1997 Honda Prelude Review


Pros & Cons

  • A fresh new look, lots of power, and more luggage space than last year's model.
  • Limited headroom. The interior is less exciting than the one found in a 1987 Accord.
Other years
List Price Estimate
$620 - $1,442

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Edmunds' Expert Review

Vehicle overview

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.

1997 Highlights

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.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 1997 Honda Prelude.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

97' prelude
2dr Coupe
In the big picture of fast cars I peronally don't beleive that my 97' prelude is fast but, as for as stock 4 banger automatic goes it is very fast. The car is very fun and comfortable, also extemely reliable. I live in Butte montana it can get to be -25 degees below vero during the winter and the car has started every time!!!
There's not another car I want more.
2dr Coupe
I bought my car used w/ 75,000 miles already on it. It is now at 239,000 w/ the bottom end rebuilt at 100,000 due to driving through high water. It is still reliable & all features work. I absolutely love the styling/appearance & I can't find another car that I like as much to purchase. When it finally dies, I think I'm just going to put in a new engine & transmission & keep driving. By far, the best vehicle purchase I've ever made.
The Lude, The ultimate 90s ricer
2dr Coupe
Yes the 1997 Honda Prelude, a true example of what good engineering should be. I have owned 2 preludes, a 2001 and a 1997. I also had a 1998 run out of oil on me (it was my buddies) engine ended up blowing up. Anyway, these cars have near go cart like handling, they have fantastic styling, a fantastic stock sound system (buy a 13$ FM transmitter AKA 13$ thing), and pretty comfortable sport style seats! No it doesn't have the rapid crazy Tire spinning acceleration of my past BMW M3s, what it does have is a 2.2 liter VTECH 4 cylinder that pumps out 200 ponies!!! With that in mind, this car gets up and moves, especially noted when you appropriately run the premium gas THAT HONDA TELLS YOU TO PUT IN!!! Small displacement motors such as this one, that produce high amounts of power are what premium gas is exactly designed for, you will also get better fuel economy with it, do not cheap out on unleaded! It will surprise you and not ever disapppint! Amazing agile little front wheel drive car, insanely grippy, and has nice tight suspension that honestly hurts your ride quality, but helps make this go cart like handling possible. Most will run regular oil, but synthetic will give you the best results. These cars will crap out on you if you neglect them, when you treat them right they will always treat you right, right back. I've ran these cars at 60 down dirt roads with massive pot holes and bridges, swerving in and out of the holes, it could be a potentially good rally car if someone put their mind to I! Most people wouldn't dare going 40 where I'd hit 60. All in all the car is fantastic, it will get you 29 mpg (premium fuel, good oil, and SMART cruise control driving) at 80 MPH down a highway! If it gets less, something is wrong! Be warned if you get into your VTECH (5 grand or more) very often, your car will burn oil, not at normally driving but specifically inot the 5-7 grand range, check it frequently when running hard, may need to top of with an extra quart at most between oil changes. Also on a final note, these cars and all 90s Hondas get "honda" rust because of a black piece of blasting that lines your rear fender wells, it creates a huge river bed for water to sit, simply reach down take it off, and you've solved the problem. My favorite cars in the world! Treat her right, she treats ya right back!
Excelent performance vehicle
Type SH 2dr Coupe
I bought this car used from a dealership. I hunted this car for 3 months and was actually on my way to Delaware(from NJ) when I saw it. The performance you get for the money paid is excelent. I drove it on highways, cities, mountains, in any conditions possible including a blizzard and it never failed me.


IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1997 Honda Prelude

Used 1997 Honda Prelude Overview

The Used 1997 Honda Prelude is offered in the following submodels: Prelude Type SH, Prelude Coupe. Available styles include Type SH 2dr Coupe, and 2dr Coupe.

What's a good price on a Used 1997 Honda Prelude?

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Which used 1997 Honda Preludes are available in my area?

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Find a used Honda Prelude for sale - 1 great deals out of 9 listings starting at $7,724.

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Should I lease or buy a 1997 Honda Prelude?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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