What's New for 1997
The Prelude is totally redesigned for 1997. A base model is available with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearbox, but the top-of-the-line Type SH model, featuring Honda's new Active Torque Transfer System, can only be had as a manual. Both the base and Type SH Preludes feature last year's VTEC engine which produces 195 horsepower for 1997.
Honda has long used the Prelude to showcase their latest technological developments. Remember Honda's four-wheel steering system, designed to give drivers better control in tight corners? It first debuted on the 1988 Prelude. In 1993, the Prelude was also one of the first Honda's to receive a VTEC engine, first introduced in the 1991 Acura NSX. In 1997, Honda continues this tradition by showcasing their new Active Torque Transfer System (ATTS) in the Prelude Type SH.
The Active Torque Transfer System is designed to give the Prelude rear-wheel drive cornering ability, while retaining the wet-weather benefits of a traditional front-wheel drive car. The system works by monitoring the car's speed, steering angle, and yaw rate to determine the if car is following the driver's intended course. In a tight, fast corner the system works by increasing torque to the outboard front wheel, which in turn increases the vehicle's yaw rate, giving the driver better steering response. In addition to the ATTS, the Prelude Type SH gets an upgraded suspension that encourages aggressive driving.
All Preludes are powered by a 195-horsepower VTEC engine that cranks out an impressive 190 foot-pounds of torque at 6600 rpm. Although these numbers are greater than last year's, the current Prelude doesn't appear to be any faster through the traps due to its increased weight. Base models are available with a manual or automatic transmission, but if you want the high-tech Type SH model, you better like rowing your own gears; it is only available with a five-speed manual gearbox. The five-speed manual is a carryover from the previous Prelude, but the new four-speed automatic features a Sequential SportShift that allows drivers the option of selecting their own gears, similar to a Porsche Tiptronic. Base and Type SH models get standard four-wheel antilock disc brakes that pull the car down quickly from the Prelude's estimated top-speed of 140 mph.
After receiving harsh criticism for the previous-generation Prelude's funky interior, we weren't surprised to see that Honda took a conservative approach to the dashboard layout of their new sports coupe. We were, however, disappointed to notice that they took an approach so conservative that when seated behind the Prelude's steering wheel, there is nothing to distinguish the car from a late-eighties Accord. Come on guys, you can do better than that, can't you?
Despite the interior shortcomings, and the much-maligned headlamps, the Prelude is an outstanding sports coupe that offers the latest technology at a reasonably affordable price. If you are a gizmo hound, this car must go on your shopping list.