FARMINGTON HILLS, MI – Honda began its electrification strategy 24 years ago with the first hybrid on the market, the Insight, in 1999. But it quicky lost leadership to Toyota. Arguably a little late to the battery-electric-vehicle market with the Prologue, which begins deliveries early next year, the company is hoping to start dominating in the BEV era.
There is one catch, of course. Honda, often considered one of the best engine builders in the world, is beginning the era with two vehicles built on General Motors’ Ultium electric-vehicle platform. Hence, perhaps, the name “prologue,” as in the vehicle they bring to market before they write their own chapters with their own hardware and software.
Looking similar to the company’s Acura ZDX BEV, which will launch about the same time as the Prologue [Check out the WardsAuto Podcast here where we discuss the ZDX], Honda has tried to differentiate the two vehicles as much as possible. Indeed, Chief Engineer John Hwang, who also served the same role on the Acura ZDX, says the two do not share any body panels. And while the proportions seem identical, the ZDX is a rear-wheel setup, while the Prologue is a front-driver. And the ZDX’s range tops out at 325 miles (523 km) by means of a larger battery pack, while the Prologue’s maximum range is 300 miles (482 km).
GM’s Ultium is a joint venture between GM and LG Energy Solution. Honda, too, has a partnership with LG, but its $4.4 billion battery plant won’t be running until 2025. By partnering with GM, the Prologue and ZDX will qualify for the federal $7,500 tax credit for buyers because vehicles must have U.S.-sourced batteries to qualify for the credit.
GM already uses the Ultium platform for its Hummer EV, Cadillac Lyriq, Chevy Equinox EV, Silverado EV and Blazer EV. The Honda/Acura pair are the first vehicles outside of GM to use Ultium.
To make the Prologue feel and drive like a Honda, the Japanese automaker sent a squad of engineers to the Detroit area where they worked on the Prologue with GM engineers at GM’s Tech Center.
The Prologue’s front-drive layout was an early decision, says Hwang, because Honda owners are accustomed to FWD dynamics. The engineering team worked on unique suspension and damping to keep it consistent with other Honda vehicles.
Honda will offer Prologue in both single-motor FWD and dual-motor all-wheel-drive configurations with three trim levels – EX, Touring and Elite. The dual-motor arrangement generates an estimated 288 hp and 333 lb.-ft. (452 Nm) of torque. Ratings for the FWD version will come closer to launch.
Key Prologue Features:
- Standard 11-in. (28-cm) digital instrument display and standard 11.3-in. (28.7-cm) HD touchscreen with Google built-in, plus wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
- Standard Honda Sensing system, plus updated versions of Rear Cross Traffic Braking, Blind Zone Steering Assist and Rear Pedestrian Alert.
- Two-tiered center console with a flexible multi-use tray, enabling driver and front seat passenger to sit two smartphones side-by-side.
- Standard pocket-type wireless smartphone charger.
- In the EX trim, 25.2 cu.-ft. (713.5 L) of cargo space behind the rear seats, enough for three golf bags lying flat on the cargo floor. With the standard 60/40-split rear seatbacks folded flat, the cargo space expands to 57.7 cu.-ft. (1,634 L) of space.
- Hidden space under the cargo area floor adds another 0.8 cu.-ft. (22.6 L).
- A power tailgate with hands-free access is standard on Touring and Elite.
The exterior design/silhouette is reminiscent of the Subaru Outback, an approach Honda calls “neo-rugged.”
The Prologue and ZDX enter a market segment that is practically white space for BEVs for now — a good-sized, five-passenger CUV with plenty of utility space. Indeed, Prologue has the longest wheelbase in its class, 121.8 in. (2,093.7 mm), positioning the CUV alongside the Passport in Honda’s light-truck lineup. The BEV is about 8ins. (203.2 mm) longer and 5ins. (127 mm) wider than the CR-V.
The Prologue’s interior features touchscreen controls for the usual array of media and HVAC features, but the vehicle team chose to fit the vehicle with redundant knobs and switches, including a big volume knob for the Bose audio system.
The Prologue is the first Honda CUV with Google built-in, which debuted on the ’23 Accord Touring sedan and is standard on all Prologue trims. It includes apps such as Google Assistant, Google Maps and more on Google Play.
Google Maps can be displayed on either the touchscreen or instrument cluster, providing sophisticated route planning with recommended charging stations to optimize travel time. Google Maps can also estimate the charging time required to reach the destination and can initiate preconditioning of the battery when the destination is a DC fast-charging station. Battery preconditioning can reduce charge times.
Prologue’s 85-kWh lithium-ion battery pack can recharge to 65 miles (105 km) of range in about 10 minutes on DC fast charging at rates up to 155 kW.
Honda has long dabbled with hybrids since launching the Insight, with some of its efforts culminating in small fuel-economy gains, or odd designs. But the Prologue (as well as the Acura ZDX) shows the company means business this time when it comes to competing in the BEV market, and even against GM – which supplied it with the critical platform for this first effort.