assisted by the expected electronic aids in the form of ABS, EBD and Brake Assist.
Like the majority of new Honda cars, the Legend is fitted with Vehicle Stability Assist, which combines control of the brakes, engine speed and traction control to help keep the car balanced and stable during cornering and in critical conditions.
Advanced passive and active technology to protect car and driver
High performance should always be coupled with high safety levels, and the Legend includes a host of innovative safety technology features to protect car, driver, passengers and pedestrians.
Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS)
Honda’s new CMBS technology can actually predict collisions, to reduce both the impact on occupants, and damage to the car.
Research shows that one of the most common causes of car accidents is the delay between a driver acknowledging an oncoming accident and taking evasive action. As a result, Honda has concentrated on pre-crash developments like CMBS, which aims to improve the car’s response to critical situations. It is particularly effective in avoiding or minimising ‘rear-end’ shunt incidents.
The system is made up of three main parts: a millimetre-wave radar sensor in the front grille of the car, a brake actuator and a motorised seatbelt tensioner. If the radar sensor recognises a collision is imminent, CMBS reacts in the following way:
- The driver is given an audio warning, and a visual ‘Brake’ warning on the dash display.
- If no action is taken, the audio/visual alarm is given again, an E-tensioner lightly tugs at the seatbelt as a further warning, and light braking is applied automatically.
- If still no action is taken and the system decides a collision is unavoidable, strong braking is applied with strong seatbelt retraction.
It is important to note that the system will not bring the Legend to a total stop. It is a driving aid to help the driver to avoid an accident, or lessen the impact of a crash. As with all Honda driving aids, the driver remains in control at all times.
Advanced Driver Assist System (ADAS)
Also available on the Legend is Honda’s Advanced Driver Assist System (ADAS), which debuted on the Accord in early 2006.
ADAS comprises a Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) technology. These state-of-the-art driving aids both improve safety levels and reduce driver fatigue.
LKAS – Lane Keeping Assist System
LKAS recognises the lane the vehicle is travelling in using the images from a camera mounted inside the upper front windscreen and applies the appropriate input to the EPS (Electric Power Steering) to help keep the car in its lane, thereby reducing the burden of motorway (or similar road) driving and enhancing driver comfort and safety. It then calculates the optimum steering torque – a combination of human input (minimum 20 per cent) and the assisted steering torque (maximum 80 per cent) – to keep the vehicle in the centre of the lane. A continuous beep sound will be emitted when the vehicle is about to cross the lane marking.
The Lane Keeping Assist System operates when the following conditions are fulfilled:
- On roads with left and right lane boundary markings (where markings are clear and visible)
- On motorways or roads that are equivalent to motorways (excluding sharp curves/bends)
- At vehicle speeds between 45 and 112mph
- Driver has to keep contact with the steering wheel — if the system fails to recognise driver’s inputs on the steering, it switches itself off automatically
- Side indicators are not activated
- Steering torque generated by the driver does not indicate imminent lane change manoeuvre
- Only operates on bends that have a more than 200 metre radius, any tighter than this and too much steering torque is required from the LKAS system
ACC – Adaptive Cruise Control
Adaptive Cruise Control uses information from a millimetre-wave radar (mounted inside the front grille) to measure the distance to the vehicle ahead, while vehicle speed and yaw rate sensors detect the vehicle’s driving parameters.
In addition to maintaining a set speed, as with conventional cruise control, ACC is also able to automatically regulate both the vehicle speed and its distance to the vehicle ahead travelling in the same lane, thereby reducing the burden of motorway (or similar road) driving and enhancing driver comfort and safety.
The millimetre-wave radar recognises the presence and the speed of the vehicle ahead, thus calculating the distance separating the two. The analysis of the impulses from the radar and their frequency variation makes it possible to calculate the exact distance and the relative speed between the vehicles. When this distance is reduced to below a predetermined value, the system instantly decelerates the vehicle through throttle control and, if necessary, by application of the brakes. In instances where quicker deceleration is required — such as being cut-off by another vehicle or sudden braking by the vehicle in front — the system will alert the driver with a warning light and a buzzer to prompt the driver to apply the brakes. If the vehicle ahead changes lane or the distance increases again, then the system increases the vehicle speed to the predetermined value.
ACC only operates if all the following conditions are completely fulfilled:
- The vehicle speed is set between 20-112mph
- The gearbox position is in D, D3 or M main switch is activated
Pop-up Bonnet System
The European Legend debuts Honda’s Pedestrian Protection Pop-up Bonnet System, which aims to increase safety for those outside the car.
If the car is involved in an accident with a pedestrian, an accelerometer in the front bumper, and a wheel speed sensor both feed information to the engine’s ECU which then triggers a pyrotechnic actuator under the bonnet. A plunger then lifts the bonnet by 100mm which creates clearance between the metalwork and the unyielding engine bay, to help reduce pedestrian head injuries.
Honda estimates that the Pop-up Bonnet System could reduce pedestrian casualties by around 10 per cent, with the number of seriously injured cut by around 5 per cent. These numbers may not seem dramatic, but they are far more significant when considered in the context of the almost 1000 pedestrian and cyclist fatalities each year in Britain.
Active Front lighting System (AFS)
Every Legend comes with the new AFS headlight system, which has been designed to give increased illumination and visibility at night. When cornering, the headlights swivel by up to 20 degrees according to input from the steering and the car’s speed sensors. This movement can illuminate a larger area of road surface throughout a bend, minimising blind spots and giving improved awareness of the road and surroundings.
Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE)
The Legend uses an innovative front end body structure called Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE). This is designed to enhance passenger safety. ACE helps to disperse collision forces over a larger frontal area, as well as prevent misalignment with another vehicle’s safety structures, thus helping to reduce damage in that vehicle.
The new Legend’s cabin is among the safest in its class. Not only does it have effective front and rear crumple zones, but it features side impact door beams and cross members under the floor in high tensile steel.
Legend is also equipped with front, front side and side curtain airbags. The front airbags are dual-stage and dual-threshold. This means they deploy at two rates and thresholds, depending on the severity of the impact and seatbelt use. The front side airbag system on the passenger side also features Occupant Position Detection System (OPDS), which prevents deployment of the airbag if a child or smaller passenger is out of position and in the airbag’s path.