THE 1987 ACURA LEGEND Coupe is a work of passionless excellence. Its tight grip on technical perfection strangles joy and sensuality. Its fixation on predictable performance evokes thoughts of Holiday Inn: no surprises, absolutely none.
The Legend Coupe is so self-consciously right, you feel like genuflecting before starting its engine. Had this car been around when Jim and Tammy Bakker ran PTL, they might've chosen it over the Mercedes-Benz.
Who knows? Things might've turned out differently.
The Legend Coupe rivals German luxury models in overall quality. But it runs low on feeling. There's little here to ignite the libido, to lead good folk astray.
Automobiles in this class should be seductive, vain and power-hungry. They should inspire envy, spawn emulators and be seen on TV programs like "Dallas," "Dynasty" and "Falcon Crest."
The Legend Coupe, by comparison, is a candidate for "Wheel of Fortune" -- a good car waiting for Honda to fill in the blanks. Let's give 'em a hint: The seven-letter word starts with a "P." It has a double "S," and it ends with an "N."
Complaint: The test car's analog fuel gauge quit working at the three-fourths-empty mark -- a one-of-a-kind problem cited by Honda officials before the car was delivered.
The fault wasn't critical, because the car is equipped with a computerized function that displays the number of miles that can be traveled on what's left in the tank. That system worked fine.
Praise: That the only real problem with this car is its lack of personality. That's a subjective thing. It could produce boredom down the road. It's not likely to produce anger.
Things that cause anger are hard to find in the Legend Coupe. The car is crafted well, in typical Honda fashion. The five-seat interior is comfortable and well-ordered. The analog instruments, the complementary digital display screen, and the manual controls that can be used to override the car's automatic climate control system are easy to see, reach and use.
Also, the Legend Coupe's standard five-speed manual transmission is a breeze.
Head-turning quotient: Attractive in a Honda sort of way, which is part of this car's personality problem. I just don't think "Acura Division" when I see the Legend models. I don't think "Mercedes" or "BMW," either. I think: "What's a nice Honda like that doing in a price range like this?"
Ride, acceleration and handling: All excellent. The Legend Coupe comes with a 2.7-liter, 24-valve, computer-controlled, fuel- injected V-6, which is a bit more powerful than the 2.5-liter rendition of the same engine in the Legend sedan. The coupe kicks out 161 horsepower at 5,900 rpm. It can move.
Sound system: AM/FM stereo radio and cassette with seven-band graphic equalizer, by Alpine. A little bit of soul, at last!
Mileage: About 21 to the gallon (18-gallon tank, 375-mile range), combined city-highway, running with one to five occupants and with air conditioner on most of the time.
Price: Wham! Approximately $26,000, including $255 in transportation charges. Add about $720 for optional four-speed automatic transmission. Estimated dealer's invoice price on tested model is $21,091, according to Automobile Invoice Service in San Jose. All of the above prices may be affected by fluctuating yen-dollar exchange rates.
Warren Brown covers the auto industry for The Washington Post.