Honda Prelude
Overview The Engine The Chassis The Drive My Prelude Email

Driving - Dynamics & Handling - Ride & Comfort - Drivetrain & Performance

As the saying goes, "the proof of the pudding is in the eating". The Prelude drives as well as it looks. Often criticized by the those not yet fortunate enough to drive one as a 'poser' or 'hair dresser's' car. These descenters are often made to eat their words as they are shown the only side of the Prelude they'll ever see while racing it, the rear.

Dynamics and Handling
The extremely low centre of gravity is often evident when the Prelude is parked next to another car. The height of the bonnet and roof is markedly lower than most high-performance cars. The result is a car that is almost telepathic in the way it communicates with the driver. The steering is so direct and the feedback so wonderfully tactile, it's a wonder that every bump doesn't wrench the wheel from your hands. There is almost zero bump steer and understeer is only induced at near lunatic speeds. Initial turn in is almost kart-like in its responsiveness. With just 2.4 turns lock to lock the Prelude may take some getting used to at first as the car wants to dart off at the slightest steering input.

In high-speed corners, and driven to 8/10s (80%), the Prelude feels like a rear wheel drive thoroughbred sports car. Push it to 10/10s (100%) and some of its front drive characteristics come into play (ie understeer). Closser to the limit however, the front will begin to push towards understeer (as will all front drive cars). Most modern rear wheel drive cars are no better in this regard as most of them are engineered to produce 'safe and predictable' understeer at the limit, even the awesome Porsche 911 Turbo will invariably understeer at the limit unless the driver is absolutely brutal with the right foot. Ease off the Prelude's throttle and the front simply tucks back in. While all this is happening, the 4WS system is working invisibly, eliminating roll-oversteer by reducing the front to rear slip angle and thus assisting the rear in keeping up with the cat like reactions of the front.

Lifting-off too sharply on the limit will cause the rear to come around and will eventually send you off the road traveling backwards. However, with such a responsive chassis, you only need to apply power and a bit of opposite lock to bring it back under control and heading out of the corner. Or just apply opposite lock and a touch of power for some rally style fun. The Prelude will reward drivers of all skill levels, however, be warned, 7/10s (70%) should be the most an untrained and inexperienced driver should push. This is a thoroughbred sports car and Honda only intended experienced drivers to explore the spectrum of the Preludes performance envelope. The Prelude can and will spit you off the road if you're pushing it to its limit and aren't skilled enough to deal with the unexpected, which often comes in the form of misjudged entry speed, misjudged corner radius/angle, change in road surface - all of which will force you to lift off the throttle, and pitch the Prelude into snap oversteer. Be ready to correct the slide by turning into the direction of travel, applying just enough power to transfer weight to the rear wheels and scrub off speed to carry the car through the corner. Sounds scary? Welcome to the real world of real sports cars. This isn't a sedan with two doors chopped off, the Prelude is a purpose built sports car with the intent of entertaining the driver and rewarding the experienced driver.

Ride and Comfort
What I just described might make you think that this is a no compromise sports car, like the Lotus Elise. To the contrary, this is a grand tourer. The ride is remarkably smooth for a car with its handling prowess. Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) is kept to luxury car levels.

Drivetrain and Performance
The Engine pulls strongly from 3000rpm onwards. Passing 5000rpm, you will hear and feel the secondary intake tract open up - ensuring the B20A6 powerplant gets the air it needs to produce its maximum power.

Launching is easy, dial up 4000rpm and simply let out the clutch. Balance the traction with the throttle and your off to 58km/h @ 7000rpm (elecronic cut-out). Grab second gear with the gloriously smooth, short-throw gearbox and the Prelude will drop straight into its power band and hurl you along to 100km/h in less than 9 seconds. Not bad for a car manufactured in 1988 and with just 2 litres and 4 cylinders. Heel toeing is a must when entering a corner - and the Prelude's well designed foot pedals and accurate synchromesh makes it so easy. Third gear is required at 100km/h where the Honda is spinning madly at 7000rpm. You'll need fourth at 147km/h and fifth at 196km/h on your way to the 231km/h top speed (given a very long straight stretch of road (ahem, track). Listen to my B20A6 being put through its paces with 7000rpm shifts in 1st and 2nd gears. I'm sure you'll agree that its quite an aural delight.

And when you're not in a hurry, the cruise control works brilliantly keeping you at the desired speed and making sure you're not contributing to the speed tax officer's (Police) income. Air conditioning makes sure you're never hot or flustered and the glass house cockpit maximises your situational awareness.

If you're ever presented with the opportunity, I urge you to drive this venerable sports car. It will leave you wondering why most manufacturers have taken what seems to be a backward step in sports car design.