Honda Legend

Honda Legend
Sections of this article are translated from Japanese Wikipedia.
Honda Legend
2008 Honda Legend
Manufacturer Honda
Also called Acura RL (1996-present)
Acura Legend (1985-1995)
Daewoo Arcadia (1994-1999)
Production 1985-present
Assembly Saitama, Sayama, Japan
Cowley, Oxfordshire, England
Class Mid-size luxury car / Executive car (UK)
Body style 4-door sedan
2-door coupé

The Honda Legend is a mid-size luxury car made by the Japanese automaker Honda. It was the result of Project XX, a joint agreement started in November 1981 with the Austin Rover Group of Great Britain and was mechanically related to the Rover 800 series.

When the Legend made its appearance into the market, rival companies in Europe, Japan and North America took notice, and quickly introduced or revised products that could be compared to it. Toyota began development in 1983 with the F1 project, the code name for a secret flagship sedan effort that became the Lexus LS, and Nissan updated their premium flagship the President initially introduced in 1966, and offered the new President in North America as the Infiniti Q45. In 1986, Mitsubishi completely redesigned its flagship sedan, the Mitsubishi Debonair (introduced in 1964), and shared the new Debonair with South Korean manufacturer Hyundai, introducing the Hyundai Grandeur, and in 1990 the Mitsubishi Diamante joined the Debonair.

In North America, Lincoln took a new approach to the venerable Continental offering for the first time a front wheel drive luxury sedan with a V6 engine in 1988, and General Motors introduced the GM H platform (FWD) that was used by Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac mid-level sedans. Cadillac also introduced the Sedan de Ville on its new "C" body platform with front wheel drive in 1985. Chrysler reintroduced the Imperial in 1990 also using a V6 powered front wheel drive sedan and an extended wheelbase.

In Europe, Audi took a fresh approach to the 100 and in 1994 introduced the A6, and BMW introduced the BMW 5 Series (E34) in 1988.

Honda introduced the Legend as a flagship sedan to compete with the popular JDM Nissan Cedric / Nissan Gloria twins, and the Toyota Crown. In North America, the Legend competed with larger rear wheel drive V8 sedans Lexus LS, Infiniti Q45, Cadillac Brougham, Lincoln Town Car, and the large German sedans, however, the Legend was packaged to compete in the slightly smaller Executive car class, such as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Lexus ES, Infiniti J30, Alfa Romeo 164, and the Volvo 940 sold at the time.

The Legend was initially a four-door sedan, with a two-door personal luxury coupé added later. It was the model which launched Honda's upscale Acura brand in the United States, and the Honda Clio sales channel in Japan. Honda was inspired by the word "legend" to create the first Honda vehicle with a V6.

The first and second-generation Honda Legend was known as the Acura Legend in North American markets from 1986–1995, and in 1996 the third-generation was renamed as the Acura RL, while the Legend name is still used in Japan and other markets.

The Legend hardtop coupe was introduced to compete with the Nissan Leopard coupe, the Toyota Soarer, and Mazda Cosmo and shared many mechanicals with the Rover 800 coupe.

Recently there is some market based pressure for Honda to upgrade the engine from a V6 to a V8, as products identified as Acura have the same refinement and engine efficiency as the top line Legend/RL. There is speculation that Honda has developed both a V8 and V10 engine used in racing models, but no decision has been made to actually install any engine larger than a V6 into the Honda flagship as of yet.


First generation (KA1-KA6, 1985-1990)

First generation
1987 Honda Legend European-spec with optional Special Equipment Pack
Also called Acura Legend
Production 1985–1990
Layout Front-engine, front-wheel drive layout
Engine 2.5 L C25A V6
2.7 L C27A V6
2.0 L C20A V6 (Japan)
2.0 L C20AT V6 turbo (Japan)
Transmission 5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
Wheelbase Sedan: 108.7 in (2,761 mm)
Coupe: 106.5 in (2,705 mm)
Length Sedan 189.4 in (4,811 mm) '86-'88
Sedan 190.6 in (4,841 mm) '89-'90
Sedan (Japan): 184.6 in (4,689 mm)
Coupe: 188 in (4,775.2 mm)
Width Sedan 68.3 in (1,735 mm)
Sedan 68.9 in (1,750 mm)
Sedan (Japan): 66.7 in (1,694 mm)
Coupe: 68.7 in (1,745 mm)
Height Sedan: 54.7 in (1,389 mm)
Coupe: 53.9 in (1,369 mm)
Related Honda Accord
Honda Vigor
Rover 800

The first-generation Legend, introduced to Japan October 22, 1985, was the first production Honda vehicle to offer only a SOHC V6 engine worldwide. The introduction of the Legend also coincided with the launch of a new dealership sales channel in Japan, called Honda Clio. The Legend was a result of a joint venture with Britain's Austin Rover Group called Project XX that started in November 1981 with the Austin Rover-Honda XX letter of intent signed by the two companies to replace the Rover SD1 and to provide a luxury vehicle for Honda, and was codenamed as HX. The Rover Company had a long established reputation as a luxury car in the United Kingdom and Europe, demonstrated with the Rover P5 and Rover P6, and Honda wanted to introduce a luxury car for domestic Japanese and both the European and North American markets. Rover also wanted to return to the American market when previously they had reportedly sold only 1,500 cars in 1971, and a brief return in 1980, selling 800 Rover SD1s by offering the Sterling which was also a result of the ARG-Honda partnership.[1] The development work was carried out at Rover's Canley, Coventry plant and Honda's Tochigi Prefecture development centre. The European market Legend was produced by Austin-Rover alongside the 800 in the former Morris Plant Oxford in Cowley, Oxfordshire. US-market Legends were built in Japan.

Japanese market

Honda wanted to expand its model range above the Honda Accord, and offer a premium level sedan that would appeal to wealthy middle-aged customers who were the traditional buyers of the Toyota Crown and Nissan Cedric/Gloria. When the Legend was introduced worldwide, the optional equipment list was very minimal as commonly identified equipment regarded as luxury in nature was included as standard equipment, leaving the only option the choice between a manual or automatic transmission.

The major mechanical difference between the Legend and the Toyota and Nissan sedans was that the Legend was front wheel drive, which Honda stated was "quite simply the most logical means to the ends the engineers desired: a true luxury car with a low, aerodynamic hood; a spacious interior with a nearly flat floor, and the superior traction that results from placing the engine and drivetrain transversely over the drive wheels." This provided the Legend with a front-end heavy 63/37 front to rear weight distribution ratio, similar to the NSU Ro80.[2] The ride was engineered to appeal towards the luxury car market and not necessarily towards the performance market, and the front to rear weight distribution ratio reflected this goal. Efforts to minimize torque steer were achieved by the half shafts and the angles of the joints at the ends of those shafts being equalized, helping the Legend to accelerate in a straight line.

The Japanese-spec Legend was offered with three trim levels; the V6Xi with the 2.5 L C25A V6 engine, with the slightly shorter and narrower V6Gi and V6Zi using the 2.0 L C20A V6. The V6Gi had the same level of equipment and luxury features as the V6Xi, whereas the V6Zi had reduced content and a lower price. The V6 engines were available with electronic, multi-port sequential fuel injection Honda called Programmed Fuel Injection, or PGM-FI and a variable length intake manifold on the smaller 2.0 L V6. The larger 2.5 L engine was upgraded to the C27A 2.7 L displacement for model year 1988 and added the variable length intake manifold as a major engine improvement. Transmission selections were either a four speed automatic transaxle with a computer controlled lockup torque converter, or a five speed manual transaxle.

In order for the sedan to comply with Japanese vehicle size requirements and reduced tax liability, the car with the 2.0 L V6 was slightly shorter and narrower for Japanese buyers by reducing the extension of the front and rear bumper covers, and reducing the overall width to 1,695 mm (66.7 in). This also offered an alternative to the traditional Crown and Cedric/Gloria customer base due to the sedan being in the smaller size classification and reduced tax liability but with a comparable level of luxury equipment found in the larger cars, and the same amount of interior space due to the front wheel drive powertrain, with a wheelbase advantage of 30 mm (1.2 in) over the Cedric / Gloria and Crown. To address the issue of durability, the Legend was manufactured as a Monocoque sedan instead of a four door hardtop, a bodystyle still offered at the time by Toyota and Nissan on the Crown and Cedric/Gloria. The slightly smaller bodystyle also allowed the Legend to compete with the upscale Toyota Cresta and Chaser and the Nissan Laurel.

The Legend offered many Honda "firsts", such as a driver side airbag, vehicle speed sensitive power assist rack and pinon steering, anti-lock brakes, seat belt pre-tensioners with Emergency Locking Retractors (called E.L.R.), a choice of 100% wool or cloth moquette upholstery, and "TCS" Traction control, the first car to use traction control on a front wheel drive vehicle. Attention was given to make sure the Legend was quiet, so Honda used computer simulation using NASTRAN, a stress analysis program created by NASA, helping the car achieve a drag coefficient of 0.32 and an interior noise level of 63dB (measured while the vehicle was travelling at 100 km/h (62.1 mph) using a manual transmission in 5th gear), and by using triple seals around the tops of door openings.

The Legend was introduced with a double wishbone suspension for the front wheels, and a modified Chapman strut with trailing arm rear suspension Honda called "RF (Reduced Friction) Strut Rear Suspension" with progressive rate rear coil springs that stiffen as they compress to combine smooth ride and good handling. The rear coil spring was separate from the strut and positioned so that vertical pressure was supported by the lower control arm. The term Reduced Friction referred to the minimizing of forces that create friction in the shock absorbers, providing more efficient damping for the full suspension stroke. The rear suspension was upgraded to double wishbone starting with the 1988 model year worldwide.

Notable owners of the first year Legend were Soichiro Honda the founder of Honda, Satoru Nakajima, Tyrrell Racing F1 driver in 1990, and Ayrton Senna. The Legend V6Xi was used as the pace car for the Suzuka Circuit for 1986.

"Wing Turbo" version

In 1989, Honda upgraded the C20A V6 engine used exclusively in the KA5 series Legend with a variable geometry turbocharger calling it the "Wing Turbo" Japanese TV commercial to address the modest power available from the previous engine with variable length intake manifold used in earlier models. The turbocharger compressor housing had four vanes made from heat resistant Inconel alloy surrounding the turbine wheel on the air intake side that would fluxuate based on engine load and transmission gearing above 2,000 RPM to allow for increased airflow into the engine as needed. The turbo compressor could generate as much as 450 millimetres of mercury (8.7 psi) of boost, and was paired with a water cooled intercooler installed inside the intake plenum between the cylinder banks to produce 140 kW (190 PS; 188 bhp) net at 6000 rpm and a maximum torque of 24.6 kg·m (241 N·m; 178 ft·lbf) at 3500 rpm.[3] Honda Legend V6 turbo idling

According to an excerpt originally printed by Automotive Engineering dated January 1989 "The movable wings are positive pressure- and vacuum-operated, their angle changes are controlled by an eight-bit 36-kilo byte computer that also manages fuel injection. Positive pressure to the wing actuator is supplied by the turbo's supercharge pressure, controlled by a frequency solenoid valve, and negative pressure is generated by intake vacuum and accumulated in a reservoir which is also solenoid controlled. The CPU is fed signals including boost pressure, intake temperature, coolant temperature, throttle opening, engine rpm, and vehicle speed. The Wing Turbo is not fitted with a conventional wastegate.

On idling and steady-state cruising that do not require supercharging, the movable flags--or wings--which are fully opened, allow exhaust gas to enter the enlarged nozzle area and pass through the turbine smoothly with little resistance. At the beginning of full acceleration, the wings close fully, reducing the nozzle area through which accelerated gas enters and strikes the turbine blades forcefully, gaining boost quickly. When maximum boost is obtained, the movable wings begin to close gradually, until the vehicle reaches a desired cruising velocity whereby the wings open fully. The nozzle area varies continuously according to operating and load conditions."[4]

The turbo was installed just above the automatic transmission unit; a 5-speed manual transmission was not offered. This engine was only offered in Japan using the shortened sedan bodystyle, labeled as "2.0 Ti Exclusive" and "2.0 Ti". The engine was used for just one year, due to the introduction of the second generation Legend in 1990 with the much larger C32A V6, and as such Wing Turbo sedans are extremely rare. Much of the research on this engine contributed to the VTEC C30A V6 engine used in the 1990 Honda NSX. The Legend Turbo can be identified as sharing the front grille with the all new 1990 Honda Ascot with a "turbo" badge attached to the grille on the bottom right hand side.

North American market

When the Legend was introduced, Honda's newly established luxury car division just for the Legend was called Acura, using the advertising slogan "Precision Crafted Automobiles", and the Acura Legend was offered with one factory installed option, the choice of transmission used, and one trim level. In the 1986 sales brochure, the Legend's full name used was "Legend Touring Sedan". The vehicle was virtually identical to the Japanese market V6Zi in terms of luxury equipment offered, but the same size as the V6Xi using the same 2.5 V6 engine and the longer overall length to comply with United States crash standards. The Technics supplied 80W four speaker cassette tape stereo offered the ability to customize equalizer settings with four memory positions, and was equipped with a dual diversity antenna, meaning it had a conventional power antenna and an embedded antenna in the front window. One of the novelty items was a simple volume control rocker switch and a pre-set radio station channel selector installed on the instrument binnacle within reach of the right hand; the opposite side of the instrument binnacle had a button to open, tilt or close the standard equipped glass moonroof with sun shade. The North American Legend was not offered some of the items offered in Japan, such as automatic, one touch climate control, and 100% wool cloth interior. Blue interior was shared with Japan and North America, but brown was not offered in North America, and "Sand Gray" was offered instead. Exterior colors were matched to only one interior color choice and leather was not offered on either the steering wheel or upholstery, unusual for a luxury car of the time.

European market

The Honda Legend was introduced for the 1987 model year and was virtually identical in equipment offered and vehicle dimensions to the North American model, with one trim designation called the V6-2.5i. This means very few options were available other than the choice of transmission, and an air conditioning system identical to the North American version. The Europeans were offered an optional "Special Equipment Pack" that offered cruise control, aluminium alloy wheels, a driver's seat with power lumbar support, height, fore/aft and reclining adjusters, adjustable rear headrests, a 4 speaker stereo system provided by Philips and headlight wipers. Front and rear mud flaps were standard in undisclosed countries but not all. The radio volume control rocker switch and preset radio scan button installed on the instrument binnacle was not offered.

Legend coupe and other changes

Honda Legend coupe

The Legend Coupe was introduced February 6, 1987, which shared the double wishbone suspension and powertrain setup from the moderately improved sedan for the 1987 model year. Incidentally, the Japanese coupe was both longer and wider, which increased its tax liability, yet it had a shorter wheelbase by 2.2 in (56 mm).

Starting with the introduction of model year 1988, the trim level "Exclusive" was introduced, offering genuine wood trim provided by Tendo Mokko on the dashboard and center console with a very large selection of available wood type and hues to choose from, automatic headlights, headlight washer/wipers, separate rear passenger climate control, and chrome-plated power folding mirrors and door handles with infrared remote keyless entry. October 14, 1988 saw a minor restyle offered for the interior and dashboard, to provide a more luxurious appearance in comparison to the Nissan and Toyota uplevel sedans the Legend was competing with. Due to the success Honda had with the Legend, it served as an inspiration for the Subaru Legacy with which it shares many visual resemblances and dimensions both inside and out.[citation needed]

Engine specifications

Engine Displacement (cc) / bore×stroke Horsepower Torque
C20A V6 SOHC 24 valve PGM-FI 1,996cc / 82.0×63.0 145 PS (107 kW; 143 hp) @6300rpm 172 N·m (127 lb·ft) @5000rpm
C20A turbo V6 SOHC 24 valve PGM-FI 1,996cc / 82.0×63.0 190 PS (140 kW; 190 hp) @6000rpm 241 N·m (178 lb·ft) @3500rpm
C25A V6 SOHC 24 valve PGM-FI 2,493cc / 84.0×75.0 165 PS (121 kW; 163 hp) @6000rpm 211 N·m (156 lb·ft) @4500rpm
C27A V6 SOHC 24 valve PGM-FI 2,675cc / 87.0×75.0 180 PS (130 kW; 180 hp) @6000rpm 226 N·m (167 lb·ft) @4500rpm

Second generation (KA7/KA8, 1990-1996)

Second generation
1991–1996 Honda Legend (Australia)
Also called Acura Legend
Daewoo Arcadia
Production 1991–1995
Layout Front engine, front-wheel drive layout
Engine 3.2 L C32A V6
Transmission 4-speed automatic
5-speed manual
6-speed manual
Wheelbase Coupe: 111.4 in (2,830 mm)
Sedan: 114.6 in (2,911 mm)
Length Sedan: 194.9 in (4,950 mm)
Coupe: 192.5 in (4,890 mm)
Width 71.3 in (1,811 mm)
Height 1991-92 Coupe: 53.5 in (1,359 mm)
Sedan: 55.1 in (1,400 mm)
1993-95 Coupe: 53.7 in (1,364 mm)
Related Honda Accord
Honda Inspire
Honda Vigor
Honda Ascot

The second generation model was introduced October 24, 1990, and continued to offer both a sedan and coupé. The Rover 800 was not updated to the new platform, and instead continued with the old XX platform. In Japan, this Legend was also known as the "Super Legend" due to the much larger 3.2 C32A engine, which was now the only engine offered in the Legend. The Type I engine was rated at 215 PS (158.1 kW; 212.1 bhp), and the Type II was rated at 235 PS (172.8 kW; 231.8 bhp) and included with the touring system. This Legend benefited from much of the research and testing done for Honda's new mid-engined high performance sports car, the Honda NSX, and the Legend was used as a test platform for new NSX technologies and research. Honda introduced a passenger side airbag on this model, and used off-set collision testing to improve collision performance and safety. Trim level designations were changed to "Alpha" for the top level vehicle, and "Beta" for the lower grade. No other trim levels were offered. The "Alpha" was very well equipped, offering ABS, leather or 100% wool moquette upholstery, projector beam headlights, and dual-zone air conditioning. The rear end appearance of the sedan was adopted from the first generation Legend coupe, as the first generation sedans appearance was very similar to the first generation Subaru Legacy, and Honda wanted to visually align the appearance of both the Legend coupe and sedan with the Ferrari competitor Honda NSX. The customer base served by the slightly smaller first generation Legend was now offered the completely revised CB5 series Honda Vigor and Honda Inspire sold at different Japanese Honda retail sales locations Honda Clio and Honda Verno.

The Japanese Domestic Market version of the 1990 Legend (2nd generation) was the second vehicle offered with a navigation system called the Electro Gyrocator (first being the 1981 Honda Accord), although it was not satellite-based and instead relied on a gas gyroscope. September 29, 1992 saw an upgrade to the "Alpha" trim level, called the Touring Series, which added the Honda Progressive Damper suspension system, and included upgraded calipers for the front and rear disc brakes, and increased the wheel size to 16 inches. A Luxman premium sound system was added to the options list.The prefectural police department of Aomori used "Beta" sedans with the Type II engine for traffic monitoring.

American actor Harrison Ford did commercials in Japan for the Legend.

Honda Legend Alpha Touring coupe (Japan)  
Honda Legend coupe (Europe)  

Daewoo Arcadia

Daewoo Arcadia (S. Korea)

The second-generation Legend was also manufactured by Daewoo in South Korea from 1994 to 1999 under the name of Daewoo Arcadia (ko:대우 아카디아 ), for the southeast Asian market, replacing the Daewoo Imperial.[5] The word "arcadia" is Greek for utopia, and when the Arcadia was sold in South Korea, it was the largest sedan available against its Hyundai Grandeur competitor. Daewoo Motors (GM Korea's predecessor) created by the car and, having been introduced in 1993, sold more than 800 vehicles. In 1992, Japan's Honda and technology partnership with Daewoo, the Arcadia was essentially the base level Legend. At the time of the Arcadia’s introduction, it was the largest engine, with a 220 horsepower V6 3,200 cc engine, and the price was also high 4,190 million won. ABS, dual airbags, safety belt pre-tensioners, and the most advanced car safety features at the time, commensurate with a focus on protecting the passengers. Some of the features included driver's seat position memory function and front heated seats, push-button door opening and closing devices, automatic climate control air conditioning. After the acquisition of Ssangyong and Daewoo Motors, Daewoo cars entered with the Daewoo Chairman and remaining stock of Arcadia sedans were price reduced, with the Arcadia ending production in December of that year.

Third generation (KA9, 1996-2004)

Third generation
1996–1998 Honda Legend
Also called Acura 3.5RL
Production 1996–2004
Layout front engine, front-wheel drive layout
Engine 3.5 L C35A V6
Transmission 4-speed automatic
6-speed manual
Wheelbase 114.6 in (2,911 mm)
Length 1996-1998:195.1 in (4,956 mm)
1999-2001:196.6 in (4,994 mm)
2002-2004:196.7 in (4,996 mm)
Width 1996-1998:71.3 in (1,811 mm)
1999-2001:71.4 in (1,814 mm)
2002-2004:71.7 in (1,821 mm)
Height 1996-1998:54.5 in (1,384 mm)
1999-2001:56.5 in (1,435 mm)
2002-2004:54.5 in (1,384 mm)
Related Honda Accord (USA-spec)
Honda Inspire
Honda Saber

The third generation Legend appeared February 14, 1996, continuing the Honda tradition of front wheel drive, and increasing the engine displacement to 3.5 L with the horsepower remaining at 215 PS (158.1 kW; 212.1 bhp). The actual Honda internal platform code for this vehicle is E-KA9. In an attempt by Honda to dispute the call for the Legend to be offered with a V8 to be considered a premium level luxury car, this generation had a wheelbase that compared to the Infiniti Q45 at 2,830 mm (111.4 in) with a length at 5,056 mm (199.1 in) , and the Lexus LS at 2,850 mm (112.2 in) wheelbase and 4,996 mm (196.7 in) length. The Legend also had very similar dimensions to the front wheel drive, V8 sedan Mitsubishi Proudia which was sold only in Japan and was discontinued after three years and only 1227 vehicles produced. The Proudia was 5,050 mm (198.8 in) long, 1,870 mm (73.6 in) wide, with a wheelbase of 2,830 mm (111.4 in).

The trim level "Exclusive" returned as the upper level car, with the standard grade vehicle known as "Euro", with the more performance tuned suspension.The wood trim used was more upscale for the "Exclusive" vehicle with a lower grade wood used on the "Euro". Both vehicles were very well equipped. The instruments used were simplified from previous versions, but 100% wool moquette upholstery was still offered, along with optional leather. The Luxman premium sound system was still available. The styling was said to more closely resemble Mercedes-Benz and a transponder key security system was offered.

September 21, 1998 saw a minor styling change, with the front grille cutting into the front bumper, providing a more prominent front grille. Emphasis was increased on providing a luxurious sense of style, both inside and out. Side impact airbags now complemented the dual front airbags as standard equipment.

September 24, 1999 saw the engine meet emissions regulations to comply with California LEV requirements.

June 19, 2003 saw the interior updated, and maple wood was offered for interior decoration. Electro-luminescent instruments were offered, as well as a higher grade of leather interior.

The third-generation Legend was released in 1996, and the third-generation model was offered as a sedan only. A mid-term facelift came in 1999. The Legend went on sale in Australia starting with the 1997 model year.

In the USA market, when the Legend coupe was discontinued, they were offered the Acura CL 2 door coupe that was based on the American market Honda Accord coupe so as to continue offering a top level 2 door vehicle.

North American model

In 1996, the replacement for the Acura Legend was introduced as the Acura 3.5RL. Known internally as "KA9", officially, RL originally stood for "Road Luxury."[6] Acura dropped the Legend moniker because market research showed that consumers knew Acura products by their model names, "Legend" and "Integra", and did not necessarily associate the names with the manufacturer, Acura.[7][8] In an effort to associate the model with the manufacturer, Acura changed the model names of its offerings to alpha-numeric designators used by many manufacturers at the time. 3.5RL thus indicated the displacement of the engine and the model designator. Acura also named the rest of its line with such alpha numerics as the 2.5TL and 3.2TL or the 3.2CL. Acura believed that no one would know what a "3.5RL" was, and people would naturally identify their cars as an "Acura 3.5RL", a strategy that seemed to be working so well with archrival Lexus, which was marketing not an "LS 400" but the "Lexus LS 400". Parenthetically, by the time the Acura 3.5RL was introduced, the top of the Japanese car luxury heap was no longer the Acura line-up but those cars sold by Lexus, and to a lesser extent, Infiniti.[9]

The very first Acura 3.5RL rolled off the assembly line on January 4, 1996. The 1996 Acura 3.5RL was introduced to lackluster reviews. The automotive world had been expecting a true competitor to the Lexus LS to emerge. The 3.5RL fell short and was continuing to drop in sales until it was finally redesigned for the 2005 model year. The main problems holding back the car seemed to be the lack of an option of a V8 powerplant and rear-wheel drive. So in 1996, laying to rest predictions of a VTEC V8 powerplant, the 3.5RL was now powered by a C35 3.5 L V6 engine engine, a stroked version derived from the Legend's C32 unit. The engine provided 210 hp (later 225 hp).[10]

Of particular note, in the 3.5RL, was the continuation of longitudinally mounted V6 engine. This meant that the center-line of the V6 was mounted in-line with the car's axis, and not transversely (i.e., 90 degrees offset from the vehicle axis) like most other front-wheel drive cars. This longitudinal placement allowed for a smaller turning radius and easy in-town maneuverability, as well as 56/44 front/rear weight distribution.

1999–2004 Acura 3.5RL

In 1999, the 3.5RL received a front and rear facelift that included the addition of newer xenon HID headlamps and integrated foglights along with new bumpers and hood. The suspension and chassis were stiffened, and new alloy wheels were offered. For safety, driver and front passenger side airbags were added. The Acura 3.5RL was back in the fold and sales increased.

In 2000, a larger navigation system screen was added. Along with that larger screen was the conversion to easy-to-replace DVD map databases. In 2002, another subtle change was given to the 3.5RL with painted lower trim and mudflaps along with redesigned alloys and a newer, sportier suspension setup. Perhaps more important was the engine which now was upgraded to produce 225 hp (168 kW) and 231 lb·ft (313 N·m) of torque along with more insulation in the engine compartment as well as the fact that OnStar was added in 2002. The 2003 and 2004 RL's received clear turn signals in the rear lights, another new wheel design, as well as various interior upgrades including new color schemes. For 2004, the navigation system came as standard as well as a redesigned center console and chrome door lock pulls. Absent a major redesign in 8 years, however, the 3.5RL's sales slipped to their lowest levels in the 2004 model year. Acura and dealers both provided generous incentives on the final models.

The 1996–2004 3.5RL's engine was the last in the Honda and Acura lineup not to use VTEC, Honda's variable valve timing system. This 3.5 L 90 degree V6 engine was internally designated as the C35A, and the last of the Honda C engine V6 engines used in Honda and Acura lineups, being replaced by the newer Honda J engine 60 degree V6 engines. The 2004 RL was also the last Acura to use the numeric designator (i.e., 3.5) for its engine displacement.

Fourth generation (KB1, 2004-current)

Fourth generation
Honda Legend (seit 2008)
Also called Acura RL
Production 2004-current
Layout Front-engine, four-wheel drive layout
Engine 2005-08: 3.5L J35A 290 hp (220 kW)
2009: 3.7L 300 hp (220 kW)
Transmission 5-speed automatic with sequential sport shift
Wheelbase 2005-09: 110.2 in (2,799 mm)
Length 2005-08: 193.6 in (4,917 mm)
2009: 195.8 in (4,973 mm)
Width 2005-9: 72.7 in (1,847 mm)
Height 2005-08: 57.1 in (1,450 mm)
2009: 57.2 in (1,453 mm)
Related Honda Accord (USA-spec)
Honda Odyssey (North America)
Honda Inspire
Honda Elysion

The swoopier, shorter fourth-generation Honda Legend was launched on October 7, 2004 and became Japan's Car of the Year for 2004–5, marking the fourth time in five years that Honda has taken the award. Its reduced dimensions over the third generation model seem to suggest a return to what made the Legend so popular with the first generation, being a top level sedan that offered something different from its competitors. The 2011 model marks the 25 year anniversary of Honda Legend production.

In an attempt to address market driven requests that the Legend needed to be a rear drive sedan with a V8 engine, Honda introduced four wheel drive technology on the Legend, called "Super Handling All-Wheel Drive" SH-AWD, which earned Honda the Japan Car of the Year, and Mosuto 2005 Annual RJC technology of the Year award. The Legend is only available with the four wheel drive powertrain, however, the all wheel drive system is optional on the North American Acura TL (The TL is not sold in Japan). Due to continuous product improvement efforts over past generations, the series CP3 North American Honda Accord (Honda Inspire in some markets) shares wheelbase, length, width and engine displacement almost exactly with this generation Legend, with a reduced price in many international markets. The Legend does have a higher level of standard features and optional equipment but not by much.

Select-Shift was introduced on the 5 speed automatic transmission. The newly designed J35A 3.5 L V6 was changed from a 90 degree "V", in use since the first 1986 C25A V6 engine, to a 60 degree, and added VTEC to improve efficiency (M-TEC was added by the MUGEN division, called the "M1 package"). In a move going back to the many "firsts" introduced by the popular for its time first generation Legend, the horsepower no longer complied with Japanese auto industry self imposed horsepower restrictions,[11] and the engine was the first in Japan installed in a passenger vehicle sold commercially without electronic horsepower restrictions. The engine is capable of 300 PS (220.6 kW; 295.9 bhp), despite the fact that the engine was still a V6 and not a larger V8.

Perhaps to accommodate the all wheel drive setup, the engine was reoriented from a longitudnal installation used since 1990, to a transverse installation, which was the original orientation of the first generation model. Honda began to expand the Acura division into Mexico, Hong Kong, and China. Plans to introduce the Acura brand in Japan haven't been formally announced, relying on speculation. This generation Legend shares large sedan duties with the Honda Inspire, known in North America as the Honda Accord starting with model year 2003 (series UC1) and continuing with the series CP3 sedan. September 15, 2005 saw a mild body restyle, which included a rear backup camera.The Akita and Kumamoto Prefectures adopted this Legend as the official car for local senior government officials.

The Legend received a Mid-Model Change (MMC) for the 2009 model year. Among the usual upgrades, the Honda Legend offered some additional optional safety features, including Lane Keeping Assistance System (LKAS). The LKAS could actually make small steering adjustments to keep a car in lane so long as the radius of the turn was more than 220 meters, which was the legal minimum in Japan. The LKAS would relinquish control at the slightest steering input so the driver had control at all times. Intelligent Night Vision with the world's first pedestrian detection feature, and a standard pop-up hood for pedestrian safety.[12][13] The night vision system uses a separate heads up type display projected on the center bottom of the windshield. The infrared cameras do not require a light source, and the software is able to detect human like figures, surround the image with a red box and give audible caution tones. The pop-up hood uses a series of sensors that can detect a pedestrian-like object being thrown onto the hood. An actuator will pop the hood up at the rear, close to the base of the windshield, 10 cm (4 inches) to help minimize pedestrian injuries, especially head trauma. All markets feature energy absorbing hood and fender supports and deformable windshield wiper pivots to minimize pedestrian injury.

In October 2010, it is reported that Brake Defect from Honda Honda Legend were delivered to customers before the problem is discovered. Honda says that it doesn’t know how many of its vehicles have suffered a faulty brake system. The U.S. Honda outfit says it will replace the faulty seal and, if leaking has occurred, the brake booster will be replaced as well. At least some owners in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries are likely affected. Honda told that no stop-sale is issued.[14]

North American Acura Model

A new generation car, known internally as "KB1", was launched in late 2004 for the 2005 model year. Still without the much-rumored V8 engine, it features a sophisticated all-wheel drive system Acura calls "Super Handling All-Wheel Drive" (SH-AWD). It integrates active differentials with the all-wheel drive system and traction control to improve handling, similar to the "ATTS" system featured on the 1997 Honda Prelude SH. At the time of its introduction, the Acura RL's SH-AWD was unique among all wheel drive systems because not only could it vary traction from front to back, but also side to side in rear using a technique called torque vectoring, becoming the first such system. The RL can direct up to 70% of available torque to the rear wheels, and up to 100% of that available rear torque can be directed to just one wheel. In combination with a specially designed planetary gear set which can over-drive the rear wheels up to 5% greater speed than the front wheels, the torque direction to one wheel, or torque vectoring, can have a steering effect. As the car speeds around a curve, torque vectored to the outside rear wheel will pull the rear end around the curve faster, just as paddling the outside oar of a row boat faster than the inside oar will cause the row boat to turn.

The first-generation RL was powered by a 225 hp (168 kW) 90° C-series V6 non-VTEC engine. The second-generation RL uses a newer design 60° J-series 3.5 L V6 SOHC VTEC engine delivering 300 hp (224 kW; later revised to 290 hp (220 kW) due to new SAE testing procedures). To give the car a more sporty feel, the car features drive-by-wire throttle control and a five-speed sequential sport shifting automatic transmission with shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel. As with the first-generation Acura RL, the second-generation Acura RL uses premium unleaded fuel rated at 91 (R+M)/2 octane.

A first for the RL is the use of aluminum 4-piston front brake calipers over 12.6-inch cast-iron ventilated front rotors. These multi-piston calipers are extremely rigid, and are derived from racing applications. In the rear, 12.2-inch cast-iron ventilated discs attach to their hub with lightweight aluminum collets and are gripped by one-piston aluminum brake calipers.[15] The RL was equipped with a unique five spoke 17-inch alloy wheel with Michelin Pilot HX MXM 4 245/50-R-17 98V[15] all season grand touring tires. These wheels were one inch larger in diameter, and the tires 20 mm wider in section than those found on the first-generation Acura RL.

New features found on the 2005 RL include an keyless entry system which allows the driver to both lock and unlock the car by touching the door handle, without having to use the remote control, and a keyless start system. A new 260 watt, ten speaker Bose DVD-Audio 5.1 sound system[16] equalized for the RL cabin features several Bose technologies. Bose AudioPilot is a noise compensation technology which analyzes background environmental cabin noise, uses an algorithm based on cabin acoustics to boost certain portions of the musical signal so that it may be heard more clearly above environmental sound "clutter" without any apparent change in volume.[17] Bose Centerpoint processes stereo and matrix surround sound recordings to allow play through the 5.1 sound system even though the source may only be a stereo sound track. Bose Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) rounds out the suite. Always on, whether the stereo is on or not, ANC takes input from two microphones placed in the cabin to analyze drivetrain related low end frequencies entering the cabin. The ANC sends information to the sound system to create precisely shaped and timed reverse phased audio signal from the door speakers and the subwoofer. The result is a dramatic reduction of engine and exhaust noise.

XM Satellite Radio, integrated Bluetooth hands-free technology for wireless phone use, voice recognition technology with over 560 voice commands to control navigation system and displays, wireless phone, audio system, heating and ventilation controls round out the cabin's technological features. Heating and air conditioning systems were also tied into a solar sensor and GPS positioning so that cabin temperature would stay constant in a mixed sun and shade situation. Based on sun position and cabin orientation, additional cooling air would be automatically added to the sunny side of the car to keep that occupant comfortable while not freezing out the occupant on the shady side.

The Alpine Electronics DVD-based navigation system is integrated with an 8 inch LCD display and a multi use Interface Dial, which can act like a mouse moving up down left right, like a knob, scrolling through preset menus, and a selector by clicking. Unlike many in-car navigation systems, the Alpine DVD based navigation unit allows the driver to change destinations and routes "on the fly" while driving, rather than being locked out unless the car is park. The deeply integrated voice recognition system works with the navigation system and can also recognize city and street names. Also unique at the time was two way communication via AcuraLink satellite communication. Using a facility of XM Radio service, the system can send a variety of messages to the car including service appointment reminders (appointments first made via Internet) or important messages such as recall notices. The use of OnStar is carried over from the previous generation RL. Use of digital/analog trimode (two digital bands and one analog band) technology allows the 2005 RL OnStar technology to survive the planned 2007 phase out of the analog OnStar to all digital OnStar service in 2007.

Other new features include the Active Front Lighting System, in which the high intensity discharge headlamps swivel with the steering up to twenty degrees, offering improved night cornering vision. Light emitting diodes (LED) replace traditional incandescent lighting is used for many rear tail and brake as well as in the side mirror housing integrated turn signals, and many interior cabin lights.

2007 Honda Legend

The 2005 RL was also the first Honda vehicle to use the Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure, which is now proliferating throughout every newly-introduced Honda and Acura vehicle design. The ACE structure features extensive use of high-tensile steel and lightweight aluminum components in a front-mounted polygonal main frame, designed engage vehicles of differing size and weight in a frontal collision and spread the forces through multiple structural pathways, while preventing or minimizing cabin deformation. In practical terms, this means in an SUV versus ACE structure car collision, there is a greater chance that the ACE body structure will engage with the SUV's frame and dissipate collision forces around the passenger compartment. In more conventional non-ACE car structures, the SUV frame has a much greater chance of missing or over-riding the conventional car's major structural components and a greater chance of deforming the passenger compartment.

The 2005 RL car structure features extensive use of somewhat "exotic" materials for a car at this price point including aluminum alloy hood, front fenders, trunk lid and frame, front and rear subframes, suspension arms, front knuckles and bumper beams. Magnesium is used in the intake manifold, and the two-piece center drive shaft is made of a carbon reinforced composite. The new RL features extensive aerodynamic design treatment including details such an industry first flush side glass, as well underbody covers and diffusers to reduce lift, resulting in a very low drag coefficient of 0.29.

2005 RL Exterior Colors[18]
2005 RL Interior Colors
Premium White Pearl Parchment, Ebony
Opulent Blue Pearl Ebony, Taupe
Redondo Red Pearl Parchment, Ebony
Meteor Silver Metallic Ebony, Taupe
Nighthawk Black Pearl Parchment, Ebony
Lakeshore Silver Metallic Ebony, Taupe
Celestial Silver Metallic Ebony, Taupe
Desert Mist Metallic Parchment, Ebony
2005 RL Retail Price US $49,100
2006 Honda Legend

For 2006, the Acura RL was also offered in a second trim level, the optional 'Technology Package' which included three new features adaptive cruise control (ACC), Collision Mitigation Braking System, and Michelin PAX System run-flat tires on unique PAX 235 mm x 460 mm A ("A" for asymmetric) aluminum alloy wheels with unique 245-680R460A Michelin Pilot HX MXM 4 all season grand touring type radials designed for the Michelin PAX System. The metric sized, run flat Michelin PAX System wheels and tires are equivalent to 18" x 9" wheels and 245/45-R18 conventional tires. The previously standard color-matched mud guards were deleted in 2006. All 2006 models had a slight change to the navigation system that also allowed the installation of an optional rearview camera. MSRP increased by just $200 for the equivalent 2005 model.[19]

2006 RL Exterior Colors[20]
2006 RL Interior Colors
Premium White Pearl Parchment, Ebony
Opulent Blue Pearl Ebony, Taupe
Redondo Red Pearl Parchment, Ebony
Carbon Gray Pearl Ebony, Taupe
Meteor Silver Metallic Ebony, Taupe
Nighthawk Black Pearl Parchment, Ebony
Lakeshore Silver Metallic Ebony, Taupe
Celestial Silver Metallic Ebony, Taupe
Desert Mist Metallic Parchment, Ebony
2006 RL Base Package US$ 49,300
2006 RL Technology Package


US$ 53,100

For 2007, the Acura RL was offered in three trim levels, detailed in the table below, including a "standard" or "base" package, a newly defined "Technology Package" and the highest level trim, the "Technology Package with CMBS/PAX".

Base Model cars were well equipped, but deleted certain features such as the Navigation System, Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS), and substituted plastic for wood trim.

Technology Package cars were essentially the same as the 2005 and 2006 standard models, coming with Navigation, AFS, while also adding as standard equipment, a rear backup camera and a 3.5mm stereo input jack for Apple iPod and other mp3 type devices.

Technology Package plus CMBS/PAX had no 2005 equivalent, and was most similar to the 2006 Technology Package, because it included ACC/CMBS and PAX technologies. While the label "CMBS/PAX" might appear to indicate ACC was dropped as a feature, in reality, ACC an extension of the CMBS system, and so was included.

As noted above mp3 audio player feature (really any device with a 3.5 mm headphone jack) was added to all trim levels. An integrated rearview camera was added to the top two trim levels. An integrated rearview camera could be added to the non-navigation Base model as a dealer installed option. The Base model optional rearview camera installed in the same manner and position as on the 2006 models, being mounted dead center of the trunk trim, and having a new trunk release button installed to the right of center (passenger side). The difference is subtle, but the factory rearview camera installation on the Technology Package and the Technology Package with CMBS/PAX is to left of center (driver side) of the trunk release.

In 2005 and 2006, all models came standard with "genuine curly maple wood dashboard trim". With the introduction of three trim levels, the genuine curly maple wood dashboard trim now only appeared on the two higher level cars, Technology Package with CMBS/PAX. OnStar was deleted as a feature from all trim levels. Colors were added and deleted. MSRP increased by just $100 from the roughly equivalent 2006 trims.[21]

2007 RL Exterior Colors[22] 2007 RL Interior Colors
Premium White Pearl Parchment, Ebony
Opulent Blue Pearl Ebony, Taupe
Redondo Red Pearl Parchment, Ebony
Carbon Gray Pearl Ebony, Taupe
Platinum Frost Metallic
replaces Celestial Silver and Meteor Silver
Ebony, Taupe
Nighthawk Black Pearl Parchment, Ebony
Lakeshore Silver Metallic Ebony, Taupe
Desert Mist Metallic Parchment, Ebony
2007 RL Base Package US$ 45,780
2007 RL Technology Package US$ 49,400
2007 RL Technology + ACC/CMBS/PAX US$ 53,200
2007 RL 2007 RL with Technology Package
(in addition to the base package)
2007 RL with Technology and ACC/CMBS/PAX Packages
(in addition to the Technology Package)
290 horsepower (220 kW) Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS)
3.5-liter, 24-valve, SOHC VTEC V-6 aluminum-alloy engine Rearview camera Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)
Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) AcuraLink satellite communication system with real-time traffic Michelin PAX Run-Flat Technology
Acura/Bose 10-speaker Surround Sound System GPS-linked, solar-sensing, dual-zone, dual-mode automatic climate control system
XM Satellite Radio Active Front Lighting System (AFS)
Keyless Access System Genuine curlywood maple interior trim

The 2008 Acura RL continues unchanged in the US market from the 2007 model. Colors were added and deleted. MSRP increases $500 in each trim:[23]

2008 RL Exterior Colors[24]
2008 RL Interior Colors
Premium White Pearl Parchment, Ebony
Opulent Blue Pearl Taupe, (Ebony is dropped)
Redondo Red Pearl Parchment, (Ebony is dropped)
Carbon Gray Pearl Ebony, Taupe
Platinum Frost Metallic Ebony, Taupe
Nighthawk Black Pearl Parchment, Ebony
Lakeshore Silver Metallic Ebony, Taupe
Desert Mist Metallic Parchment, (Ebony is dropped)
2008 RL Base Package US$ 46,280
2008 RL Technology Package US$ 49,900
2008 RL Technology + ACC/CMBS/PAX US$ 53,700

In Canada, the 2008 Acura RL is available with two different models, Base and Elite Package. The Elite Package adds Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Active Front Lighting System (AFS), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), heated and cooled ventilated front seats and burled maple wood trim.

2005-2008 A-Spec Performance Package

For the 2005-2008 models, Acura offered an A-Spec package for the RL. The package consisted of two performance upgrades, which were dealer installed, and several appearance package upgrades. The package was first announced at a late 2004 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) trade show in Las Vegas.[25] It should be noted that the A-Spec package for sale was distinctly different from the Acura RL A-Spec Concept Vehicle announced and shown as a striking dark red one-of-a-kind custom creation in early 2005 at the Detroit Auto Show.[26]

The performance upgrades came in the form of A-Spec sport suspension upgrade, and A-Spec 18 inch alloy wheels, which allowed the use of more sporty lower profile tires.

The A-Spec sport suspension changed out the four springs and dampers (shocks) assemblies. The A-Spec suspension featured lowering springs (approximately 0.75 inch)and revalved dampers. The ride stiffness increased, but not overly so, and handling improved with less body roll, more controlled cornering and enhanced feel. Reportedly the suspension stiffness was not to same level as the much stiffer A-Spec sport suspension upgrade in the Acura TL, in keeping with the two different missions of the cars, luxury for the RL, luxury sport for the TL. Acura RL A-Spec suspension geometry remained the same as the stock Acura RL suspension alignment specifications.

The other performance upgrade was the A-Spec 18x8 inch alloy wheels, a 10 spoke lighter weight design (about the same weight as the 5 spoke 17x8 inch OEM wheels). Recommended tires were either 245/45-18 sized Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 ultra high performance summer tires or Michelin Pilot Sport A/S ultra high performance all-season tires. Alternatively, less sport oriented, Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 Grand Touring All Season tires were also available in the same size. Typical of Acura optional wheels, the 55 mm offset of the stock 17x8 inch wheels was maintained so that suspension geometry could remain untouched.

The A-Spec appearance package consisted of a front air dam, side skirts, rear bumper air diffuser and a subtle trunk decklid lip style spoiler, all designed to give the car a more aggressive "aero" look. The parts came pre-painted from the factory to match factory colors. All parts were dealer installable.

Interestingly, if the dealer installed the A-Spec parts at the time of purchase, the original new car warranty of four years/50,000 miles would apply. If installed after purchase, the normal one year/12,000 mile parts warranty would apply.

A-Spec options were not offered for the 2009 mid model change. There is a widely held belief that the A-Spec suspension should have been the standard suspension on the Acura RL, and that the stock suspension was too soft, and hampered the very capable chassis and drivetrain. Interestingly the 2009 mid model change incorporated a revised stiffer suspension and 18x8 inch wheels as standard, equipped with lower profile 245/45-18 size tires. More aggressive "aero" look body work was also incorporated as standard, but a revised trunk decklid spoiler was made available as a dealer installed option.

2009 Mid Model Change (KB2)

For the 2009 model year, the RL received an extensive mid-model change (MMC), and made its introduction at the Chicago Auto Show on February 6, 2008, billed as "the most extensive Acura MMC ever". The new sedan was designated KB2 in the VIN codes, differentiating it from the 2005–2008 KB1 chassis VIN code. The revised sedan was released on July 1, 2008 to dealerships. The engine is upgraded to 3.7L with 300 hp (220 kW). While on paper, the engine may seem to be the same unit as shared with the Acura MDX, it is actually a variant that introduces for the first time ever on a SOHC Honda V6, an implementation of the Honda VTEC variable valve train technology on the exhaust side for improved horsepower and torque. Heretofore, all previous SOHC Honda V6 with VTEC used the technology on the intake side only.[27] The engine emissions has been improved to meet the stricter U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) TIER 2 – BIN 5 and California Air Resources Board ULEV-2 standards. Implementation of the SH-AWD was adjusted for earlier intervention and a greater rear wheel bias for better handling dynamics.

The MMC RL suspension was upgraded with higher rate coil springs, larger diameter anti-sway bars and stiffer bushings all around.[28] The MMC RL sports a new larger front anti-sway bar of hollow construction, 30 mm diameter overall with a 6.5 mm wall thickness and a larger rear solid anti-sway bar, 19 mm diameter solid.[29] The pre-MMC models sported a solid 29 mm front and 17 mm rear sway bar.[30]

Standard 18" x 8" seven spoke alloy wheels with 245/45-18 tires replace the previous years' 17" x 8" five spoke offerings for not only the base and tech package models, but also for the highest trim ACC/CMBS equipped model. Previous years' ACC/CMBS equipped models were equipped with [Michelin PAX System] run flat tires on 18 inch equivalent (460 mm diameter) five spoke wheels. Unlike the previous years (2005–2008), there is no A-Spec offering, which included a body kit, suspension, wheels and badging.

Changes to the interior include more comfortable front seats and slightly increased rear leg room. The passenger front seat now has the same full 10-way power control as the driver's seat and both front seats feature active head restraint systems and six levels of cooling ventilation, as well as heated surfaces. Controls for heating and air-conditioning have been simplified and additional individual vent control is available to driver and passenger. The shift gear no longer has a gated sequence, but goes straight down to match the new ones used for the current Acura TSX and Acura TL. The steering wheel and shift gear top are now trimmed with wood to emphasize the RL's upscale luxury feel over its other two sedan siblings.

Additional insulation, improved acoustic isolation windshield design, and a new implementation of the active noise cancellation system (ANC) combine to make the car's interior more quiet over a variety of different conditions. Whereas the pre-MMC models ANC was set to cancel out low frequency boominess from the engine and exhaust, the MMC system, called Active Sound Control, has been extended in range to cancel some higher frequency road and tire noise as well. Unlike its predecessor ANC, Active Sound Control is now linked to throttle position and engine rpm to provide a more quiet cockpit during normal cruising, but will allow more of the new "3.7L's muscular sound" to be heard during higher rpm, higher speed excursions.

An additional microphone as well as some switchable directionality has been added to the HFL (Hands Free Link) and Voice Activated Navigation and Convenience controls. The new microphone system provides more accurate system "understanding" of the driver voice only when the systems are in command mode. Extraneous sounds, such as other voices in the cabin and wind noise are better distinguished and filtered out by the dual microphone system. Directionality is removed when an HFL voice call is established so that all passengers may participate in the phone call as in the pre-MMC model. The new dual microphone system uses real estate that was previously used in the 2005 and 2006 models for OnStar control electronics. Voice recognition commands have been increased to over 700,[31] up from 560[32] previously.

The DVD based navigation system improves on previous XM satellite linked traffic flow reporting to include rerouting based on current traffic conditions and new continuously updated real time weather reporting. The DVD Audio capable 10 speaker sound system remains, but integration with the audio system is improved with the addition of Bluetooth stereo and a USB port that allows integration and operation of Apple iPod and other MP3 type devices. Also new is the ability to display iPod or other MP3 device (such as a USB flash memory device) folder and playlist information on the car's 8-inch central navigation display screen.[33]

New shifter and center console arrangements have been added including a Sport mode. The steering wheel paddle shifters have been reprogrammed for faster response, and the paddle shifters can now be operated in both Drive and Sport Mode. In pre-MMC models, the gear selector had to be put in manual mode for the paddle shifters to operate.

The 2009 RL is slightly longer in its exterior dimensions by 2.2 inches (56 mm). The height is up a scant 0.1 inches (2.5 mm), while the width, track and wheelbase remain the same,.[29][30] The front end including the hood and the rear, including the trunkline have been revised along with redesigned headlights and taillights. One of the most controversial features of the 2009 RL may be its "Power Plenum" grill design, the first of three similar designs that have been recently revealed in the new-second generation 2009 Acura TSX, and the fourth-generation 2009 Acura TL.

Curb weights have increased. The MMC Base weighs in at 4083 lbs, the Technology Package weighs in at 4085 lbs, and the ACC/CMBS with no PAX now weighs in at 4110.[34] The equivalent 2006 pre-MMC Technology Package weighed in at 4012 lbs, and the pre-MMC with ACC/CMBS/PAX weighed in at 4074 lbs.[35]

The 2009 Acura RL continues to offer three trim levels in the US market. MSRP increases by $500 over the 2008 model for each trim.[36] For 2009, the Michelin PAX Run Flat Tire system is no longer offered in combination with the CMBS/ACC package. ACC is now featured alongside CMBS as part of the package name, after a two year hiatus. In reality, ACC was always included as a part of the CMBS. Colors were added and deleted.

2009 RL Exterior Colors[37]
2009 RL Interior Colors
Alberta White Pearl replaces Premium White Pearl Parchment, Ebony
Crystal Black Pearl replaces Nighthawk Black Pearl Parchment, Ebony
Opulent Blue Pearl Ebony, Taupe
Redondo Red Pearl Parchment, Ebony
Grigio Metallic replaces Carbon Gray Pearl Parchment, Ebony
Platinum Frost Metallic Ebony, Taupe
Silver Jade Metallic replaces Lakeshore Silver Metallic Ebony, Taupe
Tuscan Beige Metallic replaces Desert Mist Metallic Parchment
2009 RL Base Package US$ 46,680
2009 RL Technology Package US$ 50,300
2009 RL Technology + ACC/CMBS US$ 54,100

The 2010 Acura RL continues with few changes, in the US market from the 2009 model, as indicated on the current website for the RL.[38] Colors were added and deleted. MSRP increases $150 in each trim:

2010 RL Exterior Colors[39]
2010 RL Interior Colors
Alberta White Pearl Parchment, Ebony
Crystal Black Pearl Parchment, Ebony
Opulent Blue Pearl Taupe, (Ebony is dropped)
Redondo Red Pearl is dropped
Grigio Metallic Parchment, Ebony
Platinum Frost Metallic Ebony, Taupe
Silver Jade Metallic Ebony, Taupe
Tuscan Beige Metallic is dropped
2010 RL Base Package US$ 46,830
2010 RL Technology Package US$ 50,450
2010 RL Technology + ACC/CMBS US$ 54,250

2011 updates

The 2011 Acura RL appears to be set for production with some additional features, according to the Summer 2010 Acura Style magazine, a limited distribution publication for Acura owners, and later confirmed by the popular Honda and Acura product website "Temple of VTEC".[40] New features and color combinations are reported by Temple of VTEC to be: Six-speed automatic transmission, power folding mirrors, rear backup/parking sensors.

The six-speed automatic transmission, which was first introduced on the 2010 Acura ZDX, is a genuinely new feature. Power folding mirrors have been available, in other than the North American market, since the 2004 introduction in Japan. Parking/backup sensors have been available in the North American market as a dealer installed option since the second generation Acura RL introduction in late 2004. A host of other features have also been available since the car's introduction in 2004, some of which are detailed in the Safety section below.

A new technology is also introduced, a noise reducing wheel mechanism. The 2011 RL is fitted with Helmholtz resonators in the wheels (a "world's first" for a passenger vehicle). These chambers sit in the center portion of the inside of the wheel and help diminish road noise, which results in a quieter cabin. This appears to be a conventional alloy wheel modified to incorporate an internal noise reduction device. A diagram shows an elastomer type ring with multiple hollow chambers surrounding the center line of the wheel circumference. This device is supposed to dampen noise generated by rough road surfaces such as highway seams, making the cabin a more silent. The device has been coined as "Noise reducing", an noise reduction system for the wheel mechanism which works by resonance absorption.

2011(?) RL Exterior Colors[41] 2011(?) RL Interior Colors
Alberta White Pearl Ebony, Seacoast (Seacoast is added; Parchment is dropped)
Crystal Black Pearl Ebony, Taupe (Taupe is added, Parchment is dropped)
Graphite Luster Metallic Ebony, Taupe
Forged Silver Metallic Ebony, Taupe
Pomegranate Pearl Seacoast
Opulent Blue Pearl is dropped
Grigio Metallic is dropped
Platinum Frost Metallic is dropped
Silver Jade Metallic is dropped
2011 RL Base Package US$ TBD
2011 RL Technology Package US$ TBD
2011 RL Technology + ACC/CMBS US$ TBD

Unconfirmed by Temple of VTEC, but discussed in the Acura Style magazine as additional 2011 revisions are a "next-generation grill design", "dramatic 18-inch wheels", "revised lower rear bumper detailing" and a "newly available Light Orchid Interior". It would appear, based on a 2011 RL color chart received by Temple of VTEC, that the "Light Orchid" interior color has been renamed to "Seacoast".


The future of the Acura RL is uncertain,(dealers have been promised an "amazing flagship" without intricate details, and a prospective RWD V8 model was scrapped in 2008) although it is possible that it could become an Acura only model like the MDX which would allow more freedom in the development process. One of these such freedoms is the addition of a hybrid drivetrain. It has been common knowledge that Honda is working on a hybrid system optimal for V6 applications, albeit tuned for performance in Acura models in the same vein as the Lexus LS600h and the Infiniti M35h. The official specs are not yet available, but according to Autoblog the power plant will consist of a 3.5l V6 from Honda's next generation V6 series producing 350 horsepower and 280 lb ft. of torque, in north/south placement like the first RL, with DOHC VTEC. It is coupled to two electric motors at each rear wheel which produce 50 hp and 85 lb ft. of torque each, creating a combined 450 hp and 450 lb. ft. of torque, a substitute for the canceled V8 which should have a similar weight to the V6+hybrid system, all placed on a new aluminum space frame platform.This rumour is supported by a patent application for a V6 developing upwards of 400 horsepower unearthed by MotorTrend. Power could go through a 6 speed dual clutch automatic developed for this system and will incorporate Acura's trademark SH-AWD with further rearward bias thanks to the electric motors. It could launch anywhere from fall 2011 to fall 2012, and the powertrain could possibly spread to an Accord based sports car (albeit transverse mounted). Its final appearance however is a mystery as there are no spy shots; an anonymous Honda source says it will be a couple inches shorter than an Audi A8 and will be a "four door coupe" like the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. Pricing is unknown at this point.


The second-generation 2005 Acura RL appeared on Car and Driver's Ten Best list for 2005. The car also garnered an "Editor's Choice" Award for Top Tech Car.

The SH-AWD all-wheel drive system was lauded by Popular Science as one of the best automotive innovations of 2004, and earned the 2005 "Tech Car of the Year" from[42] Subsequent moves by both Audi and BMW to design and market their own versions of torque vectoring all wheel drive systems bear out the innovative nature of the SH-AWD design.

While critically acclaimed, sales have not met expectations. Regarding sales of Japanese luxury flagships during the first six months of 2010, Acura has sold only 872 RLs, compared to 5,650 Lexus LS and 6,602 Infiniti M sedans. Enthusiasts and dealers said that the RL was not competitive because it is smaller, uses front-wheel drive, and lacks a V8 option, compared to its larger rivals in the mid-luxury segment that are rear-wheel drive and have a V8 available.[43]

Some have suggested that the initial price of the RL is perceived to be out of its bracket. As the new RL offered more features and performance than the base version of its luxury competition's (i.e., the base six-cylinder BMW 5 Series),[44] Honda Japan suggested that it could charge more, though Honda Canada disagreed. The RL's initial MRSP was $69,500 CAD, more than the six-cylinder BMW 525i and close to that of the V8-powered BMW 545i. At the RL's price point, most consumers expected a V8, furthermore they did not perceive Acura as being on par with its German rivals and expected more value from the Japanese marque. The damage from Honda Japan's alleged hubris was done, perhaps giving the RL an unfavorable impression that could not be removed, even though Honda Canada has since reduced the RL's price. In 2009, the new generation of the Acura TL was released and it is expected to offer tough competition to the RL, as the TL has essentially the same engine, the SH-AWD system, and many of the RL's features for only $44,900 CAD.[45]

In October 2010, the Acura RL has been named as one of Consumer Reports[46] most reliable cars, one of among 5 Honda models (Acura TL with front-wheel drive; Acura RL luxury car; Honda CR-V small SUV; Acura RDX small upscale SUV, and Honda Ridgeline compact pickup truck) named as most reliable in various categories.

See also


Information added to the first generation Legend was compiled from a 1986 Japanese language Honda Legend brochure, a Japanese market Honda Legend Press Information brochure dated October 22, 1985, a Japanese market Honda Legend Wing Turbo brochure, a European market brochure dated model year 1987, and a North American Acura Legend sales brochure dated 1986 by American Honda Motor Company.

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