Honda introduced the model in 1985 in Japan to be their premier luxury model and in 1986 North America as the range-topping model in its then-new Acura lineup. Sedan models came to market first, powered by a 151hp (113kW) 2.5L C25A V6 with coupes appearing for 1987 powered by a new 161hp (120kW) 2.7L C27A engine. Sedans received the new engine for 1988. Production of the first generation models ended in 1990 as a second generation version became available.
The Legend won Car and Driver's Ten Best three years in a row and Motor Trend's "Import Car of the Year" for 1987. Manual-equipped models could sprint to 60mph (97km/h) in under 8 seconds and reach a top speed of 135mph (217km/h). Sedan models had a coefficient of drag of .32, while coupes were only .30.
Technical highlights included a 24-valve V6 engine, variable length intake manifold, double-wishbone suspension, 4-wheel disc brakes, air bag and an information system that could monitor maintenance intervals, fluid levels, and fuel economy.