1 Dec 1996
Honda realised its Prelude demographic was ageing, travelling further and most likely deserting coupes for family-friendly 4WD wagons.
So it abandoned the overtly sporty approach of its immediate predecessor for the earlier models’ goals of comfort, refinement and style.
Viewed as such, the Mk5 was an impressive machine. A stronger, quieter body afforded more comfort, space, practicality and safety.
The base Si included a 118kW 2.2L engine, dual airbags, anti-lock brakes and air-conditioning as standard, while the 143kW VTi-R offered a sunroof, climate control air-con and an advanced handling aid option called ATTS.
The latter put it amongst the world’s surest steering front-wheel drive cars.
The five-speed manual transmission and clutch were improved, and the four-speed auto featured a sequential shift for greater driver interactivity.
But buyer interest was fading, not helped by the Prelude’s controversial adoption of large headlights. Only recently have they become commonplace.
A round of improvements in early ’99 saw the VTi-R’s engine output rise slightly to 147kW, the inclusion of a new mesh grille on ATTS models, remote central locking and the inclusion of a leather upholstery option.
Sales never recovered to their heyday levels and Honda was selling every CR-V 4WD it could get its hands on, so the new, Mk7 Civic-based Integra Mk4 took over during 2002.
It was an ignominious end to an innovative, interesting two-door coupe.
The Road to Recovery podcast series
26th of September 2003
Honda 1997 Prelude VTi-R