2007 Honda S2000
The 2007 Honda S2000 isn't terribly practical--it uses a classic two-seat roadster design--but it is terribly fun. It doesn't have much in the way of cabin tech, but we love driving it. The S2000 is a pure sports car, made for winding roads rather than the daily commute. It won't haul your stuff, but it will keep you happy.
The body is a wedge, softened by rounded edges, while the hood dips in from the fenders. The fender lines are reminiscent of a boat's gunwales, a design theme Honda emphasized a little too much in the Acura Advanced Sedan Concept that we saw at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Fortunately with the S2000, those lines don't meet in a point at the front, instead disappearing in the front bumper.
Test the tech: Tearing up the twisties
Because there was nothing particular in the cabin to test with this car, we tested the handling by driving it over the twistiest roads we could find. North of San Francisco, Highway 1 runs along the coast, incorporating tight turns as it follows the landscape. Just off of that, the Fairfax-Bolinas road gets a little raw, doing away with niceties like painted lane lines as it works its way over the coastal mountains inland.
Roads like this are the next best thing to a racetrack, as you couldn't possibly go over the speed limit without driving off a cliff. So we had challenging turns that we could take without breaking the law--it was going to be a good day.
We know the Highway 1 portion of this run well, and we could enjoy the dramatic ocean views on the bits of straight road between the many corners. The lanes are also wide enough that we had some room to maneuver the little S2000, attacking the turns from the outside, then diving into the inside edge.
A nice twist ahead, but blow the corner and you're over a cliff and into the ocean.
The steering on the S2000 is tight, with very neutral handling. Wherever we pointed its nose, the car easily followed. We never broke traction on these corners, partly due to the car's limited slip differential and also due to our desire not to end up in the ocean. Even with some 15mph-rated corners, we didn't lose too much speed as we sped up the coast. The car was completely in its element, and we were enjoying the foggy day with the top down.
On the tighter Fairfax-Bolinas road, we were forced to be more cautious, as the corners often weren't marked with a recommended speed and it was impossible to see how hard they wrapped around. On this road, we really got to appreciate another aspect of the S2000--the 8,000rpm redline and car's wide power bands. The S2000 let us enter a tight turn in second gear, then get up some speed again on the short straightaway before the next tight turn, all without shifting up to third gear and back down again.
The car helped us tackle this course with vigor. Its tightly tuned steering pointed the nose very precisely, while the high redline let us move from one turn to the next without dropping power. The engine, placed far back from the front wheels, evens out the weight distribution of the S2000. The car almost feels like it's on a turntable on really tight turns.
In the cabin
The S2000's instrument cluster would have a high-tech look to it, if this were 1995. It uses orange lights instead of needles to show the engine temperature, fuel level, and tachometer, while the speed is a digital readout. It's an interesting novelty, and it works well enough, but it's time for an update.
The S2000 lacks most of the common cabin gadgets--navigation and Bluetooth cell phone integration aren't available. But its stereo offers a few interesting features. First of all, the stereo system gets eight speakers, which is a lot to disperse around the cabin of a roadster. But this count includes four small speakers in the uprights of the roll bars, right behind the driver's and passenger's heads. There are also two speakers in each door.
Even without a subwoofer, this system sounds good. We noticed good audio separation and a nicely defined sound. With the right music, the bass shakes the doors. On some tracks, we noticed a disturbing midrange hum. The highs were nice and clear, but not outstanding. At top speed with the top down, it's just about impossible to hear the stereo, even with the eight speakers. But overall, we weren't disappointed with the sound.
The audio controls are unique to the S2000.
The stereo head unit was another matter. It has a single CD slot, but can't handle MP3 or WMA CDs. Satellite radio and an eight-disc changer are optional, but the small display on the stereo would make channel selection difficult. There is a hinged cover for the stereo that is best to leave closed; knees were prone to hit its sharp corner when it was down. There is a set of controls for the stereo on the dashboard, to the left of the steering wheel, so leaving the cover closed is no problem. You can still change the volume and move through presets.
The cabin uses nice materials and doesn't feel cheap. The power convertible top works quickly, although you have to learn to click its latches into place when you're putting the top down, otherwise they'll rattle.
Under the hood
The S2000's engine is a work of art, whether you're listening to it, looking at it, or feeling its power. It's a 237-horsepower, 2.2-liter four-cylinder with a red aluminum alloy head cover and an oversized radiator, necessary for keeping the heat down when it's cycling at 7,500rpm. The engine uses Honda's VTEC variable-valve timing technology to help it put out more than 100 horsepower per liter of displacement. It produces its peak 237 horsepower at 7,800rpm, with 162 pound-feet of torque at 6,800rpm.
With its red head cover, the S2000 obviously wants to be a Ferrari when it grows up.
These numbers become very apparent when you're driving the car. During a normal start, it doesn't feel like the car has much oomph. But kick up the revs before dropping it into gear, and it bolts forward. The difference between 2,000rpm and 4,000rpm is very noticeable. Running it close to redline produces an enjoyable whine. The six-speed shifter is a pleasure to use. Its short throws are very precise, making it easy to move quickly from gear to gear; 40mph in second gear isn't unreasonable in the S2000.
Like most cars, the Honda S2000 lost a couple of miles per gallon between the EPA's old economy testing to the new. Where the S2000 previously got 20mpg city and 26mpg highway, it's now rated at 18mpg city and 24mpg highway. During our time with the car, we got just under 16mpg, but we were driving the car fairly aggressively, and really enjoying its high-rpm fast launches. If you drive like we do, and how the car just begs to be driven, expect lower-than-EPA mileage.
Along with the mediocre mileage, the S2000 isn't exactly a low-emissions leader. Its California Air Resources Board rating is the minimal LEV II.
There are no trim levels with the 2007 Honda S2000, and only a few options. Ours had the Laguna Blue Pearl paint job, no options, and came in at $34,845.
Although the S2000 offers a decent audio system, we can't rate it very high for cabin tech. After more than five years of production, the car really needs an interior makeover and some more modern options. Performance-wise, it's incredible, pretty well justifying its price. But although it squeezes a lot of power from a relatively small engine, it pours in a lot of gas to accomplish this feat.
For comparison, a Mini Cooper S offers similarly fun handling and more cabin gadgets but less power. The Saturn Sky Red Line has a more dramatic look, but it's not as fun to drive as the 2007 Honda S2000.