If you're a Honda fan, you'll be happy to know that the new S2000 roadster is truly a Honda for the future. And while the future for all automotive enthusiasts looks a bit brighter now as a result of its introduction, we, the Super Street faithful, will have to wait our turn. As awesome as the S2000 is, and even though it's Super Street's 30th Anniversary, it's not for us. At least not yet.
There are a number of factors that are working against any of us getting our hands on an S2000 any time soon. First and foremost is the fact that Honda is planning on importing a mere 5,000 units a year. By the time you read this, chances are that nearly all of those will have already been spoken for by your parent's doctors, lawyers, and accountants (according to Honda, the target demographics for the S2000 are 70 percent male, 40-plus years old, and have a median household income of $100,000). The remaining few will most likely be slapped with huge dealer markups putting them out of reach of us mortals.
It's a damn shame, too, because the S2000 is an awesome Super Street ride. From its cutting-edge exterior styling, race-inspired interior, or 2.0L DOHC VTEC powerplant that pumps out an amazing 240 hp to its six-speed transmission, the S2000 is all about performance for the street. Think about it, who amongst us wouldnt give up our Civic, Integra, or Prelude for a six-speed 240hp VTEC ride direct from the factory? Sure, the mid-$30,000 price tag would mean we'd have to get a third job, but the S2000 would be worth it. Besides, it's a convertible.
So where does that leave us? The really lucky ones (read: spoiled) will get mom and dad to buy one as a graduation present. The lucky ones will have a parent that will pick one up and maybe on occasion let him (or her) drive it to the mall. The rest of us will have to start saving now for next year, or wait a couple more years for used versions to start showing up in the classifieds. Keeping in mind that patience is a virtue. Here's a quick hit list of what you can expect from your S2000 once you actually get it:
The 2.0L engine puts out 240 hp at 8,300 rpm and 153 lb-ft of torque at 7,500 rpm. It rockets the roadster from 0 to 60 in less than 6 seconds. And the rev limit resides all the way up at the 9,000 rpm mark. According to Honda, the 2.0L is 10 percent lighter and 9 percent smaller than the 2.2L Prelude engine. It's about the same size as the Civic's 1.6L. All that power in a smaller package, and the roadster still meets California's Low-Emission Vehicle standard. Impressive indeed.
Did we mention that the S2000 is a rear-wheel-drive car? Did we mention its limited-slip differential? And don't forget the close-ratio six-speed manual transmission (thankfully, the S2000 can't be had with an automatic). The direct-shift linkage is mounted on the top of the tranny so there is virtually no sloppiness in the shifter. The throws are short and effortlessly clean. The S2000's flywheel is 20 percent lighter than an Accords' (most of the powertrain components have been lightened).
Power isn't the only place the S2000 shines. The engine and the transmission were placed behind the front suspension to achieve a 50/50 weight distribution. In addition, as much of the weight of the vehicle was placed as close to the center as possible. It results in what Honda calls a "low polar moment of inertia." Luckily, they also included an explanation for us non- engineers: "less steering delay; quicker, more linear steering response." The car's well-balanced behavior is also due to its highly rigid frame. Honda claims that the S2000 is as rigid as a closed-body car. That's due to a new monocoque body that utilizes a centralized backbone frame that runs down the center of the passenger cabin. There are also braces and support beams everywhere tying it all together.
The suspension system consists of upper and lower wishbones, coilovers, and antiroll bars. The in-wheel system is the same design used on the NSX. Four-wheel discs (vented 11.8 inches front, solid 11.1 inches rear) and a new compact three-channel anti-lock brake system can drag the roadster down quickly if necessary. Up front, the 16x6.5 alloy wheels are surrounded by 205/55R16s, while the rear gets 16x7.5 alloys wrapped with 225/50R16s.
The interior was inspired by a Formula One cockpit. From the engine-start button to the digital display, it's easy to see that Honda has hit the mark. The leather-trimmed seats, metal race pedals, and cruise controls on the steering wheel all make you feel as if you're one step closer to your own Jordan Honda F1 car. The Silverstone Metallic and Berlina Black exteriors can be had with the ultra cool red and black interior.
But enough already. How does it drive? I was fortunate enough to drive an S2000 in Japan and again at a press preview in Atlanta. We were given nearly free run of Road Atlanta to push the car to its limits. I cruised out onto the course, waited for the other journalists to pass me showing off their superior driving prowess, then I let it fly. As was the case in Japan several months earlier, the S2000 pulled clear up to redline without complaint. I ran out of nerve before the car did. Just when I thought I'd found my limit, the car would tempt me into just a bit more. Its balance and manners in the turns are truly remarkable. As I said before, this car makes you feel as if you are a much better driver than you actually are.
When I finished my sissy-boy, I-don't-want-to-be-the-auto-weenie-that-puts-it-into-the-wall laps, I talked Honda R&D guru Greg Thomas into taking me out for a few hot laps. That's when I experienced the car at its limits. Greg, being quite the driver, was able to push the S2000 to the edge. In and out of the corners hotter than I'd ever done it, 120 mph on the straightway (where I was doing 90 mph), all without the slightest hint of instability. And it's a convertible.
We also got to drive the cars for a day on the back roads of Georgia. Unlike other convertible roadsters, a six-foot-plus driver or passenger can fit nicely in the cockpit. The seats are supportive, and there is plenty of room for size 12 feet, even on the driver side. The power top can be opened or closed in about 6 seconds. Wind noise is kept to a minimum by a special air deflector. Complaints? The stereo could use a few more speakers. Other journalists were complaining that the cup holder (when in use) got in the way of shifting. Small nits, indeed. If you own this car, you shouldn't be drinking in it anyway. You should concentrate on driving it to its potential.
So the S2000 is everything Honda said it was going to be, and more. Enthusiast-based driving, driving for pure enjoyment looks like it once again has a future. As for most of us, we'll have to wait patiently for the lawyers and doctors to trade in their S2000s for newer versions.