Why Honda’s S2000 Is One Of The Greatest Sports Cars Ever Made

Why Honda’s S2000 Is One Of The Greatest Sports Cars Ever Made

Sports cars can provide plenty of thrills for the driver, at the fraction of the cost of a supercar. One of the very best sports cars to be made is surely the Mazda MX-5 Miata. This plucky little roadster has been with us since 1989, and over the years it has steadily evolved into one of the best and most dependable sports cars on the planet. But, there was a time when the MX-5 had a big rival from fellow Japanese carmaker Honda. That car of course is the S2000.

The Honda S2000 sometimes gets forgotten, mostly because it’s no longer in production. Probably down to the fact it hasn’t been in production since 2009, but that shouldn’t stop us talking about it. The S2000 very much deserves to have its story told, as it is one of the greatest sports cars ever made and was probably the only thing that had Mazda engineers sweating with worry as it very much became a legitimate alternative to their all-conquering MX-5. Many hanker after a return for the S2000, but maybe that obscurity it now has is what helps to make it so great.

Development Of The S2000

Honda Sport Study Model Concept Car
via S2KI

What would become the Honda S2000 was first shown off at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show. Honda brought along the Honda Sport Study Model concept car, which was the design study for what would become the production version of the S2000. From that point onwards, Honda kept on bringing the SSM to various motor shows, which gave strong hints that the company was going to create a production version. That came true when Honda announced in 1999 that it would indeed be making the S2000.

Honda S2000 1999 Yellow Front Quarter View
via Ultimate Car Page

The first version of the Honda S2000 made its debut in 1999 for the 2000 model year, and this had the chassis designation of AP1. What Honda had built was a sports car powered by an inline four-cylinder DOHC engine with VTEC, called the F20C, and it generated, in its initial guise, 247 hp. What helped to make the S2000 so spectacular was its redline at 8,800 rpm and the fact the rev limiter was set at 9,000 rpm. This is territory that is nominally reserved for supercars, not sports roadsters. What Honda had come up with was something truly special, and something that might never be seen again.

RELATED: Why You’d Want A Honda S2000 Over A Mazda MX-5

What Made It So Good

Honda-S2000--1999- Red
via Cars Guide

Firstly, that engine helped to create the legend that is the S2000. This might not seem the case when you start the car, as it doesn’t indicate anything special as you sit there with it running on idle. Even as you apply some revs, you wonder what the fuss is about. But as you start to really drive the S2000 and find that redline, then it starts to become truly special. The S2000 had the highest specific output of a normally aspirated production car engine in the world. The engine gives out 124 hp per liter, and remember, this is without a turbo or supercharging.

Honda S2000 Rear Quarter View White
via Evo

Coupled to the engine is that truly beautiful manual transmission. People have waxed lyrical about this gearbox for years, but the reality is it is simply that good. The mechanical connection you feel between the gearing and the engine is sublime, and might even be the very best out there even today, as outlets such as Top Gear have said. Changing gear in the S2000 isn’t just a process, it’s an event. You can change gear fast at high revs, or gently slip into the next gear up when gently cruising along. Honda absolutely nailed the gearbox and engine combination.

Are There Any Downsides?

Honda S2000 Blue Front Quarter View
via Car Throttle

Truth be told, there are a couple of minor downsides. The car doesn’t generate as much buzz when you are just plodding along. But equally, you don’t want it to be all show all the time, as it would ruin the magic. The chassis and steering also perhaps lack that very fine-tuning that could have made it truly exceptional. But as you are driving a long and wishing for just a bit more from the S2000, you then start to hear the engine sing as you approach the redline, and you slam it into another gear. Suddenly, that’s all forgotten.

RELATED: This Honda S2000 Looks Like It Has Been Hitting The Gym

A Rush Of Adrenaline In A Great Car

via Hagerty

It’s moments like that which really help to highlight just what an adrenaline rush the Honda S2000 can be. And this is before we talk about the interior or exterior. Inside, it’s a snug but cozy place to be, and wonderful on a summer day with the roof down. And on the outside, the S2000 is one of the prettiest, cleanest and most elegant sports cars ever created. Perhaps it’s a good thing it wasn’t around long enough to become more bloated like the latest MX-5s are. Because the S2000 has become a timeless classic, a single-minded sports car that, simply put, was and still is unlike anything else on the market. We salute the S2000, and everything that made it great.

Sources: Car Scoops, S2KI, Ultimate Car Page, Cars Guide, Evo, Car Throttle, Top Gear, Hagerty

The front of a silver AP2 S2000
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