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Icon1 -Prelude SH Article- Car and Driver: Best Car for 30,000

[this was found in another forum][Please help find the pdf version of this article]

FEATURE: The Best-Handling Car for More Than $30,000
Handling without limits. Price, that is.
By DON SCHROEDER
Photography By AARON KILEY
September 1997


You may have picked up the June 1997 issue of Car and Driver, read the ten-page Best-Handling Car for Less Than $30,000 story, and put it down, figuring that you d read just about all there was to read about handling.

Are you kidding? We were just getting started!
In that last test, we crowned the Honda Prelude SH the best-handling car for less than $30,000. This time, we re repeating the test for cost-is-no-object cars.

If you want a review on the topic of handling, or on how we conducted the physical tests used to arrive at our conclusions, go back and fish out that June issue from the cat box. For this test, we re using the same evaluations, but they were conducted near our Ann Arbor office rather than in Southern California.
We re testing very different cars than we did last time, too. In choosing our contestants, we selected the best-handling cars we could think of that cost more than $30,000 and represent a broad array of driveline configurations. We arrived at eight contenders.

Acura s NSX was on everyone s list. So was the steamy but composed Ferrari F355, one of which was graciously lent to us by Ferraristo Mike Farmer of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Our third mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive entry was Porsche s brand-new and thoroughly modern Boxster. BMW s M3 coupe was one of four contestants with the classic front-engine, rear-drive configuration. Chevy s new Corvette (with the race-ready Z51 suspension) was another, as was Dodge s burly Viper GTS coupe. We also included Toyota s front-engine, rear-drive Supra Turbo, a favorite handler of some staffers.
The Porsche 911 Turbo was to be our four-wheel-drive contestant, but we ve noticed that four-wheel-drive 911s have light and somewhat distracted steering. Not a fatal flaw, mind you, but a significant one in a handling evaluation. Instead, we agreed on a two-wheel-drive 911 Carrera S, the sole rear-engined contestant in this group.

The prices of our test cars ranged from $42,657 for the Corvette to $135,020 for the Ferrari. We can hear the rumblings already. Aren t the least-expensive cars at a disadvantage, you ask? We don t think so. This is not a conventional comparison test where the car is considered in its entirety, but a specific test of handling. Handling is as much an art as it is a science. It doesn t necessarily take money to do it right.
One last thing. Among these exotic and almost exotic machines was a tagalong the Honda Prelude SH. Without it, we would not be able to answer The Question. So, no peeking at the end of the article for The Answer. On to the test track.

The Test Track
We subjected each car to a battery of evaluations under the controlled conditions of a test track. The tests included an emergency lane change, increasing- and decreasing-speed slaloms, and maximum lateral-acceleration tests on bumpy and smooth surfaces. The tests were conducted on the smooth, paved black lake at the Chrysler proving grounds in Chelsea, Michigan, so the results of these tests aren t directly comparable to those of the first handling test, conducted on the parking lots of the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds. No problem. We re more interested in comparisons among the cars in each group. We ran the Prelude through all the tests at Chrysler to ensure that its numbers compared accurately with those of this new round of competitors.

In the emergency lane change, the car must change lanes twice: right lane to left lane, and back again, in the space of 160 feet. The course is defined by cones, and we record the fastest speed at which we can drive through the cones without knocking any of them down. Although faster is better, we also note how easily the car can negotiate the course.

First place went to the BMW M3, which snaked through the cones at a brisk 74.2 mph. Intuitive; no-brainer; goes exactly where its surgically precise steering points it, wrote tester Schroeder.

Next up was the Carrera S, at 72.9 mph. Light and agile-feeling, wrote the tester. Rear end steps out, but it helps steer the car. After the Carrera S was the Viper GTS, at 70.6 mph. Remarkably quick steering and tremendous grip. Its extreme width means you have to drive this car through the cones more than the others.
The F355 finished fourth, at 69.7 mph. Its steering felt sluggish with dominant understeer in this abrupt maneuver, but oversteer was on tap. Adequately controllable when tail is out, wrote Schroeder. Just behind the F355 was the similarly handling 69.5-mph NSX-T. Initial understeer was prevalent, and then we had to countersteer quickly to keep the rear end from swinging wide.

The Supra Turbo, at 68.8 mph, was limited by understeer. Schroeder: Rear of the car stays planted, nose seems to do all the work. The Boxster was slower still, at 67.0 mph. Although lacking grip, it still felt nimble. Controllable and predictable; easy in this test. The Corvette was the slowest, at 66.2 mph. It felt big and unwieldy. A bit of a handful through the cones, noted Schroeder.
A slalom is a series of back-and-forth lane changes that test a car s ability to make smooth cornering transitions. Instead of consistently spaced cones, our 1000-foot slalom had cones spaced 20 feet apart on one end, progressing to 47 feet apart at the other end. Driving the course in one direction allowed us to check the car s ability to cut from side to side while slowing down, and driving in the other direction allowed us to observe its behavior while accelerating.

The Viper GTS negotiated the accelerating direction the quickest, averaging 57.1 mph. Relies on considerable raw grip to get the job done and puts its power down well, wrote driver Schroeder. Second up was the narrow M3, at 56.3 mph. Precise, with excellent chassis coordination.
Third place was taken by the Boxster, at 54.6 mph, with the Carrera S close behind, at 54.0 mph. Both cars felt quite nimble. Cat-quick steering and suspension responses make carving up cones easier, noted Schroeder of the Boxster. The 911 earned similar accolades: Toss-able. Slithers through the cones expertly.

At 53.8 mph, the Corvette was next up. It felt better in this maneuver. Good body control, despite roll. Rear stays planted, too. The NSX-T, at 53.3 mph, felt heavier than we expected. Steering is a workout at low speeds, and tail feels like it might break loose as speed climbs. Behind it was the Ferrari, at 52.8 mph. Again, the F355 and the NSX drove like peas in a pod. Wide rear tires and slow-responding steering make the F355 a handful when the cones are tight.
Bringing up the rear in the accelerating slalom was the Supra Turbo, at 52.4 mph. It was again hindered by understeer. Good response until tires start to slip and steering becomes numb, wrote tester Schroeder.

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Re: -Prelude SH Article- Car and Driver: Best Car for 30,000

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Webster took the helm for the decelerating slalom, where the F355 clipped off the fastest average speed of 60.7 mph. Sharp turn-in. Car just goes where it s pointed. Behind the F355 was the Viper GTS, at a still-quick 58.8 mph. Its girth was evident, but it didn t feel unwieldy.

Webster made maximum use of the Carrera S s big rear tires for its third-place 58.3-mph finish. Rear end is just stuck there. The way to drive it fast is to brake late. The M3 and the Corvette tied at 57.7 mph and displayed similar characteristics, too, including an ability to stay in control, despite considerable body roll. The Boxster s 56.8-mph finish was hard won. Back-and-forth transitions made the tail want to step out, which Webster found harder to control than on cars like the M3.

The Toyota, at 56.1 mph, was a handful, too. It was hard to scrub off speed as the cones tightened, because the brakes provoked excessive oversteer. The NSX-T, bringing up the rear at 55.8 mph, had a similar oversteer problem. Steady, but not exactly nimble, wrote Webster.
Looking over the slalom results, we were surprised. In the less-than-$30,000 test, all cars but the Prelude SH were faster in the accelerating slalom than in the decelerating slalom. This time around, the more-expensive contestants were all faster in the decelerating direction. It seems the superior grip of these cars and their more optimized weight distributions enhanced stability, allowing us to carry higher speeds into the slalom.

Smooth- and bumpy-pavement skid-pads measure a car s cornering grip in the best- and worst-possible circumstances. We calculate grip, or lateral acceleration, by timing each car s fastest laps around a 300-foot circle painted on the pavement.
On the smooth skidpad, grip levels varied from a low of 0.86 for the Carrera S to 0.97 for the massively tired Viper GTS. On rough pavement, the Viper s grip suffered the most, but it still managed 0.92 g. The M3, the Corvette, the F355, and the Boxster all suffered a loss of 0.04 g of grip over the bumps; the 911 was down by 0.03 g. The two cars best able to maintain grip were the NSX-T and the Supra, both of which lost only 0.02 g.
The Racetrack
Both test tracks and racetracks allow us to safely explore the outer edges of car handling, but they serve different purposes. The test track helps distinguish specific handling abilities like grip and transient response. Racetracks allow us to observe those abilities working in concert. For this test, we used the venerable Nelson Ledges road course, a 2.0-mile, 12-turn loop of asphalt nestled in the rolling hills of northeast Ohio.

We hand-timed the fastest laps of each car with Schroeder, a Nelson Ledges endurance-race veteran, behind the wheel. But handling scores cannot be assigned based on lap times alone, because of the undue influence of power. For additional information, we hooked up our Datron optical fifth-wheel and a g-force sensor to our computer to log speeds and maximum lateral acceleration through each corner.

The 450-horsepower Viper GTS was fastest around the track with an average speed of 93.1 mph, but power couldn t take all the credit. At each of the three corners we analyzed, the Viper was among the top-three finishers in average lateral acceleration, too. This car felt brutish at Nelson Ledges, with seemingly bottom-less reservoirs of power, braking, and grip with which to experiment. Relaxed it was not. Schroeder: Bump-steers a lot, making smooth lines a challenge. Driven deliberately, with a steady hand, its affinity for speed was obvious. Just barrels through this course with enough stability and predictability to hang on.

The F355 was also an excellent track car. It turned in to corners with enthusiasm. Its brakes were powerful and sure-footed, and it offered plenty of grip without the Viper s nervousness. Like the Viper, there was a learning curve involved in going fast, which included dealing with the F355 s gated shifter and an odd driving position with a distant steering wheel and close-up pedals that would force your knees to splay out. The 43/57-percent front-to-rear weight distribution meant oversteer was a constant threat, but the rear gave ample warning before swinging out, and we soon began to trust it to help us around corners. Finesse allowed the F355 to lap Nelson just 1.1 mph slower than the Viper, despite carrying 1.1 more pounds per horsepower.
Third place went to the Corvette, with an average speed of 90.1 mph. Like the Viper, it was not serene behind the wheel. There was plenty of squat, dive, and body roll to contend with, and the steering required frequent correction. Yet the chassis was resolute in its coordination. Terrific balance. Rear obeys the throttle and brakes proportionately, and car hangs on tenaciously. A laudable cockpit layout, from the pedals to the steering wheel to the grippy driver s seat, made it easy to explore the Vette s limits.

The Supra Turbo tailed the Corvette by a 0.2-mph margin. This car worked better the harder we drove it. With increasing speed, the steering came alive and was less prone to understeer, while the chassis telegraphed every move explicitly, which allowed us to spend more time at the limits of the tires adhesion. The turbocharged six comes on strong at low rpm. We could brake late in corners and get back on the throttle early. Then the turbos would segue in and keep the rear end coming around, gently tightening up the corner. Chassis don t get much more coordinated.
The Porsche Carrera S was nowhere near as balanced. The 911 has a different feel than the other cars, partly due to its upright driving position, but due mainly to its driveline layout. With the heavy engine in back, the rear tires dominate the handling, forcing the fronts into perpetual understeer. There was a vertical pogo-stick motion to contend with over bumps that made the 911 more difficult to position on the track. On the upside, we couldn t over-work the brakes, and the steering was responsive. The 911 averaged a best-lap time of 88.6 mph.

The M3 was the easiest to drive hard around Nelson Ledges. The steering had a meaty eagerness, like the F355 s. The rear end stayed put, but understeer never threatened to wash out the front tires, as with the 911. When steered in a different direction, the chassis accepted every command gracefully. If a tighter line was required, backing off the throttle or tapping the brakes would ease the nose into a tighter arc. This poise allowed drivers to push the M3 much harder on the track than some of the other cars it was consistently among the four fastest cars through the turns we analyzed (see Minimum corner speed on the Nelson Ledges chart). With a 13.5 power-to-weight ratio, the M3 finished just 0.4 mph slower than the 911, with its more-advantageous 11.0 ratio.

With 290 horsepower on tap and a power-to-weight ratio of 10.8, the NSX-T s second-to-last-place finish at Nelson was a surprise. Not that the NSX wasn t composed. It has the most syrupy-smooth body motions and responses on the track, wrote Schroeder. Steering is drama-free, and suspension soaks up bumps expertly. The rear end of the NSX helps to steer it around corners, much like the F355. But where the Ferrari would hunker down and tighten the line as it accelerated out of a corner, the NSX s tail bounded around with less stability. The brakes were powerful. With a more secure suspension, we would have been able to press the NSX harder.

Against the stopwatch, Porsche s little Boxster had a tough row to hoe at Nelson Ledges. With 201 horses on tap, it was out-gunned by all but the tagalong Prelude. But a power-to-weight ratio of 14.3 was not its only shortfall. Its steering was so quick it felt twitchy at speed, and the body never seemed to settle down, as if it needed firmer shock damping. Lots of wiggling out here, wrote Schroeder. The suspension had good balance despite the nervousness, allowing controllable four-wheel drifts through each of Nelson s 12 turns. The Boxster managed an 86.2-mph lap average.
Test tracks and racetracks tell us a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of a car s handling. But rating the cars by these tests alone would be like judging meals at Balthazar solely by their fat content, or rating action films simply by explosion count. A real-world assessment is more important.

Ultimately, the most important test of handling takes place on the roads these cars were designed for, with changing speeds, weather conditions, and even surprises once in a while. We selected a route that included the twisting roads of the Hocking Hills in southern Ohio, as well as the interstates and byways that took us there and home. After 9000 vehicle miles were logged on public roads, the votes were tallied. We ll present the results from last place to first. After that, we ll answer The Question by comparing the winner of this test with the Prelude.
Porsche Boxster

A fine-handling protégé that needs more discipline.
The long-awaited Boxster is Porsche s newest chassis. It s an agile and balanced car, but the Boxster never quite felt locked enough to the road to become one of our favorites.

This is the lightest car of the eight by at least 200 pounds, which made it feel tossable on Ohio s twisty roads. As is typical of mid-engine designs, the front of the car offered cat-quick steering response, and the rear end followed with less enthusiasm. The steering lacked feel. Feels heavy and slightly disconnected, wrote Csere. Numb-feeling, added Berg. Not the best in this group.
The suspension also lacked discipline. The body would rarely settle down in undulating turns, and steering correction was often required midcorner. Feels floaty, wrote Spence. Never seems to carve the line I intended, added Csere. At higher speeds, it felt nervous. Jiggly in fast sweepers. Not confidence inspiring, noted Idzikowski.
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........

There are no glaring ergonomic short- falls, and body stiffness was admirable considering it s a roadster. As such, Porsche may have tuned it more for grand touring than for careening around corners. A Technic sport package with stiffer springs and shocks might have improved the Boxster s finish. With a score of 88, this is still a very good-handling car.
Porsche 911 Carrera S

In its final year, this capable veteran is showing its age. In 1995, the rear-engined 911 received a new rear suspension that did much to improve its infamous handling histrionics. Today s 911s are certainly the best-handling, best-riding 911s ever. Against more-recently designed sports cars, though, the chassis cannot hide its ancient roots.
Despite wearing tires identical in size to the Boxster s, the Carrera S is not as balanced as its new sibling. As we discovered at Nelson Ledges, the front, carrying just 39 percent of the 911 s curb weight, under-steers constantly while the rear, with its greater weight and much larger tires, feels stuck to the pavement. The result is a battle between getting the car to turn or making it accelerate, and that makes it want not to turn. The stiffly sprung rear tends to nudge the car off-course over bumps, too. It takes concentration to go fast in a 911 Carrera S.

The 911 excels at some tasks. The steering lightens up and gains precision with speed, making the 911 feel nimble and tossable. The harder you lean on it, the better it feels, notes Csere. The cockpit is well laid out for driving (despite kooky locations for some secondary controls), and the anti-lock brakes erase speed with conviction.
The standard 911 coupe probably would have done better. This Carrera S model has bigger rear tires, added largely for styling s sake, and seemed to exacerbate the 911 s tendency to understeer under power. From its track and road work, it s obvious this car is capable of good handling. It just takes more work to get there than most of the others do.

Chevrolet Corvette
Soft around the edges, but it hangs on when asked.

Corvettes sell to a wider audience than most sports cars, and a good ride was an important priority in the new Corvette s development. As we found, that comes at some price to the Corvette s handling.
Our Vette came with the Z51 performance suspension with stiffer springs and anti-roll bars and larger shocks, but it still didn t feel buttoned down. I still think this thing bounces around a lot, wrote Webster. Csere noted: It uses up its travel more readily than the other cars. On rougher roads, its suspension regularly tops and bottoms. The other cars don t do this. The steering felt uncommunicative. Berg wrote: There s no feel and a big light spot on-center. If I want a computer game, I ll go to Vegas.

But when pushed, the picture brightened. Despite the body s wayward moves, the chassis remained balanced. Schroeder: In 7/10ths mode, the chassis is willing, with terrific grip and appropriate roll. The steering improved with speed. Csere: I can position this car very accurately. It breaks away tailfirst a little more suddenly than I d like, but it s a sweetheart of a handler. Drivers found the seats supportive and the ergonomics kind. Webster: Everything falls right to hand.
Smith s begrudging respect was a common theme: Still feels heavy and ponderous, but it ll get the job done when asked. Which earned the Corvette a sixth-place finish.

Dodge Viper GTS
As close as you ll get to the moves of a race car.

Dodge introduced the Viper GTS coupe last year as a touring version of the Viper roadster. Don t be misled. This is a brash, brutal sports car to the core, with the raciest handling this side of a Reynard Indy car.

On the test track, the Viper finished at or near the top in every test, in part because it s equipped with the most tire of any production sports car. Sticks like crazy, wrote Dworin. Webster: Grip is tremendous. Its steering is extremely fast, as in many race cars (see Steering Response chart). This combination unnerved some drivers who found it a little too touchy on the narrow, bumpy, undulating Ohio roads.

Once we learned its moves, though, the Viper s righteous handling poked through. Webster: Holy smokes! It took a while to trust the grip and strong brakes. This thing corners like it s on rails. Csere: Despite its lofty grip, it breaks away smoothly and predictably, at either end depending on when you press the throttle. It was stable, too. There s little or no steering correction required on over-the-hill curves and depressions, noted Schroeder.
Although the cockpit was tight, most drivers found the seat supportive, but there was no place for the driver s left foot, let alone a dead pedal.

What we learned at Nelson Ledges applied on the road. Schroeder: It must be aimed properly, and the throttle and the brakes must be carefully applied. Do it all smoothly, and you can cover ground very quickly.
It takes an expert driver to get the most out of the Viper, and this car s race-car- quick steering and grip can make it tricky on the road. We gave it an overall handling rating of 91, for a fifth-place finish.

Toyota Supra Turbo
Handles best when pushed hard.

The current Supra, which has been around since 1993, finished in third place behind the Corvette and the M3 in the most recent comparison test in which it was entered (C/D, August 1997). When just handling is considered, though, the older Supra fares much better.
The staff was split on this car. About the only thing we could all agree on was the Supra s astonishing poise. It felt neutral and sufficiently damped in every corner, hump, and depression. Neither spikes of power from the turbos nor injudicious brake applications could fluster it. Webster: Well planted, secure. It digs in everywhere. Csere: Inspires great confidence with its planted stance and impressive grip. I can t unsettle this car.

The consensus was lost over the steering. For some drivers, its light, connected feel at higher speeds disappeared when we had to drive slower. Steering feels dull at low speeds, wrote Schroeder. I don t feel like I m entirely connected to this car. Many drivers liked the seat, but it was hard to see the fenders over the high cowl. Some drivers got lost in the six-speed s vague shift gate. This was a controversial finisher, too. Impressive stability apparently doesn t cut it for all the editors. The Supra scored at the top of some editors rankings and near the bottom of others . A 92 average placed the Supra Turbo in fourth.
Acura NSX-T

Suave, cool, sometimes just a wee bit restless.
Exotic performance and user-friendliness used to be mutually exclusive terms. The NSX changed that when it appeared seven years ago. It was a culmination of all Honda had learned about handling at the time. Even today, it s clear that Honda has learned plenty.

Imagine a handling computer that translates every input into a smooth out-come. That s the NSX. The steering bends calmly into each turn. Cornering lines seem set in stone, requiring little or no correction. Sticks, tracks perfectly, sends clear messages to the driver, wrote Spence. Bumps are dispatched efficiently. Berg: Settles so smoothly after a jolt. The cockpit is similarly sophisticated. Csere: Location of the wheel, shifter, and dead pedal couldn t be better. Everyone liked the driver s seat. Webster: I left the Supra thinking it was comfy. Now, after a stint in the NSX, the Supra feels like my office chair.

All computers have bugs, though. In tighter turns, the NSX s steering seemed a bit too heavy. Some drivers found its body roll disconcerting. Seems to roll first, then change direction, noted Webster. Even though the rear end gives ample warning when it s losing traction, the body roll suggested otherwise to some drivers. The F355, a car with a similar layout, sent no such signals to the driver and was more confidence inspiring.

Which is likely why it scored ahead of the third-place Acura.
Ferrari F355

Effervescent and engaging, with a few personality quirks.
The F355 resembles the NSX in more than chassis layout or even (on our test cars) paint color. Both cars have decisive, sensitive steering and a rear weight bias that offers oversteer on demand to help you around a corner.

The Ferrari engages the driver more than the NSX, however. The steering turns in more eagerly than the NSX s and hangs on well. Csere: Doesn t give tons of feed-back, but it gives the F355 an incredibly active and lively feel. This car wants to bend into corners. You sit very low in the F355 and feel a more intimate connection with the road beneath. The brakes can be felt working through the steering. They rub out speed effortlessly.
Dynamically, the F355 certainly feels like a mid-engined car. There s a sense of substantial mass, low and just behind the driver s back, that the rest of the car seems to rotate around. Body roll is limited and grip feels substantial, yet controllable oversteer is available to assist you in each turn. Smith: Much more confidence-inspiring than the NSX.

Three issues slightly tarnish this other- wise sparkling handler. The cockpit has hints of the annoying legs-splayed-out, classic Italian driving position. The gated shifter a Ferrari trademark must be forced if you want to shift as quickly as in the other cars. Finally, the throttle sticks aggravatingly just off idle, making smooth power transitions off and on the throttle next to impossible. Its abruptness ruins an otherwise faultlessly smooth chassis, Schroeder lamented. Were it not for these niggles, the F355 s engaging manner might have secured it the No. 1 handling spot.
BMW M3
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A flawless handler.
BMW s M3 is one of the least-expensive cars in this group. It s also the tallest and narrowest car and has the most-usable rear seat. Its first-place finish proves that superb handling does not require exotic-car packaging or exotic-car prices.

The M3 s cockpit works naturally. The driver s seat offers a commanding view of the road and the hood s corners. Hands fall instinctively to the steering wheel and shifter, as do feet to the pedals. Heel-and-toeing is possible, and a dead pedal is included. An adjustable steering wheel would have been nice, as well as more lateral support, but these issues didn t get in the way of our adoration.
The M3 possesses uncanny roadgoing ability. This is the most-agile car here. The steering eagerly bites into corners and is alive with feel. Constantly talking to my fingers, wrote Csere. It latches onto a line in corners as if on a mission from God. Webster: Rolls gracefully into curves at a constant rate and goes right where you point it.

The M3 covers for you. The suspension shrugs off bumps, swells, and off-camber depressions without upsetting the line. Not once did any driver cross it up. Smith: Overcooked a corner, and the BMW s forgiving nature made it interesting rather than scary. Even at the hairy edge of traction, the M3 is accepting of further driver input, which builds tremendous confidence. Unlike the NSX, the Viper, or even the F355, you feel free to explore the M3 s limits without fear that something awful awaits if you miscalculate.

The M3 is like one of those mules that pull tour duty in the Grand Canyon, year after year: It isn t capable of a misstep. This car lets you seek out its limits quicker and more confidently than any of the other cars here. If that doesn t make for a winning handler, we don t know what does.

The Answer
So, what s the best-handling car at any price? Is it the less-than-$30,000 handling winner, the Prelude SH, or the more-than-$ 30,000 M3? Bringing the Prelude along allowed a back-to-back comparison.

From the start, it looked like a long road for the front-wheel-drive Prelude. The M3 s rear-wheel drive spreads out tire loads more evenly. The M3 also has larger tires than the Honda, with a larger foot-print. The Prelude SH is $17,006 cheaper than the M3, but at least the BMW s victory proved that price and handling don t go hand in hand.
The Prelude put up an admirable fight at the test track, beating two of the pricier eight cars in the accelerating slalom and one of the eight in the decelerating slalom. With a 66.4-mph speed, it nipped the Corvette in the emergency lane change. The M3 was faster, though, in all of those tests. With 0.86 g of grip, the Honda pulled ahead of the BMW s 0.85 g on the bumpy skidpad, and it matched the BMW s 0.89 g when the pavement was smooth. With only 195 horsepower, we weren t surprised when the Prelude lapped Nelson Ledges the slowest of all. Its 84.7-mph average speed was 3.5 mph slower than the BMW. At least the Prelude s torque-transfer system was working on the track this time (see sidebar).

So far, not so good. The Prelude had to pull ahead on the road. As we found months earlier in California, the Prelude s steering was responsive and crisp and unflustered by bumps. The chassis demonstrated ample stability, too, and the suspension was forgiving.
Still, the Prelude couldn t help revealing its humbler roots. Its body shuddered in response to some hard bumps, when the stiff M3 merely registered them audibly. You can feel the torque-transfer system helping to point the front end, but it occasionally stepped in abruptly, nosing the Prelude in a slightly different direction and requiring a correction.

The most significant hindrance was the Prelude s front-wheel drive. Two front wheels can only do so much: I m always trying to plant the front wheels by shifting weight forward, attacking corners by unloading the engine, wrote Berg. No such ministrations were required in the BMW.
When the votes were tallied, the Prelude SH racked up a very respectable 91 points, tying with the Dodge Viper GTS. It s an eight-horn salute to the BMW M3 as the best-handling car.

A Torque-Trasfer System Pays Dividends for Prelude
During a press event last spring, Honda PR man Andy Boyd casually mentioned this: At the Tochigi proving ground s 1.6-mile handling track, Preludes with Honda s Active Torque Transfer System (ATTS) run the course two seconds faster than Preludes without the system.

Right off the bat, my skeptic s bullometer went into alert mode. Two seconds is a huge improvement on a short track, and besides, during street drives of ATTS Preludes, I hadn t warmed up to the system. I could sense it was working by its effect on steering feel, but I didn t think it would improve performance significantly.
The aim of ATTS is to keep the car on the driver s intended path by directing up to 80 percent of the driving torque to one of the two front wheels (see Technical Highlights, November 1996). Unlike other brake-operated skid-control systems, however, ATTS can be felt readily during normal driving.

On the street, I found myself constantly having to unwind the steering wheel quicker than I d expected as the system kicked in and compensated for understeer. But who knows? Maybe I would grow to appreciate the system on the track. So, with stopwatch in hand, I headed to the 1.7-mile handling loop at Chrysler s proving grounds in Chelsea, Michigan. Disabling the ATTS is just a pull of a fuse away, so by taking lap times with the system on and off, I could easily determine if Andy s claim were true.
After several familiarization laps, I managed to record a best time of 1:21.58 with the system off. It took me exactly one lap with the system on to better that time. A few laps later, my time had dropped almost a full second, to 1:20.66 roughly half the improve-ment claimed by Honda s pro drivers.

On the track, the unnatural un-winding I had experienced on the street disappeared. The long, sweeping power-on turns of Chrysler s handling loop were perfectly suited to ATTS. I could carry more speed through the sweeping curves without drifting wide. In short, ATTS worked on the track.
But that doesn t mean I grew to like ATTS on the street. And if one could get the Prelude SH, with its more-aggressive- than-base-Prelude suspension, without the system, that would be the hot ticket. For now, just pull the fuse until you re ready to turn some hot laps.

Larry Webster
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Old 04-11-2013, 06:15 AM
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Re: -Prelude SH Article- Car and Driver: Best Car for 30,000

Thanx for sharing this.
Nice read.
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welcome to site Carl
...is a golden car fax kinda like a golden ticket? Sure hope willy wonka didn't put any snozberries in your motor.
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Only seen the first one, 15 years ago in theaters. Plan on keeping it that way. Get off my lawn.
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I remember my first thread, asking what a noise was when I got going 110mph.
Pretty much got flamed for driving like a jackass and was told to slow down. And I'll be damned, slowing down fixed it.

God's Not Dead
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Old 04-11-2013, 09:06 PM
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Re: -Prelude SH Article- Car and Driver: Best Car for 30,000

no problem, i just hope someone sees this and can come up with the pdf version.. this is will do for the moment...
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Old 04-14-2013, 10:54 AM
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Re: -Prelude SH Article- Car and Driver: Best Car for 30,000

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&sourc...8ysyzXmz3VLB0w

This?^^^

How 'bout the motor trend article? vvv

http://www.ntpog.org/articles/magazines/97prelsh.pdf

Don't click the link unless you want to download them. Automatically begins when you click it.
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Originally Posted by ogsmakdade View Post
welcome to site Carl
...is a golden car fax kinda like a golden ticket? Sure hope willy wonka didn't put any snozberries in your motor.
Quote:
Originally Posted by elspectro29 View Post
Only seen the first one, 15 years ago in theaters. Plan on keeping it that way. Get off my lawn.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lindso View Post
I remember my first thread, asking what a noise was when I got going 110mph.
Pretty much got flamed for driving like a jackass and was told to slow down. And I'll be damned, slowing down fixed it.

God's Not Dead

Last edited by bykfixer; 04-14-2013 at 11:09 AM.
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