1999-2009 Honda S2000: Honda’s High Revving Hotrod
2004 Honda S2000
When Honda makes a performance car, it usually does everything with textbook robot- like precision. Often the styling may be restrained, but there’s no questioning the performance legacy left behind by favorites like the CRX, Prelude and NSX. So when word came of Honda’s intent to follow-up the hot NSX with a more affordable roadster, many felt that Honda would cater the American market and release a cute if not capable car much like the Mazda MX-5 or Toyota’s MR-2.
What arrived in showrooms instead was a less the boulevard cruiser and more like a four-wheeled motorcycle! Following the naming conventions established with a line of roadsters dating back to the 60’s, the S2000 was a technical masterpiece. Produced at the same Takanezawa facility that c arefully churned out the NSX, the S2000 was sold all over the world in two trim levels. America had one at first, but it was more than sufficient. At the time
of its unveiling, its 2.0 VETC four-cylinder engine was the most powerful naturally aspirated 2.0 in the world with 237hp. VETC engines allowed the maximum air/fuel mixture over the entire engine speed range, allowing for
increased power and efficiency. The technology had been around in Hondas for nearly 10 years by 1999, so the S2000 benefited from all that experience. That power only had to move 2400lbs and did so with the verve of a motorcycle with the right driver behind the wheel. The right driver was half of the S2000’s potential, as it was a driver’s car that required some effort from its driver.
As Honda’s only roadster sold in America, it appealed to those who were trendy and wanted a car to been seen in as well as the serious gearheads who wanted a hard-core performance car. The gearheads won out of course, as pretenders went on to the next trendy thing. The simple nature of the S2000’s interior could be almost be considered stripped down, as it lacked frivolous options that were not intended to increase performance. Once inside, the driver was treated to a clean control layout that was the picture of simplicity. Large clear guages and information displays were all about keeping quick tabs on what was going on under the hood. Speaking of bonnets, one attribute of the engine was its high motorcycle like 8300rpm rev limit. The engine seemed to come alive in the higher ranges, forcing drivers to work the 6-speed gearbox to get the most out of the S2000. 0 to 60 came in the low 6 second range and top speed was around 150 mph.
Honda recognized that the key to a successful roadster was not just raw acceleration figures and set out to build the S2000 around a strengthened ‘X-bone’ frame. Said to offer the rigidity of a hardtop coupe, the frame also increased crash test performance. Although safe and as reliable as any Honda, the S2000’s selling points were it’s almost 50/50
2009 S2000 With Hardtop
weight distribution, resulting in predictable handling. By placing the engine just behind the front axle, the S2000 could handle as well or better than some of its mid-engine competition. Having a race car like independent coil sprung double wishbone with beefy anti roll bars helped too. Once that word was out, waiting lists developed for the limited production car as the media soon realized that Honda had a Boxster beater on its hands.
The Porsche was a fitting target, as Honda intended the S2000 to be more upmarket compared to the Miata MX-5 and Toyota MR2. At around $30k, it was still a bargain compared to $40+ for a base Boxster. A detachable
hardtop option was offered in a new GT version. By 2008 a new trim level called the Club Racer (CR) featured bolstered suspension upgrades, for a more race car-like driving experience. That same year an S-Type was sold in Japan that was similar to the American market CS. As all good things come to an end, so did production of the S2000 in 2009. Rumors had been swirling around about another high performance car from Honda, this time possibly Accord based. A bigger car seems unlikely to be aiming for the same market as the S2000 as the next closest thing, the current CR-X is not the performance machine that enthusiast wanted.
Just maybe a successor is in the works. Whatever it is, it’s likely to gain as much a following as the dearly departed S2000. John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. summed up to S2000 best when he said ‘The S2000 is a sports car designed by enthusiasts for enthusiasts, It raised the bar for all future roadsters, and it’s already considered a classic by many Honda fans.’
2004 Honda S2000