Acura Legend image courtesy of Acura media support
John Goreham's picture

Cars We Miss – The Acura Legend

The Acura Legend is well, a legend. Here’s why we miss the Acura Legend.
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Before Acura became a crossover company that dabbled in cars, it was a car company. And the cars had real names. Cool names. And they fit. They just seemed right. One of the best examples of a car with a name that defined it perfectly is the Acura Legend. We love the Legend for many reasons, but if it had been called by its internal name, the “Acura HX,” would we be writing about it today? Doubtful.

1986 Acura Legend image by Acura

Acura Brand Begins With Legend and Integra
The Acura brand had a simple mission. Its role was to provide loyal, happy Honda customers a way to step-up from the Civics and Accords they had previously owned and loved. Acura's cars were better than the cars Honda offered in pretty much every measurable way and the Legend was the flagship of the company in America.

Related Story: Cars We Miss - Honda Accord V6 Coupe

Tom Elliott, senior vice president of automobile operations, was the person responsible for the Legend. His task was to bring to market a sedan to compete with the heavy-hitters Volvo, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. The Legend would have a 24-valve, overhead cam, fuel-injected V-6 engine that was not just powerful but also sophisticated. Every trim would have independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes and the handling of a European sport sedan. Add to that a more compliant ride to lure in American luxury car buyers and the formula was complete.

Features of the Legend included a premium stereo, air conditioning, anti-lock brakes, and power accessories. Almost shockingly, the Legend would also cost about $20,000. At the time, that price was nearly double the base price of a Honda Accord. $20K in 1986 adjusted for today's dollar value is about $47K.

Acura invited the media to drive the new Legend before its debut in Japan. Motor Trend said of the car, "We think the odds of Acura's success are heavily in Honda's favor, for the Legend is a terrific debut automobile." The media accolades just snowballed from there. The Legend was a Car and Driver ten Best car many times.

The Legend debuted in 1985 as a 1986 model year car. In its first full year of sales, Acura sold over 25,000 units. Sales peaked three years later at over 70,000 units. To put that into some perspective, Acura’s full line of cars in 2019 earned a total sales volume of just 42,490 units. Acura’s Legend also blew the doors off of the sales of its competitors at the time.
1990 Acura Legend image by Acura

The Legend entered its second generation in 1990. Power was up by about 35% from its introduction with 161 hp to 200 hp in the first year of the second generation, and eventually reached 230 hp. Unusual even for the times, the car was offered with a five-speed manual transmission for those that wanted to shift themselves. Sales were robust for a few more years, and in its last full year of production were still above 35,000 units. Acura has no car model that comes anywhere close to that volume today.

Why do we miss the Legend? The name of the brand is a clue. The name Acura was inspired by the root “acu” in Latin which means precise. The Acura brand and the Legend, in particular, were at a level of design and execution the world had not previously seen. Most car enthusiasts remember the NSX as the car that shook up the German brands’ design and engineering departments. And it did. But the Legend shook up the German brands’ sales and accounting departments.

Acura Legend image courtesy of Acura

Available as a coupe and sedan, the Acura Legend earned high-profile sales from celebrities and athletes. It became an aspirational car for many Americans driving Accords. The Acura Legend, like the Genesis G series today, proved that when a company built on affordability matures past the quality stage it can step into a premium market if it so wishes.

If you owned or still own an Acura Legend, tell us about your car in the comments below.

John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008 he retired from that career to chase his dream of being an auto writer. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin.

All images courtesy of Acura media support.


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Comments

The early Acura cars of 90s were some amazing vehicles. But over the past 15 years, Acura has been on steady decline. But I definitely seeing them turn things around with the new RDX and upcoming TLX type s
I was a hot rod guy up until 1999 when I needed a daily driver to drive to my sales appointments. I picked up a 92 sedan and ended up giving it to my nephew for his first car. I turned around and purchased another Legend sedan 1995 the final year they were built from a one owner who bought it brand new in 95. So for the last 21 years I have owned two cars. Prior to that I owned probably 15. I still have the 95 and it has over 333K miles on it. I still drive it daily for the most part and it's modified about as much as one can modify an Acura Legend as the parts aren't readily available anymore or never really were. I've got it lowered full exhaust headers all kind of goodies. I say all that to say and I've driven a lot of cars in my lifetime that nothing nothing has the soul of an Acura Legend. Particularly the second generation G2. I can't imagine the compliments and the amount of folks that would want to buy it if I would have left it stock. But life is way too short for that.haha And I have the base L model G2 and still have the original sticker and it was $39,000 back then. The GS sedans were manual or most of them were and they were well up into the $40,000 range. And then there's the coupe... So many people tell me even to this day they're looking for a 6-speed coupe. Good luck. Thank you torquenews.com for allowing me to share such a well made still relevant to this day in terms of body style for the most part and a lot of the interior and a lot of the engine stuff as well.
I would like to have my 95 Legend coupe restored. Do you have any places in mind?
I own a 1993 Acura legend coupe with the 6 speed manual. Great car to own but it’s difficult at times since many parts are discontinued. Still my favorite car of all time and very fun to drive. Has over 250,000 miles and still rolling.
I’ve had quite a few legends and currently own a 95 LS coupe 6 speed with 45k miles, and a 94 GS 6 speed with 109k. Like you say, they are legendary.
Spot on, the numbers back our sentiments. What really got me is that ive always said the Genesis is the modern 86-95 Legend, i even bought my wife one. I own a 92 six speed swapped sedan and also have a 94 six speed coupe. My sedan is modified to my tastes, the coupe will remain moslty stock. Too bad Americans tastes changed, and Honda was too broke and or afraid of upstaging the NSX to continue development with shawd, vtec or a v8 to stay dominant
I still own a 1995 Acura Legend Sedan. I’ve reupholstered the interior, put in a new engine and upgraded the sounds to include Bluetooth streaming and back up camera. This car still turns heads and everyone offers to buy it, but it’s not for sale.
"Acura’s were better than the cars Honda offered in pretty much every measurable way..." Hello editors, take that apostrophe off. That would be legendary.
Thank you!
My first car was an Acura Legend LS. Since 1994 I have been obsessed with Acura Legends. I own 1 of every color 4 door sedan GS model. I even ha 2 black GS. One with black leather and one with tan leather. My first legend had to have 800,000 miles in its life. Those cars have never left me stranded. I only buy Acura/Honda parts as well. I currently drive a Lexus. I just don’t like any of Acura’s body styles after 2000. I will say the legend is a better car than Lexus was at that time. I still get compliments on my cars. They still look brand new and they all have less than 100,000 miles. I wish cars looked like they did in the 80’s and 90’s. Those were the best cars. Well Japanese ones anyway. Nice looking and well built. Japanese people have mastered the car industry. I love my Legend car collection!
6/15/20 I'm the original owner of a 1990 1st gen Acura Legend L, now with only 235000 miles and still going, still passes smog. It's been very good overall and has just a couple self-inflicted dents. Other issues are one rear window inoperative, intermittent issues with moon roof and windshield wipers. Then, the original leather seat covers are inferior and even with proper care they've failed years ago. Idle control valve could use a cleaning. It used to leak oil from the oil pan and valve covers, but finally remedied with the new gaskets and sealant at the valve cover gasket corners. And, there is one tiny feature that's interesting. As the wipers retract under the hood the blades are lifted a bit off the surface. I may have change blades only 2 or 3 times in it's life. It still can cruise smoothly at 80 with bursts higher to this day. Others back then said I should have bought the LS400 and now I look back and still conclude the Legend was the right car. I think at $24K for the mid level "L" it was cheaper than the LS400 too. It will be tough giving up on it as it still goes. When new I promised 250K miles. Wow, at only 2K/yr it'll be 10 years more!
I have owned my 1995 Acura Legend since I purchased it new from the dealership. 237000 miles and it still runs nice. Front seats need repair but otherwise still one beautiful car.