Acura Legend: The Metamucil Of Long-Term Quality
What happens when a car is old enough to buy itself a drink at the local watering hole? It needs to get the right fluids in it… stat!
There are times when the poor quality of any vehicle can be blamed on the manufacturer.
Pennies are pinched. New transmission designs come out half-baked (here, here and here), and old technology is short circuited by foolish automotive souls who tell their customers that the old transmission fluid that used to requiring changing, is now a 'lifetime fluid' that will indeed last the lifetime - of that manufacturers warranty.
All this 'lifetime fluid' BS wasn't around when it came to those marvelous full-sized luxury cars that were sold during the Clinton Era. Owners back then understood that even the best new cars were going to need some type of basic maintenance that went beyond oil changes. After 20 years and too many owners, the transmissions in the 135 Acura Legends in our study are more times than not kaput when they're traded in. For that, you can't blame the engineers at Acura. Blame the most recent owners, who usually never took even a cursory glance at the owner's manual which clearly dictates transmission fluid changes every 30,000 miles.
Most owners of these older Acuras don't do anything other than oil changes, if that. But before you cross off this full-sized, front-wheel-drive, 22 year old vehicle off your used car shopping list forever, let me offer one saving grace for the very last of the Legends.
These cars are absolutely brilliant if they are maintained the right way. Fast, luxurious, comfortable. I have owned a grand total of four. One of which was a 1987 Acura Legend 1st gen model which I bought from a Carmax auction way back in 2010 for all of $375.
That one I successfully financed to a severely credit challenged lady with a new job and a $200 down payment. She needed a car that simply worked at $40 a week.
The ten month arrangement took two years to pay off. But thanks to the superb maintenance of that Legend and my customer's willingness to communicate to me when she got laid off (which happened to folks an awful lot back then), the Legend made the note and that car became her daily driver right up until the summer of 2015 when her credit became strong enough for a brand new 2015 Honda CR-V.
That Legend made the note. Why? The level of engineering was second to none and the prior owner read the owners manual and obeyed it like a biblical stone tablet. That Legend's last customer became a long-term owner instead of a debtor thanks to the right ingredients in the used car recipe.
Unfortunately for all of us, discovering a 20+ year old Acura Legend worth keeping is like finding out that your old pants from high school still fit. But if your pants happen to be sweatpants, and the Acura Legend in question was already owned by this guy, then you have one hell of a good shot.
So you want an old keeper? Just find a good owner... and compare those maintenance records to the recommended maintenance schedule. Upkeep makes the difference.
Author' Note: The majority of the pictures are courtesy of Tyson Hugie. A guy who preserves and enjoys classic Acuras better than anyone I have never met. Check out his blog here or better yet, Youtube him.
The Long-Term Quality Index is a collaborative project between Steve Lang and Nick Lariviere, designed to give the average car buyer a picture of what the long-term reliability of different makes and models are based on real-world used vehicle data. Our goal is to provide used car buyers accurate reliability information that will be available for free, forever. For right now, here's a compilation of how each Acura model has performed. Want to look at other brands and market segments? Feel free to click away. By the end of 2017, we will have nearly two million data samples to help consumers find those used cars that are worth keeping.