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Honda Prelude Type SH (2001)

SEE ALSO: Honda Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 26,100
     Price As Tested                                    $ 26,540
     Engine Type              DOHC 16-valve 2.2 Liter I4 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 132 cid/2157 cc
     Horsepower                                   200 @ 7000 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               156 @ 5250 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  101.8"/69.0"/178.0"
     Transmission                              Five-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     3217 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  15.9 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                           205/50R16 all-season
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                       none
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            22/27/24
     0-60 MPH                                        7.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          16.0 seconds @ 92.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           135 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

Not much new news these days concerning the Honda Prelude. The company's sport coupe soldiers on with minimal changes since it was introduced as an all-new vehicle in 1997.

It's offered as the standard Prelude and as our test vehicle of the week, the Prelude Type SH.

OUTSIDE - When the latest Prelude first appeared, is was a refreshing contrast to the multitude of "organic" shapes that were just then coming into favor with most automakers. Its unique headlight shape dominates its appearance. They are trapezoidal, yet somewhat vertical. The nose of the car looks flat, but it's raked backward enough to allow the car to cut a clean swath through the air. It has structural upgrades such as thicker metal at load-bearing areas, additional welds, a structural beam that spans the under-dash area and reinforces floor and bulkhead areas. This made bending and twisting resistance rise by 55 and 24-percent, respectively. A set of beautiful 16-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels with performance tires are standard on Prelude SH.

INSIDE - Prelude's comfortable, functional interior has wide front bucket seats with a bit more bolstering, but not so much as to fit only a narrow-hipped minority of body sizes. Rear seat room improved dramatically over the previous generation Prelude, and it's acceptable by 2-Plus-2 standards, though we still recommend that the back seat be reserved for children or adults on cross-town short hops. The rear seatback folds down for added cargo room, and locks in its upright position. The instrument panel is as tidy, functional and straightforward, with round analog gauges grouped in front of the driver in easy view. Standard SH features include power windows, door locks and outside mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control, variable-speed intermittent wipers, power moonroof and an AM/FM/CD with six speakers.

ON THE ROAD - Power comes from a 2.2-liter inline four cylinder engine that produces a healthy 200 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque. It uses Honda's Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control, or VTEC which activates another, more performance- oriented set of camshaft lobes after the engine speed reaches 5000 rpms. This opens a secondary fuel/air intake tract simultaneously with the longer duration, higher-lift cam profile to feed additional fuel into the cylinders. This results in a furious rise in acceleration and a slight tug on the steering wheel from torque steer, a phenomenon inherent in front-drive performance cars. Fortunately, Honda fits Prelude SH models with its Active Torque Transfer System (ATTS), a hardware unit that can send as much as 80-percent of the engine's torque to the lest front wheel, which can spin as much as 15-percent faster than the other side. It's a seamless system that is virtually invisible to the driver unless the car is being powered hard through a turn. A crisp-shifting five-speed manual transmission is standard, while a four-speed automatic with Sequential Sport Shift "manumatic" operation is optional.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Like most cars today, Prelude rides on a unit body platform that is reinforced in all the right places. Four-wheel double wishbone suspension is one of the best layout possible, and since Honda strengthened the suspension's anchor points and put a lot of engineering into the suspension geometry, Prelude handles quite well. ATTS handles understeer in the extreme power-on cornering situations, while the supple but soft calibration of the springs and shocks give it a smooth, comfortable ride. Anti-roll bars are fitted front and rear to keep it flat in corners, while the rack-and-pinion steering system uses a unique mechanical torsion bar and rotary valve system. Instead of reducing assist at higher speeds, it senses more load on the system and increases assist quickly. Four-wheel disc brakes with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) are standard.

SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags, ABS, side-impact door beams and ATTS are standard. Child seat tether anchors and an emergency trunk opener are new for 2001.

OPTIONS - None on our test car.