The Porsche GT3 may have four-wheel steering, but so did this 1989 Honda Prelude Si

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The thought of four-wheel steering likely conjures images of fast European machines – Porsche 911s and Bentley Flying Spurs and such – but those who grew up on ’80s and ’90s imports will tell you that rear-steer assist wasn’t always relegated to the luxury domain. The Honda Prelude Si 4WS, such as this one for sale on Cars & Bids, was one such example. 

Sure, it might be a beige (strictly speaking, it’s actually gold), front-wheel-drive Japanese coupe with an automatic transmission, but it’s a relatively pristine example of the engineering that helped Honda’s relatively simple Civic and Accord platforms thrive in the post-emissions era of 1980s transportation. Its 2.0-liter B-series engine only made about 135 horsepower, but thanks to its compact footprint and 1980s-grade steel unibody, it only had about 2,500 pounds to move around. With its high-performance tires, this gave it a serious edge in handling. The 1987 Prelude Si famously knocked off several high-profile sports cars in a Road & Track slalom test. 

At the time, four-wheel (aka rear-wheel) steering was a bit of a fad. Honda and Mazda both dabbled in mass-produced, front-wheel drive cars with rear-end steering systems. The Mazda 626 Turbo, which also foreshadowed the current crop of fastback sedans, was Hiroshima’s entry into the space. Nissan’s HICAS system was offered on the 240SX/Silvia, 300ZX and various iterations of the Skyline (and its Infiniti equivalents, where applicable). 

The most ambitious application of four-wheel steering was probably GM’s Quadrasteer, which was intended not as a performance enhancer but as a solution for improving the low-speed maneuvering of its full-size trucks by steering the rear end around tight corners. It was an expensive (~$2,000) and complicated solution that was ultimately discontinued in 2006, but a recent Ford patent suggests we could see the idea return. We’ve already seen the flexibility afforded by electric powertrains in this regard. 

While R&T‘s conclusion that “4ws will be an accepted commonplace feature, as fuel injection, radial tires and, to a lesser extent, ABS brakes” may have the whiff of sour dairy about it, the re-emergence of the feature in high-end luxury cars and the shift toward electric motors might just prove them right yet. 

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