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Honda S2000 (2001)

SEE ALSO: Honda Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 32,300
     Price As Tested                                    $ 32,740
     Engine Type              DOHC 16-valve 2.0 Liter I4 w/SMFI*
     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                                     2984 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  13.2 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)          (f) 205/55R16 / (r) 225/50R16 w-rated
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                         Two-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                  0 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            20/26/23
     0-60 MPH                                        5.9 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          14.0 seconds @ 98.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           145 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

Last year, Honda celebrated its 50th anniversary by introducing the S2000, a two-seat sports car that traces its roots back to the S500, a technologically-advanced sportster developed by Honda in 1963.

Offered only as a roadster, the S2000 sets standards for affordability and technical achievements.

OUTSIDE - One would expect that Honda would choose aluminum for the body structure of the S2000. The company's other sports car, the Acura NSX, uses the alloy throughout, but it's an $80,000-plus vehicle that competes with the world's elite supercars, whereas the S2000 sells against sports cars the rest of us can afford. Based on the Honda SSM show car of the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show, the S2000 is low and sleek, with a pointed snout that features a wide-open air inlet and slit-like high intensity discharge headlights. A deep groove is cut at the body's lower extremities, and the wheel wells are pulled in tight against the sidewalls of the tires. Nicely tailored edges and bends in the bodywork are enhanced by a long, quiet crease along the upper edge of the sides. The electrically-operated soft convertible top takes just six seconds to drop, once a pair of windshield header latches are released.

INSIDE - The S2000's snug cabin is swathed in either red or black leather upholstery. The Recaro bucket seats sit low in the cockpit, and a perfect place to rest a tired arm is blended into the door panels. The driver-oriented gauges cluster tightly around the steering wheel, with an analog-like electronic tach sweeping over the top of the digital speedometer. A titanium knob sits atop the shifter but owners soon learn to protect it from direct sunlight. An old sock works fine. There are no optional amenities available on the S2000, but everything needed is standard: CD player, cruise control, air conditioning, keyless remote entry and power windows, door locks and mirrors.

ON THE ROAD - Twist the key fully and nothing happens. That's because the engine responds only to the push of the big red starter button in the best race car tradition. Under the hood is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that features dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder that utilize Honda's VTEC system, a special operation of the camshafts and valves that help the engine produce optimum horsepower and excellent roadability. Using this technology, along with new roller rockers to reduce friction, the S2000 pumps an astonishing 240 horsepower and 153-pound-feet of torque. It's a high-revving engine that doesn't start its real pulling power until the VTEC system kicks in at around 6000 rpm. The engine produces its maximum power at 8600 rpm, with a redline of 9000. All this high-end power unfortunately results in a lack of low-end torque. The S2000 is still very "streetable" under normal driving conditions but when the revs climb, the power and engine noise produce a rush that's hard to describe. Mated to this is a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The S2000 chassis owes much of its rigidity to a massive central backbone through which the short driveshaft runs. On paper, it looks like a pair of tuning forks that share a handle. Front and rear bulkheads, along with box-section side members, provide a stiff structure that virtually eliminates cowl shake. The front and rear independent suspension systems consist of upper and lower A-arms with coil-strut units, and anti-roll bars at both ends. Both are carried on separate subframes, rigidly connected to the body structure although engineered with a bit of fore/aft compliance to help roadability. The ride is stiff and jarring, which can be expected, and the near-racing tires use a hard compound that is quite unforgiving. A unique rack-and- pinion steering system mounts across the front subframe and uses an electrical, rather than a hydraulic, power assist. It's razor sharp in response and offers excellent road feel and precision. Four-wheel disc brakes with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) are standard.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, side-impact door beams, ABS, dual roll bars and seat belt pretensioners are standard.