After months of teasing plans to launch its first long-range battery-electric vehicle, Honda finally provided a first clear look at the design of the new Prologue SUV it plans to launch in 2024.
The Japanese automaker described the styling as “Neo-Rugged,” suggesting the SUV will be “ready for adventure inside and outside the city limits.”
“Our goal was to create a clean harmony based on a rugged SUV image by coordinating the colors and materials to express neo-rugged design styling that’s familiar to our customers and uniquely Honda,” said Masaki Sumimoto, design lead for the Color, Materials and Finish.
By the numbers
Measuring 192 inches from nose-to-tail, with a 121.8-inch wheelbase, the Honda Prologue EV will slot between the gas-powered CR-V and Passport models. It stands 64.7 inches tall, with a width of 78.3 inches. The automaker isn’t providing interior specs but claims the electric SUV will provide “generous passenger and cargo space.”
The images released Thursday reveal a shorter nose than on Honda models using internal combustion engines. Since there’s no engine under the hood, key drivetrain components like batteries and motors are moved into a skateboard-like platform. That appears to have freed up extra space for the interior. And Prologue should also yield a flat load floor.
Designed at the Honda Design Studio in Los Angeles, Prologue’s overall shape is more aerodynamic than current Honda SUVs. That’s a critical element of EV design, as reducing aerodynamic drag translates into increased range, as well as improved performance.
While Honda hasn’t revealed whether Prologue will feature a “frunk,” or front trunk, the lack of an engine means designers were able to completely seal off what would have been a traditional grille — though they did add some texture to that front panel to give it a more distinctive look. LED strips frame the front panel, though Honda opted against giving the SUV a complete light bar across the nose, something that has become a cliché in the EV segment.
Twin openings feed “air curtains” to help reduce turbulence around the front wheels. And a modest-sized grille below the bumper will gulp air to keep the SUV’s motors and battery pack cool.
There’s a subtle sculpting to the door panels, with Prologue’s charge port mounted on the driver’s front quarter panel. Surprisingly, the door handles are not the wind-cheating pop-out type found on many current EVs. The roof has a subtly coupe-like rake, with a built-in rear spoiler. And the SUV features a large panoramic roof. It rides on 21-inch wheels with six turbine-like blades.
In an unusual move, Honda decided to forego the familiar “H-mark” logo on the back end — though it’s retained on the nose. Spelling out its brand name, the automaker explained, “captures the modern and clean design of the Prologue.”
A familiar interior — with a high-tech touch
Slip inside and the Prologue’s cabin won’t come as a shock to Honda loyalists. The cabin has a light and airy look finished in an “exclusive” charcoal and light gray palette.
The instrument panel features a horizontal layout picking up on the brand’s current interior design language. But it takes on a bit more of a high-tech feel with a digital gauge cluster and an even larger infotainment screen. The touchscreen controls most vehicle functions, though there are a smattering of conventional controls, including a volume knob and climate control buttons and knobs.
While not confirmed, it’s expected that Prologue’s infotainment system will feature unique apps and functions, including the ability to pre-condition the cabin on hot or cold days, and to locate charging stations when using the navigation system.
Turning to GM for help
While the goal might be to give the Honda Prologue a unique look, the underlying platform and drivetrain technology are borrowed from General Motors. As part of a joint venture, the Detroit automaker has worked with Honda on two all-electric SUVs, including both Prologue and a more upscale offering that also will be released in 2024 by the upscale Acura brand.
GM will not only assemble the two models but provide the underlying Ultium “architecture,” electrical system and battery technology.
Honda has said virtually nothing about the drivetrain layout in either of its two upcoming SUVs. However, based on GM’s own models, Prologue is likely to be offered in multiple configurations. In an unusual move, the Chevrolet Blazer will be offered with a choice of front, rear or all-wheel-drive. GM has generally been targeting a range reaching around 300 miles with its first Ultium-based EVs, though that varies depending upon drivetrain layout and performance specs.
“Launching our first volume BEV in 2024 is the start of an exciting new direction for Honda,” Dave Gardner, executive vice president of National Operations at American Honda, said in a statement released last month.
Modest production plans
The partnership with GM offers several potential advantages. It helps Honda get into the EV market sooner than it could have on its own. The Japanese automaker’s in-house e:Architecture platform is not expected to be ready until later this decade. And, with the Prologue to be built in the U.S. using domestically sourced batteries, Honda could become eligible for the revised EV incentive program included in the recent Inflation Reduction Act.
The automaker last month announced relatively modest targets for Prologue, about 70,000 a year once production is fully ramped up. It’s unclear if that number was limited by GM’s available production capacity. But the automaker’s long-term goals are more substantial.
“We are working with our dealers to plan the transition from sales of primarily gasoline-powered vehicles to selling 100% electric vehicles by 2040,” said Gardner.
While Honda plans to bring out its own EV platform, it expects to continue working with GM to jointly develop a line-up of low-priced models that could help narrow the cost gap between today’s models and conventional gas-powered vehicles. The partners have not announced a firm timeframe for kicking off that program.