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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Honda S2000 Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Honda S2000 Overview

Just Right

The market is replete with quasi-performance coupes that look the part of the modern-day hot rod but are more flash than dash; this metamorphosis is due in part to the public's demand for more sophisticated—not to mention comfortable— sport cars. The danger for most manufacturers is that they run the risk of dampening their car's true performance abilities in an attempt to accomplish the aforementioned goal of comfort at any cost. Honda has walked this line many times in the past and in almost every instance has safely traversed to the winning side of the civilized sports car equation. That's why it should come as no surprise that the S2000 is such a dynamic and fulfilling ride, giving away nothing that is essential to the car's all-out performance while still minding its manners.

Because the S2000 is both a convertible and a true two-seater, it does not exactly fit into the Honda lexicon of super-efficient family transportation devices. Now don't get us wrong, the S2000 does have its efficiencies, they're just not in the area of cargo and kid hauling. The S2000's efficiency has more to do with packaging. Look under the hood, for example, and you'll find a very capable power plant consisting of a mere 2 liters. The S2000's little engine churns out a remarkable 240-horsepower—that's over 100 horsepower per liter—without the aid of a turbo charger, an almost unheard of accomplishment for a street legal engine. Of course, in typical Honda fashion, the S2000's engine also meets California's strict Low Emissions Vehicle standards (LEV).

Once behind the wheel, you'll tap into the 2.0-liter engine's power via a short throw 6-speed manual transmission that is so tightly spaced you could almost change gears simply by sneezing. The S2000's power is not apparent at first because the little 2.0-liter does not have the same low-end torque found in the larger V6 and V8 engines of its closest rivals. The S2000's engine behaves more like that of a motorcycle than a car and as you wind the tachometer up past 6000 rpm—a range where most cars run out of steam—the little Honda speed demon comes sizzling to life. With the high-pitched whine of gears spinning at insane speeds, the S2000 rockets forward, begging you to push harder, constantly striving to reach the Holy Grail of redlines, the 9000 mark; its more insanity, we know, but oh how sweet the engine sounds when it reaches 9K.

Power without the ability to handle it is about as useful as a life preserver in the Sahara. Honda has reached into its racing division's bag of tricks to pull out a suspension, steering and brake setup that practically nails the S2000's tires to the road. The car's perfect 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution and extremely rigid structure—there is actually a large visible brace that runs across the floor just in front of the seat brackets—gives the S2000 a nearly flat cornering response that allows it to negotiate the twisties with a deliberateness that is almost frightening. The usual physical cues that signal your body to brace for a turn— like lean and roll—are nowhere to be found; indeed, the only time we became aware of our car's mortal existence was when the rear end would step out, prompting us to back off the throttle and do some quick wheel work. The S2000's steering, by the way, is powered by an electric motor, not the traditional belt-driven pump system, yet it still feels completely mechanical in its connection to the car.

With it's electrically-powered top down, the S2000 offers excellent visibility, despite the rather low seating position. With the top up, you'll find a large blind spot over your left shoulder and too much in the way of wind and road noise isolation; clearly this car was designed for the purist.

Only after Honda was certain that all of the performance ingredients were in place did they turn their attention to the car's creature comforts. We think you'll find that the S2000 is nicely loaded—or at least we hope you do because there are no options available. With the purchase of an S2000 comes a comfortable set of high-back leather bucket seats, micron filtered air conditioning, power windows and door locks, HID headlights, cruise control, digital instrument display, keyless entry and an aluminum shift knob. The ignition system is an odd two-part gimmick that first requires the key be turned in the ignition cylinder followed by pushing a big red START button located on the dash. The S2000 also features a fully-motorized power top with glass rear window and rear defroster. About the only feature we found fault with was the audio system, which sounded OK until we dropped the top, at which point the tunes were easily overtaken by wind and road noise. Then again, this is a car for purists, so we imagine you'll be more interested in listening to the sweet music that comes from the engine and tail pipes.

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