Stripped of all pretentiousness, endowed where it counts.
by Jill Amadio
If you're looking for a wonderful weekend car, the Honda S2000 is a fabulous choice. Since weekends are normally given over to fun, this little roadster is guaranteed to deliver enjoyment above and beyond the norm. Assuming, of course, you can squeeze into its snug cabin.
Whittled down to a design that wedges every inch of you into one of the most efficient and best-arranged passenger compartments in the sports car industry, the S2000 is definitely not for doughnut-lovers. It fits closer than a latex glove. You'll get in fine but getting out may not be as easy. That's because people tend to slide in sideways but slide out front-ways. (And in case you're rude enough to wonder, I weigh 138 lb. Maybe it's my hips...)
Squeezing notwithstanding, it's worth every pulled-in breath to drive this great little sports car. Although it isn't Honda's first roadster - it built the S500 back in the 1960s - it is the first to go on sale here while BMW's Z3 and Porsche's Boxster designers are already on to their next-generation models.
Racecar characteristics and features abound. Armed with a red starter button on the left side of the dash, contoured leather Recaro seats to send you into Grand Prix fantasyland, and a little four-cylinder engine that's astonishingly powerful, this two-seater convertible should be in everyone's spare side of the garage.
Quickness, steering precision and responsive horsepower teamed with a Formula 1 style cabin are the closest you might come to automotive nirvana this year. I'm pretty cynical when it comes to non-luxury roadsters, especially when magazines like Car and Driver and Motor Trend twist themselves into knots slathering praise all over something that's often uncomfortable, difficult to shift, sits you practically on the pavement, has a ragtop that flaps over your head, and provides no room for even a small portmanteau.
The S2000, of course, barely has room for a couple of carry-on bags in its trunk topped by a discreet spoiler, and there's no back seat. The car so lacks storage space there is no glove compartment at all and only a tiny box hidden between the driver's and passenger's shoulders that takes a contortionist to open while driving. Two other small compartments hide behind the back seats. But who needs cubby holes? Throw out those grocery bags, this roadster is strictly for the pure enthusiast.
The powered convertible soft top is extremely easy to put down and up, and there's a small glass wind deflector between the rolls bars. The rear window, sad to say, is plastic.
The dual overhead cam, 16-valve engine realizes 240 horsepower, justifying descriptions such as astounding, sensational, and remarkable. The secret is a new version of VTEC, a variable valve timing design developed in Honda's successful Formula 1 racing engines and now adapted for us folks. You'll see peak torque develop at 8600 rpm, with a redline registering at 9000 rpm on the dashboard's large tachometer. If you reach that figure, the fuel automatically cuts off, spoiling your fun.
The four-wheel double wishbone suspension has a racecar heritage. At each wheel rigid upper and lower A-shaped wishbone links carry suspension loads directly to the rigid subframes that are attached to the monocoque body. Much of this means that the S2000 loves to hug the road, give you great steering feel, and helps keep you stable.
The red starter button gives you a sense of revving up a racecar but you still need to insert a key first into the ignition to get everything activated. Then the deep, growly sound wakes up your neighbors, and you can begin shifting into the first of six gears. One of the greatest enjoyments in the S2000 is the quick, agile, precise lane-changing that moves you from one place to another in the blink of an eye while at no time do you feel unsafe.
The interior is a cockpit complete with separate pods for driver and passenger. You'll find your elbows well tucked in, and there's nowhere else for your right hand to go than to grip the silver-tipped shifter. Fortunately, some extra controls, including cruise control, are on the leather steering wheel.
Except for the bar-type tachometer, the racing-type gauges and instruments are digital, showing your increasing speed in numbers instead of a flickering chart needle.
Safety features include dual airbags, anti-lock brakes, and roll bars behind the four-way adjustable seats.
The exterior design is classic roadster, simplicity itself with clean and compact lines and in four basic colors: black, white, red and silver. Front and rear lights turn the corners neatly, and the dual chrome exhausts provide just enough pizzazz to please glitz-seekers.
Maybe the S2000's best news aside from its ability to confound members of the automotive media is its price: $32,000 with everything included. There are no options. Only the convertible is available, no hardtop, and a mere five thousand of these delightful S2000s are being sent here from the same Japanese factory that builds the Honda NSX, so get your order in early. Why miss all the fun?
2000 HONDA S2000
Engine: 2.0-liter in-line four-cylinder, 240 hp
Transmission: six-speed manual
Wheelbase: 94.5 in
Length: 162.2 in
Width: 68.9 in
Height: 50.6 in
Weight: 2809 lb
Fuel economy: 20 city/ 26 hwy
Major standard features:
AM/FM stereo with CD player
Theft-deterrent immobilizer system
© 2000 The Car Connection