Hasn’t the S2000 been around for ages?
It certainly has. It was launched in 1999 but Honda reckons it’s got a few years left in it yet. This is its second face lift (the first came in 2002) and Honda have said they’re going to stick with this incarnation until 2009. But rather than making wholesale changes they’re hoping to eke some more life out of it with a constant stream of minor upgrades. It seems to be working too. Despite its age the S2000 is the Peter Pan of the roadster world.
What have they done to it this time?
Well you’ll have to look closely to spot any difference. They’ve done some sculpting around the front air dam which helps it retain that sleek appearance. And they’ve added similar tweaks to the rear bumper. Other cosmetic updates include a couple of new colours, new wheels, new trim inside and speakers in the roll hoops. The most significant improvements have been carried out under the skin. They’ve given it a drive-by-wire throttle and the option of Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), Honda’s version of ESP.
Aren’t electronic driver aids missing the point of an out-and-out sportscar like the S2000?
Slightly yes. The Honda has a beautifully balanced chassis for most people’s purposes. Around the fast sweeps of the Castle Combe circuit in Wiltshire where we tested the new version it felt perfectly settled. Through fast corners the rear has a tendency to wander around slightly but once you’re accustomed to it, that’s of little concern and hardly ever triggers the VSA in cars equipped with that option. The only time the vast majority would need VSA would be on a wet road when the rear end could get a bit lively.
Sounds like quite good fun
The S2000 is certainly a proper driver’s car. The engine features Honda’s VTEC variable valve timing system. That means you get a sudden jump in performance from 6000rpm onwards. Combined with a snappy six-speed gearbox and the new more responsive throttle pedal it’s perfect for a track where revving the nuts off an engine is all part of the fun. But it’s not overburdened with torque and constantly changing gear can get a little wearisome on longer journeys and on the road where most of us actually drive.
Any other reasons not to part with my hard-earned for one?
The chassis is well balanced and the steering is responsive to small inputs but it doesn’t give the same kind of detailed feedback to the driver as other sportscars. And you have to treat this car with respect. You need quick reflexes to catch the S2000 when it does eventually give up its grip on the road. The cabin’s still a let down too…
Tell us about that
They’ve changed the centre console. Owners were complaining the aluminium finish on the previous car’s was getting scratched so they’ve reverted to black plastic. The cockpit keeps that feeling of wrapping round you with controls falling nicely to hand on either side of the steering wheel. But it’s very claustrophobic. Tall drivers don’t sit low enough in the car and the steering wheel still only adjusts up and down and doesn’t telescope in and out so the range of driving positions is limited.
Despite its age the S2000 remains thrilling to drive. Adding VSA stability control is a sensible move but slightly unnecessary bearing in mind the Honda’s excellent handling. Unless you’re driving it like a loon, the S2000 remains such a capable chassis, the £300 for VSA seems like a waste of money. And no amount of styling tweaks can address the S2000’s basic weaknesses. The cockpit remains cramped and the 2-litre engine’s high-revving nature and lack of torque make it pretty manic to live with.