They did it. Just when I wasn’t sure they could come back they came back. Honda is the Arizona Diamondbacks of automakers. The Prelude is low-key one of the best Japanese cars sold in America over the last half-century, but changing tastes doomed it either to be a historical footnote or, worse, reborn as a crossover. Honda surprised everyone with a fairly production-looking Prelude that wasn’t an SUV, swoopy sedan, or weird hydrogen race car. It’s a coupe! In this economy!?! Incredible.
Electric cars have to be rational. They, ideally, should be profitable. This means that almost every electric car is either an aerodynamic fastback sedan/hatch or a crossover/SUV. There is a dearth of electric two-doors. In fact, there isn’t a single two-door (or three-door for that matter) mainstream electric car sold in the United States. Really, only China, with its Wulings, has mass-market electric two-doors, and those are primarily tiny hatchbacks.
[Update: Apparently this thing is actually a hybrid!]
This is none of those things. This is an honest-to-goodness coupe in the mold of every previous generation Honda Prelude. Remarkable. Just remarkable.
I’m realizing now that the Honda Prelude disappeared from the United States in 2001 so anyone under, say, 26, has no real idea what this is if they haven’t seen one before or why it’s important.
A Brief History Of The Honda Prelude
The original Honda Prelude has a certain cuteness to it, but other than establishing the name it isn’t a specifically memorable car and doesn’t explain the eventual greatness of the car. This was a response to Toyota’s RWD Celica without any of the actual performance of a Celica. The first generation Prelude is basically a shorter Honda Accord.
It was the second generation that established the mold: crisp, subtly athletic styling mixed with a little more edge than a Honda Accord coupe and a little more luxury than a two-door Civic. This is also where we get the introduction of the Si, with a hot rod (for the time) 2.0-liter inline fourbanger putting out a whopping 110 hp.
MotorTrend has a great little history of the car for further reading, and I think this section is particularly important:
The third-generation Prelude is where things really pick up technologically. It debuted for the 1988 model year with then-revolutionary four-wheel-steering, beating other Japanese manufacturers’ nascent 4WS systems to the punch. Whereas the forthcoming 4WS systems from Mitsubishi and Mazda functioned with solenoids and programming to change the angle of the rear wheels, the Prelude’s rear-steer was purely mechanical, lending a bit more reliability to the complex system and bringing cost down.
These are great little cars and I often see one in slightly rusty condition when I go jogging through my neighborhood. Do I hope it’ll have a FOR SALE sign on it one day? A little, yeah.
The fourth-generation Preludes are my absolute favorites, offering both a VTEC H221 2.2-liter four-cylinder with 187 horsepower and optional rear-wheel steer. It also looks the business, with its scowling headlights offset by small vents. It also has one of the best C-pillars of the era.
If you were a rich teen girl in the 1990s who was a little bit of an asshole two things were true: 1. I was probably attracted to you and I wouldn’t admit it. 2. You probably drove this car.
There are people who love the final (for the moment) generation Prelude. It looks great, undoubtedly, though I’ve always been disappointed that the rear-wheel steering was replaced with a sort of early torque-vectoring system called ATTS on the SH models. You could still get a manual transmission and the H22A’s power was kicked up to 195 horses.
The Sixth Generation (Hopefully) Prelude
So what’s this thing? It looks the part, with its mostly grille-less nose, blacked-out b-pillar, and lack of too-tough cladding or anything stupid like that. Is this thing for real? Let’s have Honda’s CEO Toshihiro Mibe explain it:
Honda has always been committed to creating sporty vehicles. And the word “prelude” means an “introductory or preceding performance.” This model will become the prelude for our future models which will inherit the “joy of driving” into the full-fledged electrified future and embody Honda’s unalterable sports mindset. The Prelude Concept is a specialty sports model that will offer exhilarating experience that makes you want to keep going forever and extraordinary excitement you never felt before.
In order to offer the “joy of driving” only Honda can realize, we are diligently progressing with development, so please keep your expectations high for this model.
Yeah, that means they’re either building it or they hate us. I don’t believe they hate us.
I am legit excited about this, if you can’t tell.