2006 Honda S2000: Raising the Bar, Lowering the Redline

2006 honda s2000 wallpaper
2006 honda s2000 wallpaper

I’ve been waiting a really long time to drive an S2000. So long in fact that I missed the first version of Honda’s two seat sport scar completely. Gone are the days of the rev-happy 9000 rpm redline 2.0 liter banger that I longed to drive; apparently people wanted more low-end torque and a less peaky power band. While high-revving peaky power plants are nearly my definition of fun (I clearly don’t agree with the masses on this one) the latest version of the S2000 did an excellent job of putting a smile on my face.

Like a first date with a beautiful girl who has rough around-the-edges table manners, my first drive in the S2000 started off a bit awkward. I probably should have seen it coming because I had just hopped out of the silky smooth and deafeningly silent Porsche Caymen minutes before pushing the start button on the Honda sports car. When the 2.2 liter engine fired up it sounded rough, buzzy and much less refined than I expected. The first few miles left me looking like I had just swallowed a gulp of sour milk. All the anticipation and hype had left me a bit under whelmed. The power didn’t seem to unleash when the rpms got high, as I expected it too and the interior was small, Spartan and very Honda, while I was looking for something more exotic.

But then about 4 miles into my first drive something switched. Maybe I got the feeling for how to drive the close ratio six-speed gearbox or maybe the morning cup of coffee finally kicked in, whatever happened it was dramatic. Suddenly the simplicity of the car and its small proportions seemed to be a work of genius. The motor came to life pulling well up to about 5500 rpm, then letting you feel all 237 horsepower with an extra burst all the way up to the 8200 rpm redline. The buzzy exhaust now ripped through the air like a race car howling through the Virage Du Portier tunnel in Monte Carlo, and the narrow cockpit with its high door sills was now a race car like aesthetic instead of a claustrophobic hindrance. In fact it was starting to remind me of my MG; a much faster and better screwed together MG.

Most of the talk I’d heard of the S2000 was positive but the one fault that came up in conversation several times was steering feel, but to my novice hands the Honda steering felt great. Quick and light but with enough weight to give the car a real sport scar feel the S2000 steered like a champion, and when the wheel was flicked in one direction the car responded instantly darting eagerly toward the destination of choice. The suspension was taught but not overly so giving the driver a good indication of road quality without requiring back realignment after a drive. The relatively light curb weight of 2800 lbs with near 50/50 front to back weight distribution added to overall sprightly feel of the car.

With a stiff suspension and not a lot of weight to lug around the S2000 has some real handling prowess, but with 200 plus horsepower on tap the car is also prone to a bit of over steer. That is why the latest version of the S2000 comes with a defeatable traction control called Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA). I got a chance to check this feature out on a wet day entering a hard right hand corner. Down shifting to second gear I stood on the throttle into to the turn and the rear of the S2000 instantly began to rotate. Before I could begin my steering correction I felt the VSA kick in and the power momentarily cut off allowing the car to resume its intended line. For those wishing to really drift the car a quick push of a button will turn the VSA off and give the driver full control, or full out of control, of the vehicle.

The cool thing about the S2000 is that it did all of the non-sports car stuff really well too. The power top was quick and easy to use. The stereo and climate controls were amazingly simple to operate and quite effective (take note BMW). The race inspired gauge display, while a little different at first, relayed all the necessary information in a very intuitive manner. Even the gas mileage was pretty good, especially considering the amount the car saw its redline while I was behind the wheel.

Overall the S2000 more than lived up to my expectations. While it took awhile for me to warm up to the car, once I did I never wanted to get out. Honda deserves high marks for this little convertible. Priced at $34,000 the stylish and fun S2000 is not cheap, but the car continues to sell well and has attracted quite a following. In its price range this is certainly one of the best pure sports cars you can buy.

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