1989 Acura Legend

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$435–$1,847

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chicagotribune.com
The Acura Legend LS sedan is a fine $22,000 sedan.

Too bad the base price starts a few dollars shy of $30,000.

Having just test-driven the Mazda 929 sedan (Autos, Monday, March 20), which started around $22,000, we expected a lot more out of the Acura Legend LS, with its $29,960 base price.

Either the 929 is underpriced or the Legend is overpriced: The 929 is not underpriced.

In fairness to the Legend, antilock brakes are standard, and they are a $1,000 option in the 929. Also, a driver`s side air bag is standard in the Legend, though it`s not available in the 929.

The price gap is narrowed, but not eliminated.

In fairness to both, Mazda and Honda have been unable to keep a tight rein on sticker prices because of the rising value of the yen against the dollar.

The beauty of the Acura Legend is it showed that Honda could make large luxury cars, not just compact and subcompact high-mileage and high-performance cars. Legend is a top-notch, top-of-the-line car.

When the Honda Accord came out in the mid-70s, it set the standard for compact cars. Ride, handling, room, comfort and an array of standard equipment made Accord the envy of the industry-until others caught up.

Honda rested on its laurels a bit too long with the Accord, until it brought out the LXi version.

Legend is a similar case. Ride, handling, room, comfort and a long list of standard equipment. But others have caught up. The 929 is a worthy rival. So is the Continental from Lincoln-Mercury. Toyota Cressida is no slouch and costs several thousand less. And consider the restyled and longer Cadillac Fleetwood, which starts for only $340 more than Legend.

This fall, Toyota`s Lexus and Nissan`s Infiniti debut, raising the standard of luxury-and the price to the $35,000-$40,000 range-among Japanese cars.

Acura brings out a new Integra coupe in May, but the Legend sedan won`t be redone for a while, perhaps not until 1991.

The Legend is built on a 108.7-inch wheelbase and is 190.6 inches long, which compares with a 108-inch wheelbase and a 187.5 inch length on an Oldsmobile Toronado. One other dimension worth noting is width. The Legend offers 68.9 inches; the Toronado, 70.8 inches. You feel that almost 2-inch difference with the Legend.

We test drove the LS four-door sedan. The exterior has been refined for 1989. Headlights, grille work, color-keyed bumpers, hidden windshield washer nozzles, bodyside moldings and taillights have undergone minor revision.

Power is supplied by a 2.7-liter, 24-valve, fuel-injected, 160-horsepower V-6, teamed with a 5-speed manual transmission or 4-speed automatic. Our car had a dual-mode automatic, which means you can push a button to switch into a sport mode for higher shift points and quicker off-the-line, passing or merging capability.

The 2.7 provides adequate power, but with most Japanese carmakers prep aring to bring out V-8 engines, it would come as no surprise if Legend eventually has one.

New for `89 is a double-wishbone rear suspension, giving the sedan the same four-wheel double-wishbone suspension as the Legend coupe. The suspension system includes coil springs, fade-resistant gas-pressurized shocks and front and rear stabilizer bars. Ride and handling are very much above average.

The standard equipment is impressive and includes speed-sensitive power rack and pinion steering, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, performance-rated Michelin 15-inch steel-belted radial tires, brushed aluminum alloy wheels, 10- way power driver`s seat with memory, four-way adjustable passenger seat, rear-seat lap and shoulder belts, childproof door locks, leather-trimmed upholstery, power windows and door locks, air conditioning, cruise control, power sunroof, digital quartz clock, dual illuminated vanity mirrors, tinted glass, rear-window defroster, AM/FM Bose stereo withc ssette and a driver`s information center, for readings on such things as miles to empty, fuel consumed, oil/coolant/washer fluid levels and a reminder when the next oil change is due.

Other noteworthy Legend sedan features include a spacious trunk; automatic shift lock, which prevents you from moving the lever from park without depressing the brake pedal; and ceiling-mounted reading lights for rear-seat passengers.

If changes were to be made, we`d like to see Honda widen the body a few inches to improve arm and hip room; relocate the power mirror buttons from behind the steering wheel, where they are hard to see and almost impossible to use; and, of course, lower the price.



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