What to Know About the Honda Prelude

Honda positioned the Prelude as a performance bargain for more than two decades.

White Honda Prelude concept carHonda


Honda resurrected its iconic Prelude coupe — in hybrid form, no less — as a concept at the 2023 Japan Mobility Show in October 2023. When the model eventually reaches production, it will bring the popular nameplate back to showrooms for the first time in more than 20 years. There's a lot at stake, as the Prelude historically has been one of Honda's sportiest cars.

In anticipation of its impending return, here are five fun facts about the Honda Prelude.

Black 1979 Honda Prelude parked on the grassHonda

The Original Honda Prelude Was Based on the Accord

Released in 1978, the original Prelude was closely related to the first-generation Accord. It shared its suspension and braking systems as well as its 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with its sedan sibling, but it was shorter and characterized by a more muscular exterior design. Production ended in 1982.

Third-Generation Preludes Featured Four-Wheel Steering

While the second-generation Prelude, launched for 1983, offered more technology and better handling than the original, it was the third-generation car, released for 1988, that cemented the Prelude's status among enthusiasts.

Honda notably offered the coupe with an optional mechanical four-wheel steering system called 4WS that reduced the turning radius at low speeds and increased stability at high speeds. Anti-lock brakes, which were still a novelty in the late 1980s, were offered as an option on some trim levels as well.

1997 Honda Prelude VTEC engineHonda

Honda Prelude Took the VTEC Engine to a Whole New Level

In 1993, the fourth-generation Prelude inaugurated an evolution of Honda's VTEC engines, pairing dual overhead camshafts with the company's variable valve timing and lift technology. The 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine produced 190 horsepower, a generous increase of 30 horsepower over the non-VTEC 2.3-liter four-cylinder that powered the Prelude Si. This feature trickled down from the Acura NSX supercar and later spread to other members of the Honda range, including the Civic.

Technology From the Prelude Lives on in Some Acuras

Honda released the fifth-generation Prelude for 1997. The coupe featured a more angular exterior design than its predecessor, and it continued to offer the brand's VTEC technology, but it lost the available 4WS system. Honda had another trick up its sleeve however; the Active Torque Transfer System (ATTS).

This torque-vectoring technology relied on a pair of electronically controlled clutches to channel up to 80% of the engine's torque to the outside wheel during cornering, resulting in sharper, more predictable handling. Acura used ATTS as one of the foundations of the Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system it introduced on the 2005 RL, and still uses SH-AWD on some of its cars, including the RDX.

Production of the fifth-generation Prelude ended in 2001, and the nameplate has been dormant since.

Red 2001 Honda Prelude parked facing skylineHonda

The Honda Prelude Is a Relative Bargain on the Used Market

Although the Prelude enjoys a loyal following, even well-kept examples trade hands for reasonable sums. Auction site Cars & Bids recently sold a second-generation model with about 80,800 miles for around $8,900, while a final-year car with around 66,900 miles and no modifications sold for about $15,450 on the platform.

The Honda Prelude Is Coming Back Soon

The concept Honda displayed in Tokyo will morph into the sixth-generation Prelude in the coming years. The design probably won't change all that much as it makes the transition from the show floor to the showroom floor. If rumors are true, the hybrid coupe will make its debut for 2026.

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Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American journalist and automotive historian based in France. He enjoys working on old cars and spending time outdoors seeking out his next project car.