PH HEROES: HONDA S2000
The roadster that titivated with frantic VTEC revs and tail-happy chassis
Four years later, the SSM finally entered production, in somewhat altered form, as the S2000. It retained the same chassis architecture and weight distribution, and with the aid of VTEC technology, its F20C 2.0-litre four produced a remarkable 240hp, giving it the highest specific power output for any mass-produced naturally-aspirated engine. It was a record it held for 11 years, and it took the might of Ferrari’s 458 Italia to break it.
Of course, the top-end character of the S2000 also led to the criticism that’s most often levelled in its direction: torque. Or, to be more precise, a lack of it: the F20C could only muster 153lb ft, and it didn’t even do that until 7,500rpm.
It was an issue that was oft-cited in contemporary road tests – but driving the S2000 today, it really doesn’t seem like such a big problem. No, it won’t give you the mid-range punch of a turbo or a gutsy big-capacity lump – but it is still responsive low down, allowing you enough flexibility and docility to potter at your leisure.
Snap, crackle & pop
It's the engine that's the car’s centrepiece, then. In more ways than one, in fact, as it’s mounted so far back as to in fact make the car front-mid-engined – which explains the long bonnet and somewhat cramped cockpit. It also explains that 50:50 weight distribution, which translates when you aim the nose at some corners. There’s some deadness to the steering, it has to be said; the PAS was electric, which should tell you all you need to know. But despite that it’s quick and direct, so you end up seeing past its shortcomings and enjoying the chassis.
But is it a PH Hero? I reckon so. It’s that engine that seals it. PHers often comment that the joy of driving a petrol-engined car is found in the thrill of wringing its neck, squeezing out those last few revs and timing the change just perfectly to catch the next wave of power. Few cars satisfy that thrill in quite such spectacular fashion; few do so quite so accessibly, either, both in terms of second-hand values and running costs. The S2000 is a driver’s car unlike any other; it might not suit everyone, but what it achieves – and what it offers – is quite remarkable.
Engine: 1,997cc 4-cyl
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Power (hp): 240@8,300rpm
Torque (lb ft): 162@6,500rpm
0-62mph: 6.2 sec
Top speed: 150mph
On sale: 1999-2009
Price new (2004): £26,513
Price now: £3,000-£14,500
Photography: Prime Exposures