The second-generation Acura Legend Coupe and Sedan has introduced a new twist to the hot-selling Japanese luxury car: an attempt at impressive styling.
The old models sold well but were bland in comparison.
The new Legend not only looks better than the old one, its mechanical layout and the drivetrain are new.
Instead of refining an already good car, Honda essentially replaced it with what many consider to be a better one.
The downside of all these changes can be found on the window sticker. The fully equipped Legend Coupe LS now is priced higher than most of its competition in what has been called the "near luxury" segment of the market. The test car I drove was priced at $36,725.
The increased price could mean trouble for Acura -- especially with the slew of new near-luxury cars and coupes from other Japanese automakers -- like Mazda's new 929 and Mitsubishi's Diamante.
Consider this: The $36,725 test car price put it about $3,000 away from the V-8-powered Lexus SC 400 coupe, a car in a class all its own.
The Legend is a front-wheel drive car, but the engine and transmission layout is not conventional. Instead of sitting sideways, the 3.2-liter, 24-valve V-6 is placed lengthwise -- the engine is mounted as it would be in a rear-wheel-drive car.
This leaves the transmission behind the engine as it would be in a rear-wheel-drive car. Instead of a driveshaft and a rear axle, power is transmitted to the front wheels via a differential mounted under the engine.
Honda claims this layout helps achieve a 60-to-40 front-to-rear weight distribution. On the road this translates into a car that is as agile as cat.
The transmission, a computer-controlled, four-speed automatic, couldn't decide when to shift. Sometimes the shifts were delayed and then the car would bump into the next gear; at other times, the shifts were smooth, but it seemed as if the computer were holding back the engine.
Gas mileage was 20 miles per gallon in the city, and 24 mpg on the highway, slightly better than EPA estimates.
The Legend Coupe's underpinnings are straight from the Honda parts bin. The Legend feels like a bigger, more sophisticated version of the Accord.