Honda S2000 Review
Naming a sports car an "S2000" was not an auspicious start for Honda's open-top pocket rocket. It probably sounded way cool at the time, but it's SO four years ago. And yet the little roadster still has its supporters. Earlier this year, Car and Driver magazine included the Honda in their "10 Best Cars", calling it "pure and involving". Me, I call it old and aggravating.
To be sure, the S2000 looks the biz. While I preferred the original car's angular front, Honda's designers nailed the basic shape. It's aggressive, in an elegantly restrained sort of way. In the right color, in the right light, the S2000 sings a siren song to lure even the most Euro-centric enthusiast into its cabin. And then… Cue the Psycho shower scene violins. My God, is the S2000's cockpit a nasty place to spend your time. I'm not against– nor a stranger to– cheap and cheerful car interiors. The S2000 is neither. Admission starts at $32k, and the cockpit is an ergonomic and aesthetic disaster zone.
The S2000's cabin is small in every conceivable direction. Pop the top and you trade one problem for another; the metal roof catches rattle incessantly, just inches behind your head. That's after you press the starter button– on a four-cylinder engine? If only the rest of the switchgear lived up to the supercar pretensions. The S2000's rotary dials and cheap plastic switches wouldn't seem out of place in a '78 Toyota Corolla.
The sound system is particularly lame. Buyers intent on stunting and flossing, or determined to listen to a CD at highway speeds, will note that the S2000's four-speaker ICE has all the fidelity and bass response of a shower radio. Sensibly enough, Honda decided to hide the head unit behind a piece of metal effect plastic (a substance about as convincing as wood-grained polymer). Why they decided to mount a duplicate set of audio controls on the dash is anybody's guess– unless most Honda drivers are left-handed.
OK, so, here's the perceived wisdom on the S2000: its motorcycle-derived VTEC (Valve Timing and lift Electronic Control) technology creates a dual personality two-seater. Keep the revs low, and you can trundle around town like a myopic Accord driver. Blast the 2157cc engine to its 8000rpms redline, and look out Dale Earnhardt Jr., here I come! The Honda's zero to sixty sprint time of 5.4 seconds seems to confirm the theory.
The reality is more complex. It's certainly true that there's not a lot going on below 3000rpms. In fact, there's nothing going on below 3000rpms. If you don't mind driving down the mean streets of your local metropolis in an accelerative dead zone, then fine, it's a wonderful city car. On the other hand, there's a brief bit of well-mannered urge sheltering between 3 – 5000rpms. Keep the S2000's engine on the boil in that narrow power band and you can make perfectly placid progress, with a pleasant oomph aftertaste.
Above 5000rpms, well, that's a different story. I suppose the general idea is to hang on until 5850rpms, when the high-lift long duration cams come on song, then cane it to the 8000rpm redline. Two problems. One, the S2000's engine note lacks character, texture or tonality. And what it lacks it aural appeal, it makes up for with sheer volume. I reckon only a stone deaf driver could withstand the brutal din coming from the S2000's engine at full chat. North Korea uses less effective torture devices. Two, we're not talking about a nitrous-injection power boost. The additional hearing damage yields roughly 10% more go. So why bother? Shift at five and change and you're straight back into the meat of the powerband. Excluding a reverse gear that likes to play hide-and-seek, the S2000's six-speed gearbox offers nothing but quick slick shifts. So you can continue forward thrust without delay or diminution or waking every baby within two miles of your dual exhausts.
Anyway, no matter how you generate your speed, the S2000 rewards your efforts. The RWD roadster is 'front mid-engined' with a compact double wishbone suspension and 16" Bridgestones. It corners with minimal body roll, prodigious grip and tremendous feedback. Aided by an electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system, the S2000 slices through corners with consummate ease, flick flacking like a sports bike. The previous model's tendency to swap ends in extreme situations has been replaced with at-the-limit understeer. Which is just as well, considering how easy it is to approach those limits.
If Honda upgraded the S2000's cabin and sonically tuned the engine, the Nipponese convertible would be an irresistible alternative to its newer, fresher challengers. As it is, the S2000 is a great car that constantly screams for forgiveness.
Latest Car ReviewsRead more
Latest Product ReviewsRead more
- Statikboy Those tires are the Wrong Size.
- Mustangfast I had an 06 V6 and loved that car. 230k trouble free miles until I sold it. I remember they were criticized for being too small vs competitors but as a single guy it was the right size for me. I recall the 2.3 didn’t have a reputation for reliability, unlike the V6 and I4. I think it likely didn’t take off due to the manual-only spec, price tag, and power vs the V6 engine and the way it delivered that power. It was always fun to see the difference between these and normal ones, since these were made in Japan whereas all others were flat rock
- VoGhost Earth is healing.
- ToolGuy "Having our 4th baby and decided a camper van is a better use of our resources than my tuner."Seller is in the midst of some interesting life choices.Bonus: Here are the individuals responsible for doing the work on this vehicle.
- MaintenanceCosts Previous owner playing engineer by randomly substituting a bunch of components, then finding out. No thanks.