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2000 S2000

2000 S2000

Roughly the same size as its roadster rivals, the S2000 has perhaps the highest chassis rigidity of the whole lot, up to and including... Read More
Roughly the same size as its roadster rivals, the S2000 has perhaps the highest chassis rigidity of the whole lot, up to and including Chevys formidable Corvette Convertible. A stiff chassis is the fundamental prerequisite for precise handling, because it al-lows suspension engineers to tune spring rates, shock absorber damping, and bushing durometers to achieve exactly what they want in terms of ride and response -- the components arent required to compensate for chassis flex. Minimize
Author's Rating: Rating: 5/5 stars
87 Reviews from

By:   kristina_kim
Jan 24, 2007
2000 S2000

The Middleweight Champion of the Driving World

Author's Rating: Rating: 5/5 stars

Pros: How wonderfully Honda-like - and not - it is.

Cons: Only enthusiasts need apply.

Handling And Control: 5

The Bottom Line: 
Honda makes history.

Author's Review
In 1989, a small and unimpressive Japanese car company made history. Delivering the sweet looks and unmatched driving experiences of European roadsters but with the reliability, dependability, and economy that drove people to Japanese cars, the Mazda Miata was born. It went on to win a bevy of accolades as well as being a sales sensation. Flash forward to the year 2000, and Honda attempted to make history again by releasing a pure performance sports car that held nothing - literally, nothing - back. Despite company that had made forays into sporty vehicles, with its legendary Si coupe, Honda had always been accused of being restrained and basing a car more for comfort and economy than performance.

Enter the S2000. A naturally aspirated 2.0 liter 240hp engine that rockets the car from 0-60 MPH in less than six seconds under the hood, a six-speed close-ratio gearbox, a 9000 RPM redline, and you still don't get a glove box. This is truly an enthusiast's car. To paraphrase Gordon Gekko, cupholders are for wimps. The long, thick center divider provides ample support for your shifting arm but completely negates the utility of the center cupholder as well as making access to the storage compartment an Olympic feat. All the audio and HVAC controls are planted directly in front of the driver, and instead of a standard ignition, a large red START button bring the engine to life. The cabin has an extremely minimalist design, maintaining only a minimum standard of safety and comfort so as not to render the car completely unusable. But despite the incredibly well done ergonomics and familiar construction that just screams Honda, there is something very un-Honda about this car. This wasn't a cockpit designed for comfort and convenience, it was designed for DRIVING.

All that matters is the connection between the driver, the road, and the engine and suspension that makes one shred the other to pieces. However, paradoxically, it is a car that can be daily driven. In normal driving conditions, the S2000 is a composed car with excellent road manners, the kind that reminds you of driving along the coast in a convertible with the top down and the wind in your hair. Hardly exciting, but not as demanding as other sports cars that have a plethora of low end torque and a high effort shifter, which can make running an errand through crowded roads and traffic give you more of an incentive to sell your Porsche for a Camry. It takes the road as it comes and never once yields, quickly adapting to any driving condition.

Then, a magic moment happens: merging on the freeway, seeing a totally empty stretch of road ahead, then taking the car to 6000 RPM in second gear - something that would surely cause any other engine to implode - the VTEC system kicks in and the engine roars to life, channeling its full 240 hp. The handling responses are liquid and quick, with the precision of a surgeon's scalpel. The short throw shifter that killed you in traffic makes the car leap forward and the engine scream with horrific fury. Going through the gears quick isn't the goal with the S2000 - the goal is to ride that sweet spot between 6000 and 9000 RPM. Life in the S2000 begins where other cars begin dying.

In spite of all of this, there are a few flaws with this package that literally make and break it at the same time. First of all, this car was not meant to be driven by soccer moms. There is only 5 cubic feet of storage space in the trunk, and the cabin only has the minuscule center console and tiny spaces behind seats. Enough to handle a daily load of tasks, but sacrificing nearly all manner of practicality for an enthusiast's driving experience. The roar of the engine and tires on the freeway can become tiresome on long trips while in 6th gear. A glove box wouldn't hurt, especially to keep your registration and insurance handy for when you get nailed by the highway patrol.

Secondly, the S2000 doesn't quite fit into the automotive world. The budget roadster market has entries from Mazda, Saturn, and Pontiac, all of which fall under 30K. Above 30K comes the Porsche Boxster, BMW Z4, and the Mercedes SLK. And right at the $33,000 sticker price is the Nissan 350z, a totally different beast altogether whose performance is set on the other end of the automotive spectrum - trading refinement and sharp controls for raw muscle car power. There's no real competition, which would be true for any middle-range vehicle. But that doesn't mean that this car isn't a champion.

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