The Honda S2000 went out of production late in 2009 after ten years in sports car service, and up until the Ferrari 458 Italia arrived, the S2000's engine produced more horsepower per litre than any other naturally-aspirated engine in the world, with the Italia’s 126hp/l just about passing the S2000’s 120hp/l.
The S2000 was offered with a high-revving 2.0-litre four cylinder engine producing 240hp and 153lb ft of torque (250hp for Japanese cars). As with many high-performance Hondas, the engine was connected to a sweet-shifting six-speed manual transmission, sending power to the rear wheels. And if you decided to make a 0-60mph sprint, you would get there in 6.2sec and reach a top speed of 150mph. Also, the VTEC system meant that you could rev the engine to 9000rpm without it exploding.
Honda got the design of the S2000 right, too. Not only was it a well-designed roadster, but it did not look too feminine -- something that could not be said about the Mazda MX5/Miata. No matter how good the MX5 is to drive, it will still make even the most testosterone-laden man look like Paris Hilton. The S2000 wasn’t meant to compete against the MX5 though, it was meant to be a more exciting alternative to an entry level BMW Z4, Mercedes Benz SLK, and Porsche Boxster.
The S2000 only wanted to be driven in two ways, and two ways only: driving it like your mom on the way to the grocery store, or by wringing out every single last rev from the engine and going completely crazy. The thing is that 2.0-litre engine lacked low down grunt, which essentially meant that you only had the power of an average hatchback at low speeds, and that real excitement could only be found at over 6100rpm when the VTEC system kicks in.
Having no middle ground for fun left a few frustrated, so in 2004 the American and Japanese markets confronted the lack of torque by enlarging the engine to 2.2 litres. The power output remained the same but the torque figure rose to 162lb ft at a still high 6500rpm, though not as high as the 2.0-litre’s 7500rpm. The redline went down to 8000rpm as well.
No matter what engine the S2000 had though, when in the “VTEC zone” the handling was one of the best in its class. It had a 50:50 weight distribution, and despite being an open top car it did have a very well-sorted chassis -- allowing it to be very stable and neutral around corners. It also meant that it was a great platform for tuning, featuring in many of Japan’s Best Motoring Touge showdowns.
Thinking of getting one? Prices are looking good in the second hand market. UK buyers can spend as little as £5500 for sub-60000 mile example, where as American buyers are looking at around $15000 for cars with similar mileage. As for the Eurozone, sub-100000 km examples can be found for as little as 9000 Euros.
The S2000 also gives good fuel economy, around 28.2mpg combined, and Honda’s reputation for producing extra-reliable cars should give extra confidence when buying. The cabin is a bit snug, so bigger drivers might find it a bit of a tight fit, otherwise you should enjoy many years of affordable fun.