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Honda Legend 3.5 V6 EX

Date: 05 July 2006

Category: Executive Price: £36,250-£39,000
On sale: September Key rival: BMW 5-series

Cars named after superlatives always struggle. The previous Honda Legend never lived up to its name and despite value for money, nor did the Skoda Superb .

But Honda's new flagship exec saloon, aiming to steal only a few sales from the BMW 5-series in the UK (400 per year), could finally live up to its optimistic label.

Its new look is quietly assertive if not stand-out, but streets ahead of the last generation version (1995-2001) and inside the old plasticky and mundane feel is replaced with leather and chrome effect smartness. But it is under the bonnet where this car shines, positively bristling with all manner of new technology - from lane assist (akin to Volvo's) with adaptive cruise control (collectively known as ADAS) and a system that brakes for you if it senses an imminent shunt you haven't (Collision Mitigation Braking System or CMBS).


The latter is similar to the one in Merc's new S-class - the main difference being that Honda's system only slows you down to 'mitigate' the crash - it won't actually bring the car to a standstill like the German car's system. However it will brake by itself. Honda says the reason for only slowing rather than stopping is to give the driver a the chance to come to their senses and swerve to avoid the accident if possible. It's also looking at driver monitoring devices like eye-blink measurement for future cars to deal with heart attack or stroke scenarios where drivers may not be able to help themselves.

The system worked well on track - but it's still a very unsettling exercise when your wits are about you. Driving around the same track also gave us the chance to test another Honda first - Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) - where torque can be varied - not just from front to back wheels but also between the rear wheels. This means up to 70% of torque can be fed to the outer rear wheel, significantly improving stability and reducing the effects of understeer. It was very hard to unstick, if not quite feeling like the '5-series beater' Honda's marketeers are claiming.

Driving on normal roads, the 295PS 3.5 V6 Legend is a comfortable place to spend time. All the possible kit you could want is standard - the only two versions available are the EX for £36,250 and the EX (with ADAS and CMBS) at £39,000. Those latter systems do work and are probably worth going for - plus you get the bonus of slightly better economy due to the electrically powered steering needed for those systems being slightly lighter than the conventional hydraulic power steering.

A diesel V6 option due in 2007 will give fleets more reason to consider the Legend but despite its skills it will have to work hard not to fall foul of other brands perceived to be non-prestige. Costs are not yet available but there are already plenty of varied rivals to choose from).

A true Legend then? Not really, but it's got some great features that will appeal to drivers sick of feeling like another German exec driver.