2024 Honda Prologue Is a Cautious Invitation to Drive Electric

Honda didn’t want its first all-electric SUV to rely on “party tricks” to convince buyers.

The 2024 Honda Prologue in North Shore Pearl. The two-motor Elite AWD version produces 288 hp and 333 lb-ft (451 Nm). (Sebastian Blanco)

Despite the inherent potential of electric motors to offer blazing acceleration, Honda decided to smooth things out for its first serious all-electric vehicle for North America. During a recent test drive of the 2024 Honda Prologue, SAE Media found the midsize SUV to be a clean and spacious vehicle that doesn’t necessarily take full advantage of its electric powertrain. Honda believes this choice — and it was indeed a choice – will be key to convincing buyers to switch to a “We were looking for a more consistent [power] delivery,” Prologue development leader John Hwang told SAE Media. “We didn’t want to fall into that party trick mode. It’s the beginning of the EV transition for Honda. We wanted to make a car that was easy for a CR-V Hybrid owner or Accord Hybrid owner to switch to. We didn’t want to give them some shocking power delivery. We wanted something more consistent and something more natural feeling. It makes the transition easier.”

A two-tier center console provides more storage space near the footwells. (Honda)

The powertrain’s software-defined settings allowed Hwang’s team to give the Prologue a sport mode for a slight performance bump, with an emphasis on slight. He said the team’s main mission was to pay attention to how the vehicle drives instead of delivering hard acceleration.

“The dynamic tuning of the car was more of our focus for that Honda-ness,” he said. “That steering effort and the damper and spring tuning is what we focused on to give drivers that ‘real ’feeling when they turn the wheel.”

‘Real’ driving

The EX trims have the most rear cargo space in the 2024 Honda Prologue, offering 57.7 cu. ft. with the rear seats down. Other trims have 54.5 cu. ft. (Honda)

Driving through the hills around California’s Napa Valley, the Prologue’s realness came through. Quickness is not the Prologue’s strong suit. The $59,295, top-of-the-line Elite trim (price includes destination) uses a permanent-magnet traction motor and a single-speed transmission at each axle to provide AWD capability, with the twin motors combining to produce 288 hp and 333 lb-ft (451 Nm). Single-motor Prologue trims were not available to test, but they generate 212 hp and 236 lb.-ft. (320 Nm). All versions use multi-link front and rear suspensions. The modest output numbers, plus the inescapable weight of the vehicle’s battery and powertrain, meant the SUV consistently felt heavy but never cumbersome. No one will call the Prologue nimble, but it also wasn’t challenged by some slightly enthused driving through the forested curves. Honda’s mass-market audience will almost certainly approve.

The Prologue’s uncluttered interior feels spacious and has enough physical buttons to make most comfort adjustments easy to accomplish while driving. (Honda)

Honda released initial technical details for the 2024 Prologue last year, but the company didn’t get to decide all of those numbers itself. The Prologue was created with help from General Motors and uses that automaker’s Ultium platform as part of a co-development project announced in April 2020. Other Ultium-based vehicles include the Acura ZDX, GMC Hummer EV and Cadillac Lyriq.

“It was truly a collaboration,” Hwang said of the Prologue’s development. “When we started, both engineering teams talked about the concept of the car and the feeling or the performance we wanted. Then we shipped Honda cars to the GM Proving Grounds so we could drive together and experience that together so we had the same language.”

Ultium sped things up

Thin LED headlights stand out on the 2024 Honda Prologue. (Sebastian Blanco)

Hwang said Honda’s main benefit from using GM’s platform was that it reduced development time.

“The core of the collaboration is you have a state-of-the-art platform that’s already done, so you get that speed to market and you get something proven that we can go with,” he said. “That gave us more freedom to really focus on the aero, focus on the fit and finish or the execution of the interior materials instead of worrying about the platform.”

The Prologue’s interior shows the care Honda put into it. Spacious with clean lines, the cabin felt open and practical. There are no showy features, but most things are where you want them to be. One counterexample is the required deep dive into infotainment-screen menus to adjust the regenerative braking level.

Hwang, who also worked with GM engineers on the Cruise Origin autonomous-vehicle development project, said Honda dynamics engineers moved from Japan and Ohio to Michigan to be near the GM Proving Ground. While working on the damping system, for example, Hwang said, the Honda team was joined for weeks by GM dynamics engineers and engineers from the damper supplier.

“We were just driving, modifying, driving, modifying – iterating to get to that sweet spot of what we wanted,” he said. “It was a really collaborative effort.”

Honda Prologue development leader John Hwang. (Sebastian Blanco)

Hwang said one of the biggest difficulties working with GM was simply understanding the language each side was using. He said he created a decoder for himself as he learned GM processes, translating the different terms each side was using so everyone would know what was being talked about.

“Working with different organizations, seeing how they work, that’s kind of fun,” he said. “If you have that kind of an open mindset, you can enjoy it more. Because engineers, at the end of the day, are gonna figure it out. But some people who are not open to that kind of difference, because each company has their own ‘tribe’ and acronyms and ways, and then they struggle more.”

With the Prologue launching this spring, the co-development teams are getting ready to shrink a bit as work shifts to lifecycle en“After ’24 is fully launched, then the size [of the team] will reduce,” he said. “Then, in the lifecycle, you get the yearly updates, then you have a big one in the middle. At that time, we’ll ramp back up.”

The Prologue will be built at the GM Ramos Arizpe factory in Mexico. All versions use an 85 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that has an official range estimate of 273 miles (439 km) for the Elite trim and up to 296 miles (476 km) for the single-motor FWD versions. All trims and powertrains will be available at launch.