Home » The Honda Prelude Is Exactly What The World Needs Right Now

The Honda Prelude Is Exactly What The World Needs Right Now

Honda Prelude Concept Ev
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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.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

[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.

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Photo: Honda

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.

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A Brief History Of The Honda Prelude

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Photo: Honda

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.

1985 Honda Prelude Si Coupe
1985 Honda Prelude Si Coupe.

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.

1988prelude

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.

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96prelude Vtec 1200x783
Photo: Honda

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.

1999 Honda Prelude Sh
1999 Honda Prelude SH.

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

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Photo: Honda

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.

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Photo: Honda

I am legit excited about this, if you can’t tell.

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Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
7 months ago

In my late 90’s high school experience, a brand new VW Jetta was the official vehicle for girls with the means to get a new car from their parents.

High school me really wanted the 5th gen Prelude. Or the 4th gen. I got neither.

Glad to see this might be a hybrid. Give it classic Prelude handling, decent power, 40+ mpg and I might be in the market. Although I don’t love the front. Kind of looks like a Toyota Prius, but the Prius manages to execute it better.

Scott Finkeldei
Scott Finkeldei
7 months ago

Loved my 3rd gen 91 Prelude. Still call it the best car I ever owned. That new design looks pretty solid IMO.

Last edited 7 months ago by Scott Finkeldei
KC Murphy
KC Murphy
7 months ago

Felt the same way about my ’87 Si 2.0. Always did love that car and will probably be my all time favorite. It was light blue with the “weave” wheels.

Some of the things that I still remember:

Defroster vents for the side windows going all the way across the sill.The equalizer with the sound meters which looked a little like the Knight Rider dash.The electric sunroof button was mounted on the left side of the steering wheel console (so that I didn’t look like I was giving the finger to a car behind me when using a center-mounted button)Now that I think about it – ALL the switches were contained on the steering wheel pod, which was a pleasant change from my previous car, an early 80’s GM product.Always wanting (but not having the ability back then) to run some more bulbs so the center “PRELUDE” panel in the rear would light up. There were holes, but no sockets/wires.The clamshell hood. Very cool, but made it a nightmare to work on.The HVAC fan had a full-range rheostat switch instead of the usual “Hi/Med/Low/Off”Pop-up headlights (which were way cool until you had to replace a bulb. Learned years later with my Miata that I should have gotten a long magnetic screwdriver.)The trademark Honda “Yellow Dash Gauges” from that era which would look very dated now.

Last edited 7 months ago by KC Murphy
Scott Finkeldei
Scott Finkeldei
7 months ago
Reply to  KC Murphy

Yes, That 87 Si 2.0 is a great car. The equalizer was awesome and the color of the stereo lights and the Yellow Dash gauges! The seats were great and I did love the popup lights until I had to replace one.

I like the rear end of the 88-89 best of all the Preludes, just to put that out there.

KC Murphy
KC Murphy
7 months ago

I do agree that the 88-89 was a little more refined.

Wonder what happened to my post — I had all those things bulletpointed.

Goblin
Goblin
7 months ago

It so, so saddens me that Honda feels an incessant need to prove and re-prove over and over that they haven’t been able to design a good-looking car for decades.

The 1st gen Prelude looked good, the 2nd gen looked nice, the 3rd gen looked classy, the 4th gen (mine) looked amazing. The 5th gen took a very long time to grow up on me (I hated it in the beginning), but I did realize within a few years that it looked amazing

This thing would be ugly as sin if it wasn’t so bland. It has nothing going for it design wise – it looks like the offspring of a drunk Tesla 3 who mated with a 7th gen Civic sedan because for once it felt like the good-looking one in the couple, then ran away crying in shame while the Civic was chasing it on its unkillable hairy legs asking what’s wrong.

Honda should man up, un-mothball whoever designed the 4th gen Civic (apparently – Humirou Yoshikawa, Tsuyoshi Nishimura and Syuhei Ueda) and mandate to every hipster in their California “design” studio (were they the ones who coughed the 2nd gen NSX ?) to kneel and beg for forgiveness.

Not because they designed this crap (could be the Japanese did), but because they poisoned the whole pipeline and made people think such designs are ok.

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
7 months ago

I don’t like that front end. It looks way too vertical, the older gens had an athletic air to them, this one looks kinda bulky.

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
7 months ago

Agreed, but pedestrian crash standards require a taller front end now.

Goblin
Goblin
7 months ago
Reply to  Brandon Forbes

Honda and Nissan were between the firsts to work on hoods that get up by a few inches in a pedestrian impact event, so it’s unlikely this specifically was the reason.

It’s simply that Honda got accustomed and comfortable into making ugly bland cars (not counting Acura here, where there is some light at the end of the tunnel, except for the NSX 2nd gen where said light turned out to be an oncoming train).

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
7 months ago
Reply to  Goblin

I think the giant 19th century stagecoach wheels and rubber band tires all cars seem now to need for some reason plays a role, the body has to be taller and bulkier to stay in proportion

Goblin
Goblin
7 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Giant 19th stagecoach wheel can make an ugly car uglier, but wont make a beautiful car ugly (although I otherwise agree, I don’t like them).
Honda’s design is lost way beyond the wheels issue.

They have come a long way from the 7th gen US spec Civic sedan, it is true, and the very latest Civic has sortakinda managed to patch the bloody leaky eysores of the previous version to just mere burst pimples, but they still have work to do. When you have designed something as pure as the 2nd gen CRX (stock, not tuned with big wheels and whatnot) and the 92-96 Prelude (I’ll give them the first gen NSX as it was a Japanese designer working at Pininfarina though), you can’t let yourself go like they did.

I criticize them because I love them.

FndrStrat06
FndrStrat06
7 months ago

Honda saw the latest Prius and said, yeah let’s make that.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
7 months ago

YASSSSSS

The best Honda.

Hopefully it will be priced like the old one and not stratospherically like Acura did with the new NSX vs the original.

Jon Bandai
Jon Bandai
7 months ago

As someone who’s owned multiple 5th Gens, I hate it.

Guido Sarducci
Guido Sarducci
7 months ago

Yes please, I’ll take one!

WOV
WOV
7 months ago

Yeah all right. The Ev9 can take the kids and you can replace the Leaf and be actually fun. In.

ScottyB
ScottyB
7 months ago

Aside from the hockey sticks over the headlights, this is an amazing clean design for Honda.

I’m not getting too excited though. I have a feeling were this to actually happen, dealers would price-gouge it completely out of reach.

Alex Choi
Alex Choi
7 months ago

An update: Honda have confirmed this will be a hybrid, not a full BEV.

https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a45633444/honda-prelude-concept-revealed/

Bite Me
Bite Me
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Choi

Shit as someone who’s currently driving a Honda Accord coupe and is in the market for a hybrid for the next car, it seems like this thing was made for me

J Hyman
J Hyman
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Choi

As long as they don’t go the CR-Z route (performance of a gen 1 hybrid, economy of a sports car), count me in. Perfect primary car. PHEV please…

Tomato
Tomato
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Choi

Holy shit. That’s huge. Maybe I won’t have to drive my old 6-6 Accord into the dirt. Maybe.

Beached Wail
Beached Wail
7 months ago

I had a 1984 (2nd gen) Prelude for 10 years and 140K+ miles. It was never a fast car, but it had excellent balance and cornering ability and was a great car for road trips.

The second week I owned it, my girlfriend (now wife) and I took it for a 1500 mile vacation and it was a fantastic car to travel in: comfy Recaro-like seats, superb visibility, power moonroof (the Prelude trademark feature), double-wishbone front suspension that created the low hoodline, speed-sensitive power steering, fresh air vents in the doors, roomy trunk.

After 10 years, I still walked away from it backwards as it was such a clean design compared to so many ’80s cars. If it weren’t for the inability to get a child seat into the back, we might still own it.

2nd gen Prelude trivia: 1983 was the introductory year. In 1984, Honda added rear disk brakes, speed-sensitive power steering, and full wheel covers as standard equipment. I don’t think you ever see a 2nd-year car get such substantial updates nowadays. Also, the ’83 and ’84 came in any color you wanted, as long as you wanted red, blue, or silver. That’s it – 3 colors.

Masa
Masa
7 months ago

The car with the perv lever 🙂

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