The debut of a second generation Acura Legend is an important event in the evolution of perfomance/luxury cars. It was the first Legend, introduced in March 1986,that marked Japan's entry into the international field of luxury cars. During the four and a half years since then, the Legend has repeatedly made the Best Cars lists of leading enthusiast publications and - perhaps even more important - won the hearts and minds of those who bought, drove and enjoyed it on a daily basis. In each of the four model years surveyed since the Acura Division's debut, the Legend and its stablemate the Integra have been rated Number 1 in customer satisfaction by J.D. Power and Associates in their annual Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) ratings.
However, Acura Division and Honda Motor Co. Ltd. are not known for resting on their laurels. So it was that soon after the 1987 addition of the Legend Coupe to the original Sedan model, Honda Research and Development Co., LTD. began work on the second-generation Legend. Their goal, broadly stated, was to make an already excellent automobile better in every way.
CONCEPT AND GOALS
In the well-known spirit of Honda R&D,the Legend planners, designers and engineers coolly analyzed the existing model and how it was being received in its major markets - North America,Japan and Europe.They found that the Legend was creating a market that had not existed before: the market for Japanese perfonnance/luxury automobiles. Its combination of high quality perfomance, reliability and value for money was winning credibility with discerning motorists. But for Acura it was already time to think about the future. The challenge: to develop a new car that would build upon this credibility and reputation - while advancing the actual design and engineering to a new state of the art that would take the Legend well into the Nineties.
As a general parameter, the planners had to decide what the new Legend's position in the performance/luxury market would be. They knew of other manufacturers' plans to enter the field with significantly larger, heavier models positioned well up the price scale. They were also intent on maintaining the Honda/ Acura tradition of engineering for high efficiency and intelligent design. Together, these two fundamental considerations pointed toward maintaining the same relative position in the market, with only a slight change from the present size and price range (190.6inches long, about 3200pounds, approximately $23,000- $31,000 for 1990 Sedan models), retaining the considerable advantages of front wheel drive and improving every aspect of this already driver oriented performance/luxury automobile.
OVERVIEW OF THE NEW LEGEND
With the mandate to create an all-new automobile while remaining faithful to the original Legend tenets and measurably increasing performance, handling, luxury and improving weight distribution, the engineers turned to the specifics.
They decided, for instance, to improve performance and achieve a sportier driving feel while achieving greater luxury - yet were not willing to accept a major weight increase. Reaching these rather contradictory goals meant extensive application of high technology. Further, they resolved to make the new Legend not merely a car that performs well in proving ground and laboratory simulation tests, but one which is thoroughly satisfying to the human beings who drive and ride in it. This would mean on-the-road tests on several continents with exhaustive evaluation of subjective as well as objective test results. Finally, they wanted their new luxury car to exhibit the highest level of craftsmanship and quality - outside, inside and under the skin.
The primary goal was to achieve sportier handling; to make the new Legend even more of a "driver's car." Higher performance under all driving conditions was at the top of the list of priorities; Honda R&D was prepared to create an all-new engine to meet it. Another important goal was to make the new Legend even quieter and smoother. To attain these results, they made a decision that would affect the entire car profoundly: to position the engine longitudinally or "north-south," instead of the transverse or "east-west" mounting of the original Legend engine. This improves the front/ rear weight distribution, and diminishes the amount of engine vibration transmitted to the body structure. It also means a complete retooling of one of the most costly, least often changed elements of automobiles: the entire drivetrain.
Other advantages of the new drivetrain layout, include even better braking and handling (because of the improved weight distribution) and greater rigidity (because major structural members can run almost the entire length of the car). Yet the principal strengths of front- over rear-wheel drive would be retained:
- Greater space efficiency,primarily in the form of a lower center tunnel and larger trunk
- Excellent high-speed stability and resistance to crosswinds
- Superior traction on snowy, icy or wet roads
- Lower overall vehicle weight.
By employing weight-saving design techniques, the engineers developed a 3.2-liter engine that is almost 20 percent larger in displacement and develops fully 26 percent more power than its predecessor, yet weighs not a kilogram more. The standard five-speed manual transmission, specifically designed for this new layout, has improved synchronization and lubrication. The new optional four-speed automatic incorporates both electronic and hydraulic controls that benefit smoothness and performance.
The new drivetrain, in which power flows from the engine rearward to the transmission, then forward to the differential at the crankcase's right side to be distributed to the front wheels, also influences the Legend's physical and visual proportions. The sedan's wheelbase has been extended 5.9 in.; overall length is up only 4.3 in., and the reduced overhang is especially noticeable at the front. In turn, modest increases in passenger and luggage space have been achieved partly due to the very compact design of the longitudinal V6 engine and transmission package.
While retaining the advantages of independent double-wishbone suspension all around, Legend engineers designed all-new hardware. At the front, new L-shaped lower suspension arms and large angle constant-velocity joints work with the longitudinal engine arrangement to achieve a 23-foot tighter turning circle, while increased caster and a new speed-sensitive power steering system improve steering feel. The rear suspension is also new and designed for greater riding comfort and more precise handling. New valving in the gas-pressurized shock absorbers also contribute to handling and ride quality, and the four-wheel disc brakes are upgraded. A Honda R&D-engineered anti-lock braking system, a feature formerly standard in L and LS models, is now standard in all models.
The body structure, which forms not only the platfonn for suspension and brakes but the protective cabin in which people ride, has been improved in many ways as well. Increased rigidity in the cabin area enhances the feeling of solidity. By applying sophisticated computer design techniques to the new structure, the Legend body engineers were able to use thicker outer body panels without increasing overall body weight significantly.
For the new Legend interior, every effort was made to attain even higher quality and greater luxury, combined with elegant design. Climate-control and audio systems are improved and even easier to operate. The driver's side airbag Supplemental Restraint System (SRS),standard in the Legend, now includes an airbag for the front passenger in LS models. Also, standard in the LS and optional in the L, rich leather and burled walnut trim add elegance.
Throughout the new Legend, the engineers strove to raise what were already high standards of quality: to design panels for more precise production, reduce clearances, improve finishes inside and out, and enhance durability.
This summary of key data on the 1991Legend Sedan and its predecessor will help put the new model in perspective:
|.||1991 Legend Sedan||1990 Legend Sedan|
|Horsepower, SAE net||202hp @5500rpm||160hp @5900rpm|
|Bore x Stroke||3.54in. x 3.31 in.
(90x 84 mm)
|3.43in. x 2.95in.
|Torque, SAE net||210 lb.-ft.@4500rpm||162Ib.-ft.@4500rpm|
The people who planned, engineered and developed the new Legend believe that they have created a car that builds upon the excellence of its predecessor while being better in virtually every way; a car that is truly a new level of performance/luxury automobile without becoming overly large, heavy or fuelthirsty. They created it for people who arrive at their choice of luxury car through careful thought and intelligent evaluation, yet thoroughly appreciate the more subjective, esthetic aspects of driving and owning an automobile.
As with the first generation Legend, the new model is being introduced initially as a four-door Sedan and is available in base, L and LS versions. The Sedan goes on sale in November 1990;the Coupe, available in L and LS versions, follows in Spring 1991.