Clarkson makes significant sums of cash out of being very opinionated - and good luck to him - but neither the Lexus, the car he was pointing the finger at, or the Legend are 'crap' - they are both fine pieces of automotive engineering. As for 'soulless', substitute 'imageless' and I might have agreed with him.
Until Clarkson's outburst I thought I would focus this long term test report on perhaps 'a world exclusive'. Following my former colleague Mark Catterall's long term road test report on the that nothing went wrong with a Legend - it did - so I believed. I had thought that Legends were invincible but I had discovered a problem with our test car. But, just to put the minds' of all at Honda at ease it was only that the interior boot release was not working and a quick visit to our local dealer did the necessary trick. A mechanic discovered that the isolator switch in the glove compartment of the car had been switched on, meaning the boot could not be opened from the inside. Apparently, it is claimed, some people don't like an interior boot release for security reasons, presumably preferring to get out of a warm car in the cold of winter to open the boot by hand - strange creatures, people.
So while I was fooled by the Legend but you don't need to be. If your style is all about brashness and image then it won't matter to you because the Legend, like the Lexus, is not your bag. But, I suspect for many executives those days are numbered and the more understated a car is the more appealing it becomes. And so the Legend , where sales are on the rise, is just your type of car - an armchair on wheels.
The latest Legend - it is due to undergo a major facelift for the 1999 model year following an unveiling at last month's Paris Motor Show - was launched two years ago and in the first 10 months of this year 340 models have been sold. In the first six months of this year 238 units were sold, against 166 for the same period last year. A company spokesman said: 'Like the previous Legend, the new one seems to be a bit of a 'slow burner' with the numbers slowly creeping up after a slow start.'
The Legend is gimmickless - but every feature the busy executive could possibly want is standard - it is certainly not a fashion statement but it is - to use the Japanese phrase Soukai - pleasant, light and relaxing to drive. Noise is superbly damped, ergonomically the controls are easily accessible on the cockpit-style dashboard and centre console, the boot is cavernous as is interior space and the 3.5-litre V6 205 PS engine is a positive delight particularly as the power surges through the rev band.
Leather upholstery, CD autochanger, air conditioning and cruise control all help to make driving the Legend a pleasurable experience. It is only a pity that the yuppieness of the 80s has still to finally give way to a period of understated class which would bring the likes of the Legend into their own. While the size of the Honda is one of its many virtues and it is larger in all dimensions than the BMW 5-series, Mercedes-Benz E-class and Lexus GS300 - it is also one of its downsides as at almost five metres in length it presents parking problems particularly in multi-storey car parks where its sheer bulk means it protrudes out of the parking space some distance. But what male executive ever complained about size!
The Legend is not a ball of fire to drive in true Clarkson style but, there again, company executives are unlikely to test their company car for understeer, oversteer or any other type of steer - unlike the man himself. What they do want is a quality, cost-effective package which the Legend undoubtedly is.