Honda S2000
Honda S2000. Click image to enlarge
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Article and photos by Jeff Burry

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Honda S2000, 2000-2009

Honda Motor Company entered the 21st century by going back to its roots: producing a two-seat roadster. The new Honda S2000, a carefully crafted blend of horsepower and sculpted good looks matched to a Formula One exhaust note, was a far-cry from the S600 and S800 roadsters of the 1960s, but like its predecessors, its name was based upon its engine displacement.

Built in celebration of Honda’s 50th anniversary, the S2000 boasted performance numbers (zero to 100 km/h in 5.7 seconds) similar to the Acura NSX, and at half the cost – approximately $52,000 Canadian.

The S2000 was built in recognition of Honda’s racing pedigree. Producing a whopping 240 horsepower from a normally aspirated 2.0-litre DOHC VTEC (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control) engine had never been attempted or achieved before in a production vehicle. It remains today one of the most remarkable engines ever built.

Honda S2000
Honda S2000
Honda S2000. Click image to enlarge

Throw in a six-speed transmission and a redline of 9,000 screaming rpms and you’ve got a roadster that’s a serious competitor for more luxurious sports cars like the Porsche Boxster, BMW Z4 and Audi TT Roadster.

Structurally, the Honda S2000 was built using an X-bone configuration that provides extra rigidity. During the early model years (2000 – 2003) this frame was referred to as the AP1 chassis. The engine sits just behind the front axle and slightly in front of the windshield providing the car with a perfect 50/50 front/rear weight distribution.

One of the unique features of the S2000 is the absence of a turn-key start. In its place is an inscribed red button, situated just to the left of the steering wheel reading “ENGINE START.” Push it and the accelerator, and you will immediately feel as if you are sitting in Pit Lane at a Formula One race ready to take a practice lap.

Other unique features of the car include the absence of a glovebox and an arcing rpm display strategically located just above the digital speedometer. The sculpted instrument panel itself resembles that of a Formula One race car. All required controls are easily accessible without taking one’s hands off the steering wheel.

Should you wish to attempt to drown out the high-pitch whine of the engine (by the way, “bonne chance” with that), access to musical entertainment may be found hidden behind a nifty retractable panel placed low on the centre console.

2000 to 2003 S2000s were equipped with 16-inch five-spoke wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza S-02 tires. Regardless of the exterior colour, a black power convertible top came standard on all vehicles. In 2002, the plastic rear window was replaced with a glass one, making for improved visibility.

Honda S2000
2005 Honda S2000
2005 Honda S2000; photos by Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

An aluminum hard top was available as an accessory if owners preferred to drive their vehicles late into the season. From 2000 to 2003, approximately 1,150 Honda S2000s made their way into dealerships across Canada.

The production run of the Honda S2000 lasted for ten years (2000 – 2009) with minimal upgrades being incorporated into the vehicles year after year. Of all the model years, the 2004 model experienced the most enhancements.

There were several revisions made to the 2004 S2000 starting with the powerplant: gone was the 2.0-litre 240-hp engine, replaced with another naturally aspirated 2.2-litre engine (the stroke was lengthened) producing the same amount of horsepower as its predecessor. In comparison however, the red-line was lowered to a still very respectable 8,000 rpm.

The 2004 model also received a wheel upgrade which saw the vehicle outfitted with new 17-inch 10-spoke rims wrapped in Bridgestone RE-050 tires. The suspension was further refined by adjusting spring tensions and damping. The upgraded suspension makeover was dubbed the “new and improved” AP2 chassis.

Some critics of the former AP1 chassis had suggested that there was too much rigidity in the frame, and the AP2 modifications were said to address those concerns. The jury is still out on that; only those who have had the opportunity to drive both models back-to-back could truly attest to any significant improvements in that department.

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