The S2000 was built to commemorate Honda’s 50th anniversary as a company, and first came off the production lines in 1999 after four years under development. The S2000 was designed as a celebration of driving and made as a pure speed roadster, with its slick body shape, rakish windscreen, soft top, and long sloping bonnet. All these features were created to emphasise the car’s desire for speed.
The S2000 was meant as a successor to the Honda roadsters of the past, like the S500, S600, and S800. It was only designed as a limited run during the company’s celebratory year, but its popularity led to it remaining in production for a further eight years, finally being withdrawn in 2009.
The second generation came out in 2004 where, along with technological improvements, there was a restyling of the bumpers and changes to the headlights, LED rear lights, and oval-tipped exhausts.
The S2000 only comes with one engine option: the high-revving, 2.0L inline DOHC VTEC. Made for speed, it kicks out 184kW of power and generates 218Nm of torque. This is linked to a 6-speed automatic gearbox and a Torsen limited slip differential. This is a driver’s car, and it expects full involvement behind the wheel. Powerful performance, sure road holding, and responsive steering all combine to make for a thrilling drive.
The acceleration on the S2000 takes the car from a standing start to 100 km/h in 6.2 seconds, but this comes at a price; you will only average around 10.1L/100km and 235g/km of CO2 emissions. It can be a handful in the rain, and the early rear wheel drive cars are a challenge at speed, but the firmer suspension, stability control, and traction control in the later additions eliminate this worry.
To provide a smooth ride, the S2000 is perched on an X-shape chassis with double wishbone suspension and electronically assisted steering. The lightweight engine, advanced variable valve timing, and electronic wizardry beneath the bonnet means the 2.0L engine is capable of competing on an even footing with some of its larger capacity rivals.
After 2006, the car received a four-star ANCAP rating. With the traction control in later models and its dual airbags, it is one of the safest roadsters on the market.
The interior of the Honda S2000 has always had a fresh and dynamic feel. The dashboard is uncluttered and includes only the necessary dials and buttons. The entertainment here is in the driving, not what is playing on the stereo. This was also one of the first cars to have fitted automatic start buttons; although a common feature these days, it was a novel addition back in the day.
The standard equipment accompanying the car includes keyless entry, leather upholstery, air-con, 8-speaker CD system, ABS, electric windows and mirrors, as well as power steering. The S2000 comes with safety roll bars and an acrylic windshield behind the front seats, which cuts down on noise and wind interference. To achieve that wind-in-the-hair feel, the 2006 version came with an electronically operated soft top that, with the releasing of two catches, takes only 6 seconds to fold away.
Further alterations to the trim were carried out in 2008 when, in an attempt to reduce the car’s weighty feel, the spare wheel was left out and the inclusion of a stereo and air-con were offered as optional extras; after all, this is all about speed and performance.
The Honda S2000 provides a unique driving experience, competitive with its rivals, and an engine more than capable of fulfilling its potential. When considering the competition of the era, the automatic challenges come from the stylish BMW Z3, iconic Porsche Boxster, well kitted out Nissan 350Z Roadster, popular Audi TT Roadster, and smooth Mercedes SLK Class.
It is a costly challenge to take up but one which the celebratory S2000 takes on with relish. The S2000 makes no pretences about being a family car. The boot is small enough for a weekend suitcase, and the rear seats can take a lap dog. This is at best for two people enjoying the open road, driving at its cutting-edge simplicity.
Even now they are popular cars, and with many cars still on the road, you can pick them up for a decent price. It is worth giving them a good check over first to make sure driving enthusiasm has not left the car with an expensive repair bill waiting in the wings.