The most famous Honda VTEC fours can be found in
Civics, Integras and S2000s. But what about the Prelude and its similarly sized
cousins found in the Japanese market? These vehicles can be bought with H-series
2.2 or 2.3-litre VTEC engines (the biggest VTEC fours ever made) and they’re s-o
underrated it’s not funny.
We take a look at the ‘big block’ Honda
Honda H-Series Engines
The first application for the H-series
four-cylinder was in the nose of the Japanese market Honda Prelude Si VTEC of
Using a 87mm bore and 90.7mm stroke,
the BB1/BB4 Prelude’s H22A engine displaces a total of 2156cc. The engine is
equipped with a DOHC, four-valve-per-cylinder head with PGM-FI multi-point
injection system and a distributor ignition system. But more important is the
VTEC variable valve timing and lift system that lets the engine produce
great top-end power – try 147kW at 6800 rpm and 219Nm at 5500 rpm. The
compression ratio of the VTEC H22A is set to 10.6:1 which requires the use of
premium unleaded fuel.
The H-series engine is designed for
transverse mounting and, in the Prelude, is available with either a five-speed
manual gearbox or a four-speed auto. Drive is to the front wheels.
In 1992, the same engine design was
re-released to incorporate a 95mm stroke - this increases swept capacity to
2258cc (2.3-litre). Unfortunately, the newly created H23A engine doesn’t get
VTEC breathing and employs a lower compression ratio (9.8:1). Despite its
slightly increased capacity, the H23A trails the output of the VTEC H22A by a
considerable margin - peak power is 121kW and there's 211Nm of torque. Note that
these figures are achieved at much lower revs – 5800 and 4500 rpm respectively.
This engine comes fitted to the top-of-the-range Japanese market CC4/CC5 Ascot
Innova hardtop sedan. Most are fitted with automatic transmissions.
In Australia, the H-series engine was
first seen in Prelude of late 1991. However, unlike Japanese models, the first
examples were sold with the non-VTEC H23A (as used Ascot Innova). In Australian
guise, the H23A is rated at 118kW at 5800 rpm and 209Nm at 4500 rpm. A 96kW
2.2-litre F22A was also introduced in the base model – this is not to be
confused with the more powerful H-series! The Australian market had to wait
until 1994 to receive the muscular VTEC H22A. With 142kW at 6800 rpm and 212Nm
at 5250 rpm on local premium unleaded fuel, the 1300+ kilogram VTEC equipped
Prelude VTi-R can accelerate to 100 km/h in 8-seconds.
In Japan during 1993, the VTEC H22A
made an appearance in a second vehicle - the high performance version of the CD6
Honda Accord Si-R. The Accord Si-R engine has the same specs as the go-fast
Prelude but output is reduced slightly to 140kW/206Nm. This is possibly due to a
more restrictive exhaust system. Like the Prelude, five-speed manuals or
four-speed autos are available. Interestingly, an auto-only coupe version of the
Accord Si-R was also introduced during 1994 and a wagon Si-R model appeared in
1996 (chassis codes CD8 and CF2 respectively).
The updated BB6 Prelude Si-R appeared
for the 1997 model year bringing an optional sports-shift auto trans and Honda’s
ATTS (Active Torque Transfer System) but, curiously, it appears Japanese
versions have no extra power.
In contrast, the 1997 Australian-delivered Prelude
underwent significant changes. The non-VTEC H23A was dropped and a revised 118kW
F22A engine was used in its place. The existing VTEC H22A was updated with a new
open-deck block, fibre reinforced metal cylinder liners (achieving better heat
dispersion and reduced weight), full floating pistons, an aluminium oil pan and
improved intake and exhaust flow. These changes raised output to 143kW (a 1kW
gain over the previous generation Australian-spec H22A). An update in late ’98
lifted power further to 147kW. Like Japanese models, a sports-shift auto and
ATTS could be specified in the Prelude from 1997.
The biggest development during 1997 was
release of the Japanese market Prelude Si-R Type S. The Type S has a hotter
version of the VTEC H22A incorporating a 11:1 compression pistons, a ported
head, larger throttle body, altered cams and VTEC characteristics, a low
restriction intake system and improved headers/exhaust. These changes achieve
some healthy gains – 162kW at 7200 rpm and 221Nm at 6700 rpm. The same engine
was then released in the 2000 ‘new generation’ GH-CL Honda Accord Euro R and
2000 Torneo Euro R. We believe the Prelude Si-R Type S, Accord Euro R and Torneo
Euro R come with only a five-speed manual ‘box. A red valve cover identifies
these high-spec engines.
About now you may be wondering whether
the long-stroke H23A can be combined with VTEC variable valve lift and timing.
Well, the Japanese market Honda Accord wagon Si-R of 1999 (chassis code CH9)
proves it can be done...
The ’99 Accord wagon Si-R packs a VTEC
H23A engine with a relatively mild tune and a 10.6:1 compression ratio (0.4
lower than used in the Prelude Si-R Type S). Somewhat disappointingly, the VTEC
H23A makes hardly any more grunt than the original VTEC H22A - 147kW at 6800 rpm
and 221Nm at 5300 rpm. A four-speed sports-shift automatic transmission comes
standard and an AWD driveline was available from 2000 (CL2 chassis code).
Interestingly, the H-series four was
never used in anything other than the Prelude, Accord, Ascot Innova and Torneo
Euro R. Production ended when the K-series four appeared in 2002. It’s difficult
to understand why the H-series VTEC engines – the biggest of all Honda VTEC
fours – are largely underrated. They have proven very reliable (early ‘90s
Prelude VTi-Rs are still going strong) and they’re one of the ultimate atmo
fours on the market. From a tuning perspectively, it’s unlikely you’ll find much
more power with conventional tuning methods – maybe 10 percent – so it’s you’ll
need to add forced induction or a multi-stage nitrous kit to give these engines
a significant boost throughout the rev range. Fortunately, it’s never been
cheaper or easier to add a turbo...
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