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2009 Honda Legend Review & Road Test
The Honda Legend has rewritten my most revered list
- 2009 Honda Legend SH-AWD; 3.7-litre V6; five-speed automatic; sedan - $79,990 (RRP)
- by Rose Harris
There was once a time when I thought Michael Clarke was the only hero of my generation worth the Legend status... and then I spent a week with the Honda Legend and rewrote my most revered list.
I have often felt luxury car makers leave out the family functionality and get carried away with the fancy additions which only cause more stress when children are involved.
But here I stand, eating a large slice of humble pie after enjoying every minute of my week with the Honda Legend.
Honda has managed to successfully combine extreme style and comfort, opulence and convenience while never compromising on safety and offer a car which has every member of the family in mind, from Grandma through to the baby.
In reviewing the Legend, I was prepared to put the family needs aside, think large disposable income and take it on its luxury merits, but I didn’t need to.
The Honda Legend is designed for family and marital bliss. My children slept the most soundly they ever have on a long trip and with in-built GPS and individual climate control, there was barely a car-related disagreement between my husband and I.
I was constantly surprised with the clever ideas I would find every time I sat in the luxurious armchair of a driver’s seat.
Unfortunately Honda suffers through their badge. There are plenty of buyers in the luxury car market who won’t look past the embossed H on the grille.
Driving the Legend, I would get that raised eyebrow confused response “Honda? I wouldn’t spend that much on a Honda.” It is a shame Honda suffers from this badge snobbery.
Me? I felt relieved driving a Honda as I didn’t have to carry around that ‘high-class marque’ attitude I so often see in the soccer carpark, yet was still driving a car with class and luxury to rival many others.
The SH-AWD (Super Handling All Wheel Drive) feels as if the car is anchored to tracks on the road and its sole purpose is to get occupants from A to B safely, no matter what the elements or road conditions may be.
It almost did this too well, to the point that at times I had to remember I was in control of this car and I did still have to steer - it wasn’t quite in auto-pilot.
The SH-AWD system distributes power not only between the front and rear wheels, but also between the left and right wheels. A multifunctional LCD display below the instrument panel has an option to indicate which wheels are taking the most power as you drive.
Driving however, is up to the pilot, I mean driver. In full automatic mode with cruise control on, automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers activated, all that’s left for the driver to concentrate on is where they are going.
But by the same token, the Legend has a five-speed sequential shift as well as steering wheel-mounted paddleshifts which mean fun can be injected into your driving experience whenever you desire.
The 3.7-litre SOHC VTEC V6 engine is the most powerful Honda has ever built. Delivering 226kW at 6,300rpm, an exciting drive experience is ready for the taking.
And it is fun, I found the paddleshift easy to use and a great way to get the most out of what is hiding under the bonnet. The paddles move with the wheel which means they are always at your fingertips.
With the SH-AWD, I always felt in control of the power and didn’t get that overwhelming feeling that I had bitten off more than I could chew.
I am not an out-and-out revhead, but I have to say that everytime the Legend would roar up to the speed limit and I would then hit the cruise control ‘set’ button, I felt like I was cheating the car out of something.
Now let’s talk interior. The Legend did, of course, have a leather interior. I would usually be cursing the luxuriousness with visions of chocolate-smothered fingers and spilt milk.
But this was somehow different, the leather was so soft and the seats could have passed for massage chairs, legroom has to be seen to be believed and the myriad of buttons to electronically adjust comfort meant that my gripe about leather was a distant thought.
I will say this though, the light grey colour of the interior is easily dirtied, the top of the front armrest and frequently used areas were beginning to look a little grubby by the end of the week. I’d opt for a darker colour.
To add to the marital bliss this car promotes, the driver’s seat has a programmable memory for two present positions. No more amputating kneecaps when the taller of the two goes to jump in the car.
Just open the door and press button '1' or '2' and the seat cleverly moves to your perfect position. I guess the only argument now is who is '1' and who is '2'.
As the gorgeous driver’s seat welcomes your body and keys are inserted into the ignition, the steering wheel futuristically extends to meet you and retracts when the keys are removed to prevent any obstruction.
The instrument panel is clearly laid out and the feeling inside the car is like that of a relaxed loungeroom. This is no coincidence, Honda has installed Active Noise Cancellation which employs a series of microphones and speakers to detect and then cancel out engine noise by transmitting an opposite frequency within the cabin. The ride itself is silky smooth.
Good thing the engine noise is kept to a minimum as the sound system is simply amazing. There was not one sign of bass vibration and we had it up as loud as was bearable. It is almost movie-theatre like and could well be as the system includes a DVD player and ten speakers.
The multifunction dash-mounted screen is also the satellite navigation system. The guiding voice suits the calm feel of the car and there are a number of trip computer options to cycle through.
However, I couldn’t help but be annoyed by the vertical angle of the screen. Its straight up and down nature attracted a lot of sun glare and at times I couldn’t see a thing. This is especially important as the screen doubles as a reversing camera.
When glare wasn’t an issue the camera was very effective. Combined with rear parking sensors, it aided my reversing skills immensely. Being such a large sedan, I don’t think it could do without these added options as the Legend takes up most of the available space in a standard car park allotment.
The screen functions are all controlled with a centre knob which can be used while driving, so no grubby fingerprints all over the screen. It did have a bit of a delayed response when zooming in and out of the map.
The centre armrest has a split-top-lid which opens French-door style to a felt lined compartment. The entire top compartment also lifts up to reveal a traditional centre bin which is equipped with USB input plug. The wood grain finish suits the styling and in-dash items such as cigarette lighter and cup holders are discreetly hidden until needed. The front floors are illuminated with a subtle blue light as are the door handles, so there is no need for one to scramble in the dark.
In the rear, my children thought they had died and gone to heaven. Child restraint anchors are located on the parcel shelf and are clearly labelled and easily accessed. Two large rear vents protrude from the back of the centre front armrest to cool or warm back seat passengers in an instant. The rear seat has a fold down centre armrest with slide-out cupholders and also reveals direct access to the boot.
Despite the many features I have listed, there is one small addition that made me fall completely head over heels for the Legend. Rear sun blinds. Each of the rear side windows has a clever sun blind which can be easily pulled up with an inconspicuous tab and hooked into place. As if it couldn’t get any better, add a rear window visor which can be automatically controlled from the driver’s seat.
The power rear window visor can be put up or down using a button on the front roof, near the sunroof controls. It also automatically retracts when reverse gear is engaged. My children looked limo-esque as they reclined in their seats in the perfect temperature without the direct sunlight that is forever the bane of their existence, yet not a daggy window sock or suction cupped visor in sight.
For adult passengers, there are three headrests across the back - with the centre headrest right in the rear line of sight. However, when a rear centre passenger is not a consideration, the headrest can be flipped down by pushing a button on the sunroof control panel. Also for the adult passenger, each armrest has power window control and an ashtray - even if it would be a crime to smoke in such a beautiful car.
I had many compliments on the exterior of the car. Its modern look means it could quickly date, but the sharp lines give it a neat and sophisticated yet understated look. The twin-exhaust and elongated appearance all work in the Legend’s head-turning intriguing favour.
The headlights are another area where Honda has done its very best to make driving purely enjoyable without restriction. Whichever way the car turns the Active Front Lighting System enables either one of the High Intensity Discharge lights to swivel outwards to light up larger areas of road surface on bends.
Generally when you get to the higher end of the market, fuel economy is usually not so much of a concern. The Legend certainly wasn’t one of the most economical cars I have ever driven.
By my calculations it did exactly what the manufacturer estimates for a combined figure – 11.3 litres per 100km.
One thing that had me surprised was the simple nature of the key itself. It didn’t do justice to the car. Even a fob key would better reflect the nature of the Legend.
I didn’t once find I was running out of space when it came to the amazingly large boot and that was on a few days away with the kids. One gripe I did have was I had to be mindful of the location of the DVD player so I didn’t accidently hook a bag or a bike handle on it and render it useless. The positioning of the player could be a little more streamlined.
The Legend I tested was fitted with a full boot liner, yet another amazing addition to make life so much easier. It was fully wipeable and easily removed for complete cleaning, and add in the floor mats which were like an actual carpet and secured to the floor with studs (meaning no getting caught on them or curling up of edges) and also fully removable, and you have a mother’s dream.
CarAdvice Overall Rating: How does it Drive: How does it Look: How does it Go: