Also to Europe
World first technology provides an outstanding combination of performance and luxury
A unique, world-first, all-wheel drive system that delivers precision handling, HiDS, CMBS and active in-cabin noise suppression are just some of the technological highlights of the all-new Legend saloon recently launched in Japan and - as the Acura RL - in the US.
Although the specification has still to be finalised, Honda has confirmed that it will also be bringing its flagship model to Europe, and an example of this luxury performance sedan - named Japan Car of the Year 2004-2005 - is on display.
Precision cornering through active torque distribution
One of its most innovative features is Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) which gives it the handling prowess of a sports car, but still allows high levels of refinement to be retained. This ground-breaking new technology is much more than just a standard four-wheel drive system and as well as varying torque distribution between front and rear wheels for optimum driving characteristics, also proportions the torque between left and right rear wheels to accelerate the outer wheel during cornering, the effect being to provide virtually neutral handling.
Generally, up to 70 per cent of the torque is sent to the front wheels, but more spirited driving and hard acceleration prompts up to 70 per cent to be directed to the rear wheels for increased accelerative ability and stability at all times.
When accelerating during cornering, SH-AWD transfers as much as 100 per cent of the torque to the outside rear wheel, and this 'overdriving' effect helps the car to turn in more readily for optimum cornering ability and outstanding agility. Conversely, if the vehicle is decelerating during cornering, the torque balance is controlled to counteract oversteer.
The system's ECU receives data from sensors measuring steering angle, lateral acceleration and wheel speed and this information is conveyed to electromagnetic clutches located in the rear differential - another world first - which in turn control sets of planetary gears to deliver the optimum level of torque to each rear wheel.
295 hp 3.5 litre V6 VTEC
The engine is the most powerful in a Legend yet. The 3.5 litre, 24 valve, V6, all-aluminium VTEC unit generates 295 hp at 6200 rpm and 353 Nm (260 lb ft) of torque at 5000 rpm. Lightweight magnesium cylinder head covers and a two-piece aluminium die cast intake manifold combine with extensive weight reducing measures employed throughout the car, to deliver a significantly improved power-to-weight ratio. The Legend's impressive performance is complemented by low emissions which in the Japanese market are 75 per cent below 2005 requirements and in the US meet the stringent LEV2-ULEV standards.
The compact 5-speed Sequential SportShift transmission can operate in fully automatic mode or, alternatively, the driver can select gears using either the shift lever in the centre console or paddles located on the steering wheel.
The Legend's styling features a steeply sloping bonnet leading down to an aggressive front bumper with angular headlight treatment, a signature five-sided grille and distinctive lower air intake openings. A sleek cockpit, a rising beltline and short rear deck accent the Legend's wedge shape, making it look fast from any angle. And while it is 65 mm shorter overall, with a wheelbase 110 mm shorter than its predecessor, it is 25 mm wider. The short, wide stance enhances handling, while the cabin is more spacious - 40 mm wider and 30 mm longer for greater comfort.
And to complete the look, the paintwork gets a new ultra-high gloss finish, which has been achieved by water polishing the intermediate coats before applying thicker clear coats to create a deep contrast.
The presence of SH-AWD has allowed the chassis engineers to develop a particularly compliant and comfortable ride. A double wishbone set up is used at the front, with a multi-link design at the rear. Large diameter, ventilated disc brakes with 4-piston front callipers, ABS, EBD and Brake Assist provide optimum stopping power. VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist) provides sideslip control to correct oversteer and understeer, complementing ABS and TCS.
The Legend is also available with the sophisticated driving aid package known as HiDS, designed to enhance driver comfort and safety. This consists of two systems, Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS) and an adaptive cruise control system known as Intelligent Highway Cruise Control (IHCC). LKAS uses a camera mounted behind the top of the windscreen to identify the lane in which the vehicle is travelling and to correct any deviation via an appropriate input to the steering. IHCC uses information from a grille-mounted radar system to measure the distance to a vehicle ahead, and via the cruise control system, regulate vehicle speed and vehicle distance. The Japanese specification also has another Honda first, the Intelligent Night Vision System which uses two infrared cameras located in the front bumper to provide the driver with an enhanced view of the road and the presence of pedestrians via a head-up display
Body rigidity has been increased by around a third, yet weight has been trimmed by the use of high-tensile steel for half of the body frame's main structural components, and aluminium for the bonnet, front wings and bootlid. A carbon fibre reinforced propeller shaft is a further weight saving measure.
The Legend is the first Honda to utilise the Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure, designed to enhance passenger safety. ACE helps to disperse collision forces over a larger frontal area, as well as prevent misalignment with another vehicle's safety structures, thus helping to reduce damage in that vehicle.
A further safety development available is the Collision Mitigation System (CMBS) which predicts collisions and reduces the impact on occupants and vehicle damage. The system uses visual and audio warnings to prompt the driver to take preventative action, it can also initiate braking to reduce vehicle speed, and E-pretensioners retract the seatbelts in anticipation of a collision to hold the driver more securely in place.
For Europe, Honda is planning on introducing the advanced pop-up hood system to enhance pedestrian safety.
Inside, the new Legend is as luxurious as it is sporty and features rich leather and wood trim as well as an assortment of advanced technology, including a Bose audio system that delivers surround sound to all seating positions as well as simulated surround sound from conventional CDs. Helping to deliver a relaxed atmosphere is the AudioPilot system which neutralises road, wind and other intrusive noise by sending out an opposite phase signal through the audio system.
Further technical highlights are an optional Active Front Lighting System (AFS) which features inboard lights that swivel by up to 20 degrees in either direction in response to vehicle speed and input from the steering wheel; a satellite navigation system with an 8 inch display and operation via voice recognition; and a Keyless Access System which allows doors to be locked and unlocked and the car to be started without using the key; and new air ventilated leather seats where the climate control system passes through the seats.