When former Honda chief Hiroyuki Yoshino introduced the Honda S2000 at the end of the 20th Century, he said that the car represented “Honda leading the way in sports cars in the next millennium.”
Well, as far as leadership goes it turned out to be a case of, “follow me, I’m right behind you.” Apparently, the S2000 was a final mainstream performance flourish from Honda as attention turned toward more mundane conveyances like the Insight, Element, Ridgeline, and eventually the Crosstour. Sigh….
But before all that happened, Honda had this guy, Shigeru Uehara, who was the executive chief engineer of the supercar-challenging NSX. Supported by a corporate vision that celebrated exotic, cutting edge design and high performance technology, Shigeru-san followed the groundbreaking NSX with the S2000. It was his swan-song.
And boy, did it sing! Making its 240 horsepower from the combination of torque and high engine speed in the Honda tradition, the original “AP1” 2.0-litre S2000 (2000–2003) redlined at a screaming 8,900 rpm (peak horsepower arrived at 8,300 rpm), emitting a joyful wail from its dual exhausts at every change from the short-shifting, close-ratio, six-speed gearbox. Too fun! Too crazy!
Well, a bit too crazy, it turned out (although these engines, packed with racing technology, didn’t blow up or anything). It’s just that they didn’t have much when it came to acceleration at lower rpm, so for the 2004–2009 models (designated AP2), the 153 lb-ft of torque at 7,500 rpm was increased to 162 lb-ft at more conservative 6,500 rpm (at 3,500 rpm, torque was up by 10 percent) and the unchanged peak horsepower was achieved at 7,800 rpm, redlining at 8,000. Gear ratios were tweaked, displacement increased to 2.2L and appreciably more midrange power was the result. It was still tricky to launch, though.
Still, the S2000 was never about instant power from standstill; the punch came at about 6,000 rpm, when Honda’s two-stage valve timing system (VTEC) switched between its two sets of exhaust and intake cams. Right foot firmly on the floor, you get this extra kick in each gear as you approach 6K, where the engine just opens up and flies. There it, and you, find the S2000’s happy place.
We didn’t get too many S2000s in Canada, with Honda selling a mere 2,232 examples here over its ten model years (2000–2009). One reason might have been the price: a bit over $50,000, putting it firmly in the luxury sport category Another reason may have been the lack of an available automatic transmission (I know, but the option was available in Boxsters…).
2007 Honda S2000, steering wheel. Click image to enlarge
However, right from the get-go, you received a lot from your Canadian-dollar-challenged money. The S2000 arrived with many features that were initially extra cost or unavailable on competitors from Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The six-speed gearbox, for example, leather interior, power convertible top, xenon HID headlights, torque-sensing (Torsen) limited-slip differential, aluminum pedals, and that sexy and distinctive (at the time) engine start button were all standard.
Our subject car is a 2007 “AP2” model accessorized with factory side strakes and trunk spoiler. Enthusiasts will know that dressed in New Formula Red, it’s not a Canadian-market car (we didn’t get red in 2007). Imported from the US, this car, like many others (thousands?) eventually found their way north of the border because by 2007 our dollar was approaching parity with the US. Given that US S2000s retailed new in the $33-34,000 range you can see the opportunity for Canadians to pick up used ones at comparatively bargain prices (Honda never did reduce the S2000 MSRP in Canada to reflect the new exchange rates).