Like Will Rogers, who is purported to have said he never met a man he didn’t like, we have yet to meet a Honda we don’t like and one real standout over the years is the S2000 roadster which was produced between 1999 and 2009.
Those less than familiar with Honda’s history would be forgiven for thinking the S2000 is the only two-seat roadster ever produced by the company. However, the fact of the matter is the S2000 is the fourth roadster Honda has offered. From 1963 to 1970, the company produced a series of open sports cars whose model designations referred to their engine displacement; S500, S600 and S800.
In similar fashion, the S2000 model designation refers to the 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine with which Honda’s fourth roadster debuted. Universally praised as an outstanding sports car in all respects, the S2000 was positioned just above Mazda’s Miata and just below the BMW Z3/Z4, Mercedes-Benz SLK and Audi TT roadsters in the marketplace.
Boasting 50/50 weight distribution, a close ratio gearbox and a stratospheric 9000-rpm redline, the S2000 quickly earned itself a place in the fantasy garage of many sports car enthusiasts. Over the S2000’s model run, Honda produced two versions of the car—AP1 and AP2.
Honda S2000: 1999 – 2003
Introduced in 1999, as a 2000 model, the S2000 employed rear drive and a front-mid-engine layout. The powerplant was a 1,997 cc (two-liter) double-overhead cam inline four-cylinder engine employing Honda’s proprietary variable valve lift and timing system (aka VTEC). Output for North American versions of the S2000 was 237 horsepower at 8,300 rpm and 153 ft-lbs of torque at 7,500 rpm. And while those numbers might sound low, for a two-seat sports car with a curb weight of just over 2800 pounds, they are more than adequate for producing miles and miles of fun on twisty roads.
Still though, with that relatively low torque figure coming on at such high rpm, the S2000 was a car whose engine you had to really wind to get significant performance. Happily, the engine loved to do so and readily shrieked to its redline—with an extra surge of thrust at 5000 rpm when the VTEC system switched over to its deep breathing mode.
Contributing in no small manner to the Honda’s handling prowess was the S2000’s racing-inspired double wishbone suspension system, six-speed manual transmission (no automatic was ever offered for the S2000) and Torsen limited slip rear differential.
Bridgestone’s Potenza S-02 sport tires were specified, mounted on a set of 16-inch alloy wheels.
Mounting the engine behind the centerline of the front wheels enabled Honda to significantly lower the S2000’s resistance to rotational inertia, contributing mightily to the little roadster’s nimble ways. Because of the front mid-engine design and its resulting 50/50 weight distribution, the Honda’s heaviest mechanical components were contained within its wheelbase.
A red engine start button on the instrument panel activated the engine after the key was turned, while all of the controls for secondary functions of the car, including its audio and climate control systems, were also mounted around the steering wheel on the instrument panel. The S2000 used a digital speedometer and the tachometer’s readout was an arc of lights sweeping across the instrument panel above the speedo. The only item mounted in the dash was the radio/CD player residing behind a door, which could be closed to give the cockpit a more austere/racing car look.
The electrically powered vinyl top featured a plastic rear window at launch. For MY2002, Honda changed the window to glass and gave it a defroster. A removable aluminum hard top was also offered as an option. Additionally, suspension settings were tweaked for ’02 to make the car a bit more forgiving to the potential ineptitudes of less than adept drivers.
An interesting bit of trivia: AP1 S2000 models have the distinction of having been built in the same factory with the Acura NSX exotic sports car
Honda S2000: 2004 – 2009
For 2004, Honda revised the S2000 considerably enough to warrant a new chassis designation (AP2). The suspension was reworked to lessen the car’s tendency to kick its tail out in corners. This meant a larger set of tires and wheels (17-inch alloys and Bridgestone RE-050 tires). It was determined toe-in was the culprit of the S2000’s tail-happiness, so the shocks, springs and overall geometry of the suspension were revised to produce less toe-in when the car was cornering.
The other big change was in the displacement and resulting character of the engine. To improve low-end torque, the engine’s stroke was lengthened, warranting a reduction in the engine’s redline. The longer stroke gave the S2000 a displacement of 2157cc (2.2-liters). Rather than 9,000 rpm, AP2 S2000s wind to 8,000 rpm (8,200 if you push them to the cutout). Torque increased to 162 ft-lbs at 6,500 rpm from 153 @ 7,500. Horsepower remained unchanged at 237, although peak power was attained at 7,800 rpm rather than 8,300.
To help off the line performance even more, the transmission’s gear ratios were revised. The first four were shortened to give the car a quicker step-off, while the top two were lengthened to help top speed.
For 2008, Honda offered a second version of the AP2 in the US. The S2000 Club Racer (CR) was intended for track day buyers and was distinguished by a number of changes to make it more competitive on the track. The CR’s body kit was refined to reduce lift, improving stability at higher speeds. The soft top was removed, as was the spare tire. If you wanted A/C and a radio, you had to spec them, as they were optional items on CR S2000s. In total, a CR S2000 is about 90 pounds lighter than the standard car.
Honda S2000: Summary
An outstanding performer with a jewel of an engine, the S2000 is an outstanding buy on the secondary market. If you’re shopping, go for an unmodified one if you can find it as these have the best shot at appreciating in price over time. Additionally, mod-ed cars were, in all probability used harder and are thus more prone to failure.
There have been very few recalls of the S2000, with none related to mechanical issues. Models built in 2000 experienced a recall for seat belt issues, while ’06 models were recalled because of some mis-information in the owner’s manual.
Used Honda S2000 BBuyer's Guide
All in all, the Honda S2000 is a robust automobile.
Of course we’re still talking about a sports car here, so any given one you find will in all probability been used vigorously. Before buying, make sure you have a trusted professional mechanic who knows S2000s well take a look to see what you’re getting into.