For the 1983 model-year, the Prelude was totally redesigned. It was now even much more sportier with a new larger engine (1.8L and 2.0L engines), a much stiffer racier suspension, quicker steering and more rigid construction -- all these things turned a good Prelude into an amazingly surprising performer that honestly rivaled the best cars in the industry in terms of handling and the fun-to-drive x-factor. This new generation made a new hard-core image for the Prelude and it's popularity spurt into mainstream and the spotlight was now on it for years to come.
In 1988 the Prelude was redesigned again, and although the car was all new from top-to-bottom it looked very similar to the preceeding generation Prelude. This Prelude got all new 2.0L 4-cylinders, and even a 2.1L in 1990. Honda's first 4-wheel-steering system was introduced in 1988 in this Prelude. This system was the first of its kind in America, as far as mass-produced cars are concerned. It is also the best design of 4-wheel-steering when comparing it to other cars with 4-wheel-steering. The preludes system was beyond reliable, super light, and all mechanical - a winning combination. This Prelude, being true to the 2nd generation, was also a handling maniac (even though it was a little heavier than the 2nd gen, it still handled "better" according to magazines) that managed to outhandle every single car in 1988 which even included all Lamborghinis, Porsches, Ferraris, and Corvettes. That is quite the accomplishment! The 3rd generation was the most popular Prelude ever in terms of sales.
In 1992 the Prelude was redesigned once more. This new Prelude looked nothing like any of the previous models, it's teardrop profile, the curving design, and oversized taillights it really was a 'love it or hate it' kind of Prelude. It was the first Prelude to be 'designed for women', according to Honda. An all-new 4-wheel-steering system was designed for this generation, but it ultimately was deemed unreliable, troublesome, and heavy. Three new engines were available in this Prelude, a 130hp 2.2L F-series, a 160hp 2.3L H-series, and finally (in 1993)a 190hp 2.2L H-series VTEC. The VTEC model was the hotrod of the bunch, obviously, and it was probably the quickest of all the Preludes ever made. But the Prelude Si, which had the 160hp 2.3L, was the most common and overall best buy. In 1994 the Prelude threw out the 4-wheel-steering system, but got a new vacuum-florescent instrument panel which was a big hit.
In 1997 the Prelude was redesigned for the last time. As Honda took consumers criticism for the 4th generations styling, Honda decided to bring back the true Prelude styling. So with this last generation, the 5th generation Prelude, Honda designed it to resemble the 3rd generation Prelude. And it was a great idea which proved to be the right choice - as it was given awards for best-styled coupe.
With this last generation, the Prelude got heavier, but not less sporty! So if people tell you that the Prelude is a heavy pig, dont let that fool you into thinking that it is not a very sporty coupe that can still handle with the best of them! Only one type of engine was available for this genration, it was the 2.2L 190-200hp H-series (H22A4) VTEC engine. It was slightly revised from the last 2.2L VTEC of the 4th generation Preludes. Now available was both a 4-speed sport-shift automatic transmission, and a 5-speed manual transmission. The 5-speed is obviously more desireable because of the performance increase over the automatic. This Prelude won a lot of awards as well, including 'best handling FWD car', 'best coupe of the year', 'funnest-to-drive coupe', and others that my memory neglects to inform me of. All-in-all, this Prelude was a great car, both in terms of performance, reliability, and styling.
With the 5th generations sportiest model, the SH, there was a device called Active Torque Transfer System (ATTS) that helped the prelude steer around corners much better, without the understeering problem associated with 99% of FWD cars. It worked great, but it worked too well some say and that caused the SH Prelude to be scary to some owners. I find that funny, but that's how good it was - it scared people. This system was slightly unreliable and often times you will find an SH model Prelude where the ATTS is malfunctioning or doesn't work at all...This is the only downfall of this system.
In 2001 the Prelude legacy was put to rest due to slow sales, which was mostly because of the high retail price of the car. It is not a sad funeral though, the Prelude was the car that Honda used to test new technology on. And for this very reason we should salute the Prelude for being an innovative car and a very fun car as well.