Heavy cars

Posted on August 22nd, 2012 in Driving Emotion,Honda,Materials by Julian Edgar

My Honda Legend is the heaviest car I have ever owned. As a fan of light cars, the Honda’s mass is not something that fills me with joy – but as described elsewhere, it was my best choice based on a variety of factors.

So does it feel unwieldy – even lumpy? No it doesn’t. Particularly because of the yawing ability of its all-wheel drive system, it turns-in readily and feels poised and amenable to directional change.

Driving the car, especially over bumpy roads, you can feel its favourably high mass / unsprung mass ratio: the body tends to float over the bumps rather than drop into them, and there’s never the feeling of the car being ‘shaken by the wheels’ that occurs in vehicles with a low sprung / unsprung mass relationship.

So is it all sweetness and light – the 1855-odd kg doesn’t matter?


The Legend, despite its big brakes, is a car that requires clear effort to slow. Part of that effort can be seen in how quickly it blackens its front rims – even in gentle driving.

It also cannot get away from the disadvantages of its mass in fuel consumption. Particularly noticeable in open-road undulating terrain, the fuel burn when hauling its lard-arse up hills is high.

However, with lots of kg, a low Cd and relatively small frontal area, the Legend is a car that will roll a long way. Time and time again in the first month of ownership I have found myself committing that cardinal driver sin of going straight from the accelerator to the brake, rather than getting off the power sufficiently early that there can be a roll-down time in between.

I think it’s a good car… but I think it would be a better one at (say) 200kg lighter. That would have required all-alloy construction, something that another Honda I own (a first gen Insight) already has. (The – much smaller – Insight has a mass of just 827kg!) An all-alloy Legend I would guess at around 1600kg – still no light-weight, but more appropriate for its size and equipment level. I wonder why Honda didn’t do this? In the Australian market (at least) the car was underpriced compared to its Euro and Japanese opposition, so you’d have thought they could have worn the extra cost.

But whichever way you analyse it, the disadvantages of high car mass well outweigh(!) the advantages.

6 Responses to 'Heavy cars'

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  1. Jerrycan said,

    on August 28th, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    Korean cars and SUVs have have historically been just as bad, the extra 200kg or so killing performance and economy ( compare Sante Fe Mk1 with Nissan X-trail)
    There is now a distinct trend to lightening things up from manufacturers, and not before time. The Falcon lost 65 kg just with its new Ecoboost engine and the new Commodore will have Aluminium bits but I am not so optimistic of much improvement.
    Looking forward to seeing the new Golf V11 which in its lightest guise is reported at about 1050 kg which is the same as a Mazda 2.
    Wonder if the ride will suffer as a consequence?

  2. DavidZ said,

    on August 29th, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Is this car anu better than a brand new accord?

  3. Julian Edgar said,

    on August 30th, 2012 at 8:43 am

    “Is this car anu better than a brand new accord?”

    For me, yes.

  4. robssbmw said,

    on September 1st, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Couldn’t agree more.
    Ok, a bad car, but years ago I bought the last of the Valiants. Weight showed up more than just petrol. Tires, steering alignment, steering components, and brakes.
    Years later my wife’s Mazda MPV was much the same.
    Give me a light weight car any time, but some performance and quality at a good price is hard to find.
    I won’t be buying a heavy car again.

  5. doctorpat said,

    on September 4th, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    Of all the cars reviewed in Autospeed, the one that seems most similar to the Legend is the Audi S6.
    Is this a valid comparison?

  6. Julian Edgar said,

    on September 4th, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Interesting observation doctorpat – but I don’t think so. I remember the Audi as faster, thirstier and sportier. (And, when new, the Audi was a much more expensive car than the Honda.) The Honda seems to me to be more a cross between a Lexus LS4XX and a Subaru.