The cars we loved.
The Prelude was Honda’s sport-luxury grand touring car. Gradually growing in size, power and refinement over the years, by its fifth generation, it was considered to be one of the best performing front wheel drives coupes on the market. By the time the 97 models were introduced, Prelude sales had started a gradual nose dive. To remedy the problem the fifth generation car resolved a few small criticisms of the previous car like the odd dash design and an attempt was made to make the Prelude less cramped inside.
In a styling move that mirrored the popular boxy shape of the third generation car (88-91), the new Prelude featured a more angular look with big exposed headlights. Two models were offered: base and
VTEC. The base came standard with a 2.2-liter DOHC 4-cylinder good for 145 hp. The top model VTEC featured the same 2.2 litre engine with variable valve timing (later to become the Type SH). In base form the Prelude was a fun and economical car to drive. With the 200 hp VTEC, the Preludes performance easily stood out amongst its competition. Eventually
all Preludes got the VTEC engine and the base became known simply as VTEC while the new range topping car was known as the Type SH. Through the course of the fifth generation cars lifespan, various
special edition packages were offered. The most interesting being the Motegi edition. Named after a new
Indy racing track built by Honda the Motegi edition package was offered in 1998. It featured a ground effects package that would be an option on other Preludes.SH, meaning “Super Handling” contained suspension bits like a sophisticated limited-slip differential from the JDM S and SiR high performance models. The Preludes advanced 4-wheel double wishbone suspension was further enhanced in the Type SH with the addition of progressive valve shock absorbers and Honda’s Active Torque Transfer System. Brakes and wheels were enlarged also to 16″. Some
advanced features that would later show up in other cars years later were first seen in the SH model. The most notable of these was the SportShift automatic transmission.SportShiftt allowed manual control driver shifting via a horizontal lever. The only other mass production car company at the time offering such a system was Porsche. Although, fast with a 0-6 time of 7.5 seconds and a top speed of 135 mph, straight line performance was not the Prelude’s main claim to fame. Often the SH ended up on top in comparison tests featuring Celicas, Eclipses and Impresas. Even rear wheel drive competitors like the Mustang and Camaro were shamed when it came to road hugging capabilities. Car and Driver declared in 1997 that “the Type SH Prelude was the best handling car you could buy under $30,000”. Others in the media agreed that the Prelude Type SH was a performance bargin, even if car buyers ignored it. unfortunately for the Prelude, it was more or less loss in the shuffle of Honda excellence. Below the Prelude were two excellent cars that offered similar performance and the same level of refinement. The Civic was making a name for itself with the high performance Si model while the larger Accord Coupe was creating a sporty identity separate from the sedan. These factors combined to further cannibalize sales of the Prelude. It did not help that the Prelude was rather expensive. When the decision was made to cancel it in 2001, the next generation Accord Coupe and Acura Integra called the RSX filled the gap rather nicely.Now more than 10 years after the last new Prelude rolled off the assembly line, they continue to be popular in America and Europe with customizers. A 10-year-old Prelude in good stock condition with low miles can still fetch almost $8,000. The current Accord Coupe comes very close to the Prelude in overall performance while in some cases surpassing it. It’s likely that the advance engineering that went into the
Prelude helped Honda developed the ultra refined Accord Coupe of today.