Today, Honda offers one true two-door—the Civic coupe. The Accord coupe died with the ninth-generation model last year, and the lovely Prelude didn't make it past 2001. Watching this old MotorWeek review of the 1997 Prelude Type SH, we really wish it survived. This was a truly great car.
Ok, so, maybe the fifth-gen Prelude wasn't the flashiest coupe on the market, but it was a handsome thing. But more importantly, it was a innovator in the great Honda tradition, bringing clever tech to the masses in a way that no other automaker did.
When equipped with a five-speed manual, the Prelude Type SH offered 195 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque from its 2.2-liter twin-cam four, which were good numbers for the day. As was the 6.5-second 0-60 mph run MotorWeek recorded. And yes, the engine had VTEC.
But arguably cooler than the engine was the Type SH's Active Torque Transfer System (ATTS), which is one of the earliest electronic torque-vectoring differentials offered in a road car. ATTS measured steering angle, yaw, lateral G forces, and ABS data to determine how power should be distributed between the front wheels. This sort of system—which replaces a traditional mechanical limited-slip differential—is becoming more common in performance cars today, but in 1997? It was virtually unheard-of. And leave it to Honda to introduce it to the world on a mass-market car.
Combine ATTS with a chassis that was stiffer than the previous-generation Prelude, and you had a real sweet handler in the 1997 Type SH.
But, the fifth-gen Prelude was doomed from the start in a way. As MotorWeek's John Davis notes, packing the Prelude with tech was a way to differentiate it from the more-pedestrian Accord coupe, and to help it maintain sustainable sales in the face of sport-compact buyers embracing SUVs. Clearly, it wasn't enough, because this was the last Prelude.
Its spirit lives on in other products, though. The Civic Si and Type R offer similar innovative performance-car and sharp handling at mass-market prices, and Acura has incorporated torque vectoring into a number of its cars.
But, we can't help but pine for the Prelude. It's a very specific sort of cool that just doesn't exist in today's car market. Oh, well. Guess it's time for me .