Honda S2000 Review

The Honda S2000 is a two-seat roadster that features a high-performance, high-winding inline four-cylinder engine along with a superbly balanced chassis. Introduced for the 2000 model year, the S2000 was the first sports car to roll out of a Honda factory since the tiny S500, S600 and S800 roadsters of the 1960s.

2008 Honda S2000 Convertible

With minimalist cockpit comforts and a racetrack-ready suspension, the Honda S2000 is a pure sports car. More powerful than the less expensive Miata yet not as pricey or luxurious as a Z4 or SLK, the S2000 occupies a niche within a niche. Quick and communicative steering, an ideal 49/51 weight distribution and an engine that loves to rev coupled with a slick six-speed gearbox promise a lot of fun for the serious driving enthusiast.

There is only one version of the Honda S2000 roadster. Notable hardware includes a feisty inline four with an 8,200-rpm redline coupled to a short-throw six-speed manual gearbox. Without resorting to forced induction (turbo- or supercharging), this jewel of an engine utilizes Honda's variable valve timing and lift system (VTEC) to squeeze 237 horsepower out of just 2.2 liters. No automatic transmission is available.

Standard features include a power-operated top with a glass rear window (with defroster), lightweight 17-inch wheels, leather seats, keyless entry, air conditioning, an eight-speaker CD audio system, stability control and HID headlights. A lightweight (44 pounds) aluminum hardtop is optional. As expected, the S2000 retains strong Honda attributes such as sound ergonomics and comfortable, supportive seats with enough adjustment to make short and tall pilots alike a good fit.

As with prior S2000s, the current version speaks loudly to the enthusiast. With its finely balanced chassis, quick and communicative steering, eager-to-spin engine and flickable shifter, the S2000 makes short work of twisty roads as it slices through and then slingshots out of the corners.

Debuting in 2000, the Honda S2000 started life with a 2.0-liter inline four that redlined at 9,000 rpm. With 240 horsepower, it put out more horsepower per liter than any other naturally aspirated engine on the planet. Although it provided a thrilling ride when driven aggressively, our editors did find some faults. Among the more notable ones were a lack of low-end torque that made the S2000 a bit flat-footed around town, a sometimes persnickety shifter, a weak audio system and a plastic rear window.

Honda gradually made upgrades to the S2000. For 2002 the company amped up the radio, added a glass rear window with a defogger and even smoothed out the short-throw shifter. Some styling changes took place as well, with chrome rings added to the taillights, a new shift knob and a few pieces of well-placed silver trim in the cockpit. The lightweight aluminum hardtop became optional, a blessing (albeit a pricey one at $3,000) for those who live in areas where inclement weather is a part of life.

The year 2004 saw improvements that made the Honda S2000 more of a viable choice as a daily driver. A slight increase in engine displacement (from 2.0 to 2.2 liters) provided more power at lower rpm. Peak torque went up to 161 pound-feet (up from 153) and that peak occurred at a friendlier 6,500 rpm instead of 7,500 rpm. The redline dropped to a still heady 8,200 rpm. Combined with shorter gearing in the six-speed's lower four gears, this all translated into an S2000 that had more snap at lower engine speeds for dealing with the daily slog to work and dicing through urban traffic. Larger tires (215/45R17s vs. 205/55R16s up front and 245/40R17s vs 225/50R16s out back) were fitted, as were minor suspension tweaks designed to make the ultrareactive S2000 more forgiving of less-than-expert drivers.


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