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15 Years Ago Today - 1999 Honda Prelude SH New Car Review


by John Heilig


MODEL: Honda Prelude SH
ENGINE: 2.2-liter DOHC VTEC inline four
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 200 hp @ 7000 rpm/156 lb-ft @ 5250 rpm
TRANSMISSION: Five-speed manual
FUEL ECONOMY: 22 mpg city, 27 mpg highway, 23.1 mpg test
WHEELBASE: 101.8 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 178.0 x 69.0 x 51.8 in.
CURB WEIGHT: 3042 lbs.
FUEL CAPACITY: 15.9 gal.
TIRES: P205/50R16
INSTRUMENTS: Speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, water temperature, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT: Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, power seats, power sunroof, cruise control, air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio with in-dash CD player, anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes, dual front air bags.

Iíve always admired the Honda Prelude from the first one I drove through this one. They always deliver consistent performance.

Driving a Prelude is like driving a fine mechanical watch. You can almost sense the gears meshing together properly under the hood. Everything is put together the way itís supposed to be. Itís a good, quality vehicle and it delivers reasonably good performance.

Now youíre not going to get the same level of performance out of a Prelude as youíd get out of a Mitsubishi 3000GT, but you get very good performance, a fun ride, an easy comfortable drive, and you get your moneyís worth if this is the kind of vehicle youíre looking for.

As a sports coupe, the Honda Prelude doesnít offer a great amount of rear seat legroom. As a matter of fact, when we put a "normal-sized" adult back there for a short ride, he had to sit sideways in order to fit a normal sized adult in the front passenger seat (I wasnít going back there).

But for two passengers, the Prelude is an excellent vehicle. Itís a fun GT car, and in this case GT means grand touring. It isnít a sporty or racing car, but it gets you where you want to go and youíll have fun doing it.

The Prelude is powered by Hondaís 2.2-liter DOHC VTEC inline four-cylinder engine that develops a healthy 200 horsepower. Normally, when you ask an engine this size to deliver 200 horses, youíd expect an overstressed engine. But the Preludeís VTEC engine feels like the V-6 Accord engine itís so smooth. When Honda introduced this model we had an opportunity to drive it through a slalom course and run the engine up to its 7,300 rpm red line. It was comforting to know that the electronics cut out at his revs, reducing the possibility of blowing the engine.

Handling is superb. Again, this isnít a stiff, GT sporty car, but a comfortable GT touring car. So the double wishbone front and rear suspension, while they offer excellent cornering capability, wonít tempt you to dive into corners lilke an Indy race car. Because you canít. But you can still hit the corners a lot quicker than your family Chevy Lumina, for example. This is a car with a sporty suspension if not a sports car suspension.

The engine was connected to a five-speed manual gearbox that had well-spaced ratios and was easy to use. It was not butter soft, nor was is crisp with short, sports-car throws. Again, weíre talking about a sporty car as opposed to a sports car. For its class, it was fine.

Front passengers sit in individual bucket seats that were velour covered and had a pattern that looked as if it would hide dirt.

Instrumentation was standard with a speedometer, tachometer, fuel and water gauges. We also had goodies like a powered sun roof, cruise control and an excellent sound system.

As in most decent coupes, the rear seat backs folded down to increase luggage space. The trunk itself was a good size for a two-door coupe.

The Prelude is aggressively styled as well. It looks much huskier than it is and gives you a nice aggressive stance on the highway.

While youíre not going to get out and out hard-nosed race car performacne out of the Honda Prelude SH, youíre going to get sporty car performance that is as good or better than anything else in its class. Youíll get it at a reasonable price and youíll know itís a good car.