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Here's Why Everybody Loves the Honda S2000

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author photo by Doug DeMuro October 2017

I recently had the chance to spend some time behind the wheel of a Honda S2000, which is a rear-wheel drive sports car that people on the internet fawn over like it's their child. "I don't know what I would do without the S2000," some say. "The S2000 saved my marriage," others opine. "I worship the God of Honda S2000," many insist.

Up until I spent some time driving this S2000, a few weeks ago, I had never in my life been in one. Never driven one, never ridden in one, never sat in one. So I never really understood what all the fuss was about. But now, having spent a couple hours with this S2000, I'm happy to finally say: I get it.

Let's start with how I came to drive this S2000. I got behind the wheel courtesy of Morrie's Heritage Car Connection, which is an exotic and classic rental car firm in the Minneapolis area that's part of the Morrie's chain of car dealerships . Ladies and gentlemen, you know your car dealer is pretty cool when they're willing to rent you a Honda S2000. Or a 1977 Mazda Rotary Pickup. Yes, they have a 1977 Mazda Rotary Pickup … for rent.

But I wanted to film something with the S2000, so we took it out, and the first thing I discovered was … it's surprisingly quirky. Really. The S2000 is surprisingly full of weirdnesses, like a radio that's hidden behind a cover -- in case you don't want your passenger to discover it -- and a very oddly shaped cruise control button, and a digital gauge cluster that's either really cool or really outdated, depending on your point of view.

But you can see all the quirks in the video. More important, perhaps, is how the S2000 drives. And my opinion is: it's great. Except…

I'll start with the "great" part: The S2000 is really, really tight, and it's really, really impressive around corners. This is one of those cars where the whole car really feels like it moves as a unit, and the shift lever is tight, and the steering is tight, and the car just doesn't seem even slightly loose or wobbly or unsure of itself. I loved going around corners in this thing: The steering communicates perfectly to the wheels, it's more predictable than I ever expected and the size and weight are just wonderful. I'm used to driving a lot of big, heavy exotic cars with a lot of technology, but my personal preferences lean more towards smaller cars like the S2000 -- and this car reminded me why. Just a few turns and you start to see why the internet loves it so much.

But now on to that "except." Folks, I don't know how to tell you this, but … the S2000 is kind of slow.

To be clear, the S2000 was never a power monster. Back in 2000, when it came out, it had 240 horses (which was good for its day) but only 153 lb-ft of torque (which is good for a Suzuki crossover). The S2000 I drove was an "AP2" model with a revised engine that was designed to eek out a little more torque at lower engine speeds -- and that revision gave it all of … 162 lb-ft.

So the S2000 has some power and it has very little torque. The other thing about this car is that you have to really wring it out in order to get going very quickly. That was the point of this engine design; it was most active and most exciting above 6,000 RPM -- but you have to make your way all the way up there, and that isn't always easy. So, when you're driving around most of the time, and when you're waiting to get into higher RPMs, the S2000 is kind of slow.

To be clear, this isn't necessarily a bad thing; slow, small, zippy cars can be fun to drive. And it's also not really unexpected: The S2000 wasn't really considered very fast when it came out -- almost 20 years ago, which is very hard for me to believe -- and with time, it hasn't exactly gotten faster. For reference, most S2000 0-to-60 runs suggest a time of something like 5.8 seconds; that's only slightly faster than today's Mazda Miata. The top-spec version of the new Honda Accord -- which, itself, uses a 4-cylinder -- does 0-to-60 in 5.7.

But here's the thing: Who cares when you're having this much fun? No, the S2000 isn't a car you take to the drag strip, but it's a car you take on your favorite back roads and really enjoy when you're going around the corners. It's a car that makes you feel like a professional, even if you're an idiot; it's a car that lets you have more fun than virtually anyone else in virtually any circumstance, even if your buddy in the 911 is going faster. I can still picture my drive: top down, rev matching, sticking that slick shifter into gear … perfect. Just as long as you don't mind when an Accord beats you down a highway onramp.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Here's Why Everybody Loves the Honda S2000 - Autotrader