13 April 2004

A flagship Honda Legend saloon – based on this new high-tech Acura RL shown at the New York show – will return to the UK line-up next autumn.

The BMW 5-series-sized saloon packs a 300bhp punch from a new 3.5-litre V6 and drives all four wheels with a high-tech transmission dubbed SH-AWD (Super Handling-All-Wheel Drive).

In its styling it is one of the first cars to draw influence – perhaps bravely – from the controversial BMW 7-series, with a toned-down version of the German car’s boot treatment.

With compact front and rear overhangs and a wide stance, the new Legend will be the sportiest and most attractive flagship that Honda has imported to the UK.

The new V6 has a 60-degree vee and is mounted transversely. The current Legend (RL in the US market) has a longitudinal 3.5-litre V6 with a wider, 90-degree vee. Thanks to the better package of the transverse V6, the Legend squeezes in more cabin space, despite a shorter overall length.

But the clever stuff in the flagship Honda is the four-wheel-drive system. It employs a planetary gearbox ahead of the rear differential to divert extra torque to the outer wheels, which Honda claims as a world first.

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Sensing inputs of steering angle and lateral g-force, it can ‘overspeed’ the rear outer wheel to take advantage of the weight transfer to that wheel during cornering. The flow of torque is controlled by two electro-mechanical clutches on either side of the rear differential.

Although Mitsubishi’s AYC system uses a similar gearbox, Honda claims SH-AWD is a better set-up, because it can vary the torque across the rear axle from 0 to 100 per cent. The Mitsubishi system has a more limited transfer of torque.

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