In the Honda/Acura empire, the Honda showrooms are usually stocked with practical, mass market machines like this Accord or the CRV mini-ute, with serious performance hardware, like the Integra Type-R and NSX supercar, reserved for the upscale Acura brand. But now Honda fans are getting a big dose of excitement of their own. It comes with two seats, a convertible top, and a 9,000-rpm redline. You know, suddenly Honda showrooms are looking a lot more interesting!
Of course, any new car showroom would be a lot more interesting with a machine like the 2000 Honda S2000 on the floor. An all-new-from-the-ground-up two-seat roadster, the S2000 is one of the most hotly anticipated cars in Honda’s history, but not its first real roadster. Honda has built several before, its most recent being the 1966 S800.
A lot has changed in thirty years, however, not least of all a roadster’s styling! From the front, like the SSM Show Car, the S2000 has a spare, shark-like look that puts the mild-mannered appearance of its predecessors firmly in the closet. Though the smooth, somewhat generic, Japanese tail could actually have come from any number of competitors.
The lines of the convertible power top, however, are very well integrated into the design. Though we don’t much care for the scratchable plastic rear window, but do like the ease of folding it. Just flip two latches and hit the switch.
But styling and a soft top are not the heart of the S2000’s appeal, the engine is! This 2.0-liter all-aluminum 4-cylinder jewel makes a stunning 240 horsepower and 153 pound/feet of torque, with the redline of a sky-high 9,000! For spec heads, that’s 120 horsepower per liter of displacement, more than any other non-boosted production motor.
Power peaking features include variable-valve-timing, individual ignition coils for each cylinder, fiber-reinforced-metal cylinder liners, forged aluminum pistons, and much more. And for fun, it all comes to life with a vintage starter button.
Power drives, very un-Honda like, to the rear wheels, through a close-ratio, 6-speed manual transmission, and 16-inch alloy wheels wearing low-profile Bridgestone tires. Launching it naturally requires plenty of revs. But off the line, the S2000 reaches 60 in 6.5 seconds and finishes the 1/4-mile in 14.9-seconds at 96 miles-per-hour.
Power is strongest above 6,000 rpm, requiring frequent use of the short throw yet fairly notchy shifter. This is a car that demands the driver’s full attention. And that means in corners as well as on straight-aways. The S2000 is built for handling on a rigid central backbone frame with extra diagonal braces supporting the front and rear suspension mounts, which anchor a compact double-wishbone suspension, similar to that used on the Acura NSX supercar. And which delivers flat, razor sharp handling on our test track. Turn-ins are lightning quick, each successive corner arriving almost before you know it.
Lateral grip is extraordinary, and behavior near neutral, while the trick electrically-assisted power steering provides fast, precise directional changes with surprisingly good feel. And the anti-lock equipped 4-wheel disc brakes haul it all down from 60 in an average distance of only 101 feet. Anti-lock noise was high, but stopping power and stability were top notch. On rougher street surfaces, however, our drivers reported that mid-corner bumps tend to upset the firm rear suspension.
Highway ride is quite comfortable for a compact roadster, though we did notice a few more squeaks and rattles than we normally expect from a Honda product. And the frantic engine note can become a bit tiresome if you’re not in the mood for a brisk pace. But then this is a pure sports car, not a grand tourer.
However, interior space for two is quite acceptable. The cockpit is also well organized, but we do miss not having a glove box.
Safety features include the usual front airbags, as well as rollover protection in the form of individual roll bars and a reinforced windshield frame. The seats themselves are supportive from all directions. A good thing in a car that handles like this one does.
The digital gauge cluster looks like it was taken straight from one of Honda’s Formula race cars, while the straightforward climate controls sit high and just to the right of the steering wheel for quick access. However, the standard CD stereo is set very low behind a folding panel. Fortunately satellite audio controls on the upper dash take care of the most important functions.
The 5.0-cubic-foot trunk will handle only your most important cargo needs. Don’t even think about golf clubs. But S2000 owners may want to save on green fees anyway, since they will likely pay hefty premiums over the $32,415 base price. Honda only plans to bring in about 5,000 of these delicious cars over the next year.
Indeed, expect demand to be high for a car that our friends at Automobile Magazine called simply: “...the perfect roadster.”
Well, maybe not quite perfect, but the Honda S2000 is mighty close to an enthusiast’s dream car. Sharp looks, stirring engine, balanced handling, superb brakes, and an intimate cockpit, all for a price that almost seems too low. Clearly, the S2000 puts Honda showrooms on the maps of sports car fans once and for all.
Engine: 2.0-Liter 4-Cylinder
Torque: 153 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 6.5 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 14.9 Seconds @ 96 MPH
60-0 MPH: 101