Any car can strike a meaningful chord with the right person, whether it’s an exotic supercar or a basic commuter. After driving my dad’s old ’90s Acura through high school, for example, I will always have a place in my heart for Honda’s luxury brand from that era. Every little element, from the leather on the steering wheel to the finish on the wood trim takes me back those early days of learning how to drive. Feeling the freedom and absolute sense of independence of driving myself to school or to a cheesesteak joint with some friends.
My dad still has the old Acura, a 1998 3.2TL with a four-speed automatic transmission. Sometimes when I go home to visit I’ll put some miles on the car for old times’ sake, if only to transport myself back to being 16 again for an afternoon. But with almost 150,000 miles and 20 years under its belt, the old TL has seen better days. It’s been regularly serviced, but the condition of the car is far from its prime. The memories that surface when I drive it are faded with the black-and-white, old-movie hue of time and wear.
But as I row through the gears on Clarion’s pristine six-speed 1994 Acura Legend Coupe LS, the wave of nostalgia that hits me is in rich Technicolor. This isn’t the ’98 TL I remember, either—it’s much, much better. Lovingly restored as part of the Clarion Builds program, in which the audio company overhauls cars for marketing and infotainment integration, the Legend I’m driving in sunny California is an absolute time capsule.
Showing just 56,000 miles, Clarion’s Legend Coupe is beautifully sensitive to all of the little details that give a ’90s Acura fan chills. Behind the wheel you’re greeted by those oh-so-Honda NS gauges, perfectly legible and seared forever into my mind’s eye. The surprisingly luxurious amenities—automatic climate control, heated seats with memory function, soft-close doors—are only equaled by the impeccable material quality of the buttons and flawless assembly. Integrated into the center stack is Clarion’s NX807 seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, a system that looks perhaps a little out of place in the otherwise analog interior, but is nevertheless convenient to have.
This Legend’s 230-hp SOHC Type II V-6 engine is longitudinally mounted, just as in my TL where the standard version of the engine makes 200 hp, but the six-speed manual transmission and custom exhaust make the car really feel alive. The Coupe was designed to be the sporty alternative to the standard Legend luxury sedan, boasting bigger brakes, unique suspension tuning, and aluminum 16-inch, five-spoke wheels.
It’s not an especially invigorating car, but the Legend Coupe is just so satisfying to drive around town. Plenty of glass and a pleasantly low cowl yield a wide open view from the driver’s seat, and the car is just quick enough to be entertaining, yet civilized enough that you never attract too much attention.
Most modern cars don’t reward the driver with such lovely treatment. And when you have a history with a car or with a brand that takes you back, those details really matter. I surely can’t think of any other car that gives me butterflies when I see a perfectly-clean branded valve stem cap. I’m just glad somebody appreciated this car enough to invest in making it perfect, because you’d have to love these cars quite a lot to go through the effort.