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Honda S2000 Needs to Change With the Times

The theme for this review of the 2007 Honda S2000 is a slight variation on the title of a famous self-help book. So let’s call it, “He’s Just Not That Into You Anymore.”

When the S2000 was introduced in late 1999, it was love at first sight. I spent several glorious days driving it to the limit on a very demanding racetrack near Monterey and on deserted roads in the central part of the state. Finally, I had a fling with the S2000, both figuratively and literally, on a wonderful racetrack in Japan.

I had no difficulty selecting the Honda S2000 as the best car of the year 2000. It was a simple, lightweight roadster with world class handling, which made up for its deficiency in engine output.

But here we are in 2007 and a lot has changed. The car market is a lot different now, the competition has advanced and my tastes have probably changed too. That being said, the S2000 hasn’t changed a whole lot in the intervening years. Consequently, it just doesn’t seem all that remarkable.

And according to the bloggesphere, Honda is hard at work on a replacement for the S2000, although the self-appointed experts and gumshoes can’t seem to agree on what it will be like or even if it will occupy the same market niche.

In fairness to the S2000, Honda has inserted some important changes. First off, it has smoothed out the torque curve, which has mitigated the tendency of its high-strung engine to deliver top power only at the very peak. In other words, it only really came alive when the tachometer hit 6,000 rpm.

That’s fine on a racetrack, when you can keep the revs up, but not so good around town. The engine is not as peaked as before, but it still seems underwhelming and generates more noise than it should.

Honda has also added electronic stability control. This is great technology and can save lives. On the other hand, you’d have to be pretty ham-fisted to spin the Honda S2000.

Yes, the really remarkable aspect of the Honda S2000 remains the car’s handling. If you really like to drive, you deserve to spend an afternoon on a great country road with it when the traffic has taken the day off.

The S2000 features a suspension and steering setup that delivers fantastic feedback. You know exactly where you are in relation to the physics of vehicle dynamics and what you have to do in terms of how much power to use and how much steering input to apply.

The car’s 50/50 weight distribution means that its balance is superb and that it can really be pushed to the limits of one’s driving ability. Now if it only had the power to match.

Thank goodness the S2000 has an absolutely first-rate transmission, because you do a lot of shifting in the car to keep it in the sweet spot.

Another thing I admire about the S2000 is the elegance of its cabin. The controls are basic and simple , there’s no automatic anything. The essential functions are grouped in a small cluster just to the right of the steering wheel.

In that position, one does not have to lift one’s eyes off the road to make an adjustment to the fan speed or twist a dial to redirect air to the windshield. I have been a big fan of Honda’s interpretation of control ergonomics and the S2000 gets it right.

The S2000 remains a tight fit, for driver, a passenger and your cargo.

Trunk volume is stated at 5 cubic feet, enough for a briefcase and a couple of bags of groceries. No, the S2000 was not designed with the needs of a family in mind. And even a single person will probably want to have a second, larger vehicle to accommodate the needs of living.


Cordell Koland is an automotive journalist based in California’s central coast. He can be reached at cordellkoland@mac.com.


Honda S2000

Price as tested: $43,845.

Engine:

Type: 2.2-liter inline 4.

Horsepower: 237 @ 7,800 rpm.

Torque: 162 foot-pounds @ 6,800 rpm.

Fuel economy, automatic transmission:

City: 20 mpg.

Highway: 26 mpg.

Curb weight: 2,855 pounds.

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