(first posted 12/13/2016) It’s no secret that I’ve been a longtime, nearly lifetime fan of the second generation Acura Legend. And while it was the far more frequently seen sedan I fell in love with and put this car on my radar, the more elusive coupe was clearly the stunner of the duo, and a vehicle that still turns heads today.
Honda released its second generation Legend for the 1991, bringing forth a car that was larger, more luxurious, more powerful, and far more distinguished in all aspects. Now boasting a larger 3.2L SOHC V6 with 200 horsepower, the Legend was better-suited to go up against luxury cars from Europe, as well as its recent homeland competitors. In addition to superior driving dynamics, mounting the engine longitudinally allowed for a lower hood and very convincing rear-wheel drive proportions, despite the car retaining its predecessor’s front-wheel drive layout.
As with before, sedan and coupe bodystyles shared the same design language but in fact shared no sheetmetal in common. Though both exuded athletic cues, in keeping with its more conservative image, the sedan boasted a more formal and stately presence. The coupe meanwhile, sported much bolder, more chiseled styling for a far more dramatic and head turning appearance.
Although grille and taillights between the coupe and sedan were similar in shape, the coupe presented a somewhat sleeker front end, with a more back-swept nose, smaller grille, and elongated, wraparound headlights. Sportier-looking side wing mirrors and frame-less door glass further enhanced the coupe’s more aggressive appearance. And oh, yes, the power rear windows still rolled down.
Versus the sedan’s softer rear end with wraparound taillights, the Legend coupe featured a “chopped off” tail influenced by that of the NSX supercar. Equally different on the coupe, was the way its C-pillars flowed into the rear quarter panels without significant belt line intrusion, for a look that was almost reminiscent of Chrysler’s Fuselage cars.
With respect to the original Legend, wheelbases for the second generation coupe and sedan were both up between 5-6 inches, though overall length was only up by 3-4 inches, making for more athletic proportions. Front overhang in particular, was very minimal for a front-wheel drive car of that era.
Inside, there were far fewer differences between the coupe and sedan, and things were a clear step up from the previous Legend. Passengers were treated to a comfortable and well-crafted interior, trimmed in high quality and seamlessly-fitting plastics, leathers (or standard cloth in lower trims), chrome and wood trim. LS coupes/sedans and GS sedans added genuine burled walnut trim to the center console and door panels, while L and SE (sedan only; 1995) models made due with the fake, but still decently attractive stuff.
All second generation Legend presented their drivers with a very easy-to-use and easy-to-see layout, with the dash and door panels boasting a grander, less cobbled-together appearance over the original’s. Besides the obviously smaller rear seat, the Legend coupe also featured more thickly-bolstered front buckets, with automatic transmission cars gaining the “joystick” shifter for a slightly racier vibe. Only 1994-1995 automatic GS sedans would ever get this gearshift.
In keeping with the Legend coupe’s somewhat more exclusive, personal luxury image, the sedan’s base, wood trim-less model was never offered on the coupe. Instead, the mid-level L model was the least expensive way one could get into a new Legend coupe, for some $39,980 USD ($63,414 as of 12/2016) in this car’s 1995 model year.
Acura did it due diligence by giving the second generation Legend meaningful upgrades and enhancements over the course of its lifespan. Dual front airbags were made standard in all coupes in 1992, and across the board for 1993. Leather upholstery also became standard on all coupes beginning in 1993, and in 1994 a power tilt-telescoping steering wheel working in conjunction with the driver’s memory seat became standard. Revised bumpers and side moldings came in 1994, but the big news came one year prior in the form of powertrain.
New for 1993 and only found in the Legend coupe (as standard equipment) was the Type II performance variation of the standard Honda C32A V6. Using a higher flowing intake manifold, larger intake valves, and a higher lift camshaft, the Type II produced an additional 30 horsepower and 6 lb-ft torque, for output of 230 horsepower and 206 lb-ft torque. The Type II also used shorter gear ratios, and was available with a 6-speed manual versus the 5-speed found in other Legends.
Now I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. “Legend” was, and still very much is, the perfect name for this car. Acura has certainly made many good cars over the years, but in common Japanese fashion, very few have displayed such personality, character, and above all, emotion as the Legend. In retrospect, the Legend is a quite legendary car.
More so, in terms of profitability, the Legend sold well for a car of its class, with sales only trailing off significantly in its final, albeit abbreviated season. I don’t have a breakdown of coupe vs sedan sales, but it’s clear the percentage of sales skewed toward sedans by a large amount. Ultimately, it was the brand equity in the name “Legend” that was quite possibly even more valuable to Honda and Acura than the profit off units sold.
Even if people weren’t within the means of buying one, the Acura Legend was a very well known car in its day. And Legend goes it (no pun intended) this was the main reason for dumping models names such as Legend and Integra in favor or alphanumeric designations — apparently, Legend had greater recognition and notoriety among consumers than the name “Acura”. “Legend” certainly had more gusto to it, I’ll give it that.
Maybe that’s why you heard rappers like Notorious B.I.G. mentioning the Legend in their music, and Ludacris very publicly still owns one. After the Legend departed, no one was celebrating or bragging about their “3.5 RL”. Killing off a nameplate with the sheer equity of the Legend remains one of Honda’s biggest mistakes of all time. I’ll even go so far as to call it a Deadly Sin.
Honda/Acura flagships produced since its departure have not been bad cars, however none have matched the same level of praise, notoriety, and appeal of the 1991-1995 Legend. As a result, for the past two decades, it is a car, or at least nameplate that countless Acura owners/enthusiasts have been clamoring for Honda to bring back to the North American market.
P.S. — This second generation Legend coupe article proudly completes my series of representing both body styles of both generation Acura Legends, in true Curbside Classic form of course.
Featured 1995 Taffeta White Legend L coupe photographed: Norwell, MA – October 2016
Supplementary 1995 Milano Red Legend LS coupe photographed: New York, NY – May 2014 – Courtesy of William Stopford
1988 Acura Legend coupe (Brendan Saur)
1989 Acura Legend LS sedan (Brendan Saur)
1994 Acura Legend LS coupe (Tyson Hugie)
1994 Acura Legend LS sedan (Brendan Saur)