SEE ALSO: Honda Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 32,000 Price As Tested $ 32,756 Engine Type DOHC 16-valve 2.0 Liter I4 w/SMPFI* Engine Size 122 cid/1997 cc Horsepower 240 @ 8300 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 153 @ 7500 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 94.5"/68.9"/162.2" Transmission Six-speed manual Curb Weight 2838 pounds Fuel Capacity 13.2 gallons Tires (F/R) (f) P205/55R16 (r) P225/50R16 Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Two-passenger/two-door Domestic Content None Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 20/26/24 0-60 MPH 6.0 seconds 1/4 (E.T.) 15.0 seconds @ 95.5 mph Top-speed 145 mph * Sequential multi-point programmed fuel injection
(There's a lot of Honda's high-tech racing hardware in its new S2000 sports car, says Matt Hagin. Bob Hagin says Honda designers put a lot of appeal into the body styling, too.)
BOB - The new Honda S2000 is a mechanical tour de force, Dad. Discounting the Passport, which is actually made by another manufacturer, it's the first rear-drive Honda since its original S600 sports car that disappeared in the mid-'60s. The S2000 engine is only two liters in size but it puts out 240 horses at 8300 RPM, which gives it the highest horsepower rating per liter of any production car engine in the world. To get that many ponies, Honda engineers had to refine its variable valve timing system to make the engine breath easier at very high revs. It's an all-aluminum twin-cammer with four valves per cylinder and as it is with most Hondas, the valves don't use hydraulic lifters and have to be adjusted periodically. It's an expensive maintenance operation but it's a necessary evil with an engine that has to spin that high to develop its maximum horsepower.
MATT - Another problem is that the torque the engine puts out is relatively low compared to the horsepower and it comes on at pretty high revs. This means that it doesn't develop real pulling power until it spins up to around 6000 RPM. But with its six-speed transmission, it isn't hard to keep the engine in the power band. The transmission is all-new for the S2000 and it has no direct drive. All the ratios are indirect and it even has a syncromesh on reverse so that the driver won't crunch the gears when trying to back up. And in keeping with Honda's racing technology, the transmission has its own built-in oil pump to make sure the gears get lubricated at high speed. The car is good for somewhere in the neighborhood 145 mph and at speed, everything in the drive train is spinning pretty fast.
BOB - Like most of the current genre of high-performance sports cars, the S2000 has wider tires in the rear than in the front and they're mounted on 16-inch wheels. This necessitates one of those emergency mini-spares but with the minuscule size of the S2000 trunk, it would be pretty hard to carry any suitable spare tires. The rear end is independently sprung, of course, and it contains one of those "trick" Torsen limited slip differentials. Honda even listed the suspension settings for the S2000 in its press kit and I was somewhat amazed that they're typical of a competition car. With two built-in roll-over bars, a short wheel base, a weight distribution that puts half of its weight on the front wheels and half on the rear, it has the classic proportions of the perfect dual-purpose sports car. Ideally, a car like this can be driven to work during the week and then raced on the weekend.
MATT - The S2000 is a bit plush for that treatment, Dad. Not too many Weekend Warriors have what appears to be hand-stitched leather upholstery, power everything including the top and a high-powered sound system with a CD player. The climate control system is automatic and filtered and it has the usual passenger car cup holders and power outlets. But the car looks the part of a racer. It has a spoiler on the rear deck lid, an aggressive shark-like nose and flares on all the wheel wells. To keep down the buffeting from wind curling back over the windshield and into the cockpit when the top is down, there's a removable clear plastic shield between the roll bars that blocks the wind but not rearward vision. The interior is tight but not uncomfortable, but it is tough to for big people to climb inside.
BOB - Although the digital speedometer and tachometer are considered state-of-the-art race car stuff right out of Formula One, I never got used to them and I'd much preferred to have those big, round analog dials with proper increments and a conventional red-line on the tach. When I tried running it up through the gears, by the time I figured out what the tachometer was reading, I was long past the shift points.
MATT - Dad, maybe Honda has one of those '66 S600 roadsters in a museum somewhere and would let us have it for you to road test. I think that this modern high-tech stuff is getting to be too much for you.