I never liked the fourth-gen Prelude’s styling. I remember thinking it looked like a squashed Oldsmobile, and that its profile was too far a deviation from the angular wedges of its predecessors. That belief was only confirmed when the fifth-gen Prelude returned to the previous design theme. Dynamically, however, the Prelude rocked. It was a showcase of Honda’s technology and suspension engineering. And as this 1992 Motorweek review shows, even an automatic transmission couldn’t kill the Prelude’s spirit.
Why anyone would order an automatic for the press fleet is beyond us, especially in an era when Honda had the best manual transmissions on the market. Nevertheless, that’s how Motorweek‘s 1992 Prelude Si test car came. Connected to the F22B 16-valve twin-cam making 160-horsepower and 156 lb-ft, even the slushbox managed to clock a 0-60 time of 7.8 seconds.
Other components were just as good. Motorweek called the brakes Honda’s best ever ABS. The four-wheel double wishbone suspension and new electronic four-wheel steering (replacing the mechanical system) hustled it around the cones with poise. All this while maintaining an EPA-rated 22 city, 26 highway mpg, though testing bested that with a 27 mpg combined. As good as the Si was, for the fourth-gen the best version would have been the Prelude 190-horsepower Prelude VTEC that came out a year later.
Honda seemed to be positioning the fourth-gen Prelude as a sportier option than its predecessors. The styling did not closely resemble other cars in the Honda lineup, and the curvy shape gave it dimensions that were wider, lower, and shorter than the previous generation. The rear seats, separated by a long console, were unusable by normal-legged humans. The roof section was so short that the Prelude’s signature feature, its electronic sunroof, no longer retracted into the rear half of the roof. Instead, it just slid up and over it.
The Prelude S started at $17,000 and the Si test car with automatic rang it at $20,000. The 4WS option was not cheap, adding $2,320 to the bottom line. Despite the best efforts of its inventors, cost and complexity meant that the technology would never truly catch on, but the Prelude will forever have the honor of being the first model to offer 4WS in the US. Captain Picard would have been proud.