Honda Legend

Michael Booth faces the autumn of life with a suitable car and wardrobe

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Would suit A modern Mr Mainwaring, and pipe-smokers seeking dignity and discretion
Price £36,250
Performance 155mph, 0-60 in 7.3 seconds
Combined fuel economy 21.7mpg
Further information 0845 200 8000

As the relentless homogenisation of our high streets continues, one retail sector stands in proud defiance of the chain store: independent men's clothing shops. Oblivious to the dandified dictates of GQ magazine, their window displays have featured Pringle jumpers, olive corduroys and tweed hats since Terry-Thomas was a fashion icon (note to Chris Eubank: this was about 50 years ago). Inside are bewitching drawers full of cuff links, polyester school ties and a bewildering array of elasticated garters, all catering to the more mature male. The owner is invariably a Grecian 2000-ed Captain Peacock with half-moon glasses, a black three-piece suit and, quite probably, cavalry twill underpants.

I used to view such emporia with a detached curiosity. I was way too young to be tempted by salmon Farrahs and dress shirts. But last month I had a bit of a crisis. I was buying a pair of trousers at Gap and discovered my waist had expanded to a size too shameful to admit in print. Stretch waists took on a whole new appeal. Soon after, a friend of mine, pushing 40, turned up at my house with a new haircut best described as a "nouveau mullet" , wearing distressed combat trousers with the waist hung around his knees and an Evel Knievel-style white and blue leather jacket. I insisted he leave immediately and not return until he had learnt how to dress his age. I then rushed upstairs and threw out every item of clothing I possessed that might conceivably be found in the wardrobe of a 14-year-old boy, rang Austin Reed and ordered a catalogue.

Afterwards, I began to notice that, as well as dressing like members of a slightly disturbing boy band, many older men also drive cars that are far too young for them. In my view, no one over 55 should ever be caught behind the wheel of a BMW Z4, a Mitsubishi Evo or a Daihatsu Terios; and few over 35s can carry off a Nissan 350Z unless they share Michael Douglas's plastic surgeon. Just as there ought to be a law against Woody Allen kissing young starlets, so ought men of the Andrew Neil generation be forbidden from driving cars such as the VW Eos.

In their defence, until recently there simply were no decent cars for the mature motorist. Bentleys were too costly, Rover 75s too risky and Morgans were just silly. But the new 3.5-litre Honda Legend I have been driving this week is merely the latest - and most technically dazzling - of a recent glut of really quite good older men's cars (OMCs) to have been launched in the past year - including the Lexus GS300, the BMW 6 Series and, my favourite, the Citroën C6.

The Legend remains the archetypal OMC. It is as discreet as a beige Harrington jacket, sophisticated as a white-silk tasselled scarf and as thoroughly engineered as a pair of Lobb brogues. Naturally, it's an automatic, leaving hands free for the lighting of pipes and adjusting of cravats. Its Super Handling All Wheel Drive system allows corners to be taken with absolute surety and balance, although, wisely, Honda has eradicated any hint of sportiness in the way the Legend steers, brakes or rides. You get little sense of the road or the car's interaction with it, and nor should you at your age.

If pleasures such as this await me in the third age, then I for one shall embrace the dying of the light... and wear a cummerbund if required.

What might the Honda Legend driver of the past have chosen as his top-notch executive wheels? Well, if we venture back to a time when Germany was busy making bubble cars and Japanese cars were still a joke, Britain's mock Tudor suburban driveways were full of cars such as the Humber Super Snipe.

Back in the late 1950s when it was launched, the Super Snipe was the sensible choice for bank managers (Jaguars were too spivvy, Ford had yet to build a car in this class and an Alvis was too expensive).

But the solid, sombre Snipe was the stuff of Mr Mainwaring's dreams - big, decently powered and with faintly transatlantic styling. Humber was part of the Rootes Group that, sadly, went the way of many of Britain's more characterful marques in the early 1970s. I'd love to see the name revived, filling the void left by the Rover 75 perhaps, and offering the Honda Legend some competition.

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