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Honda S2000 has a tight but comfortable interior and performance that belies its subdued outward appearance.

Honda's S2000 may not have the looks or panache of a Porsche Boxster, but its performance provides as much, if not more, driving fun for about $30,000 less.

2002 Honda S2000 Road Test
S2000 redlines at 9,000 rpm

By Bill Roebuck

When the Honda Civic was introduced decades ago -- it was the beginning of a long era of success for the company. One of the criticisms of it was its high revving engine. North Americans were used to powerful but lower-rpm machines at the time. But the fact was -- and remains -- that Honda could wring more rpm and more horsepower out of engines than its competitors could. Highlights
2002 Honda S2000
Category: Roadster (RWD)
Seats: 2
Cargo Cap: 153 litres
Engine: 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder; 240 hp
Litres/100 km, City/Hwy: 11.6/8.5 (Prem. gas)
Price (Cdn): $48,500
Pros: Style, superb handling, fast acceleration, easy-to-drive yet lots of power
Cons: Very limited cargo capacity and interior storage
That fact remains clear when you look at the specs for the S2000 engine -- an incredible 240 hp is generated by this little two-litre, four-cylinder powerhouse, and it doesn't redline till 9,000 rpm. That's screaming. It has more power per litre than any other normally-aspirated engine on the market. Interestingly, the S2000 behaves rather normally in average driving. Then, when you accelerate onto the highway and hit 6,000 rpm, it's like rocket boosters kick in and you really start to fly. It will go from zero to 100 km/h in just over six seconds.

The S2000 is ideally suited for top-down warm weather driving. The powered room retracts easily in just a few seconds, and raises almost as fast. However, if you want a neat look with the top down, installing the flexible tonneau over the folded roof storage area is a time-consuming experience requiring dexterity and nimble fingers. It's just as hard to remove  too. And it takes up much of the small trunk space, so I expect most drivers will just leave it behind.

The week that I first tested the rear-wheel drive S2000 was back in November of 2000 and it was frustrating -- it was cold and rainy and even snowed one day. You can't really enjoy this car in the winter -- it was a handful in the light snow, and the plastic rear window fogged up readily. That's been fixed for 2002 as the new model has a heated rear window. But when a single mild, sunny day turned up, it was perfect for a top-down jaunt to a business meeting near Kitchener, Ont.

This Honda sounds and drives like a great sports car and it performed flawlessly. I found it more fun, and easier to drive, than the more costly Porsche Boxster.

The six-speed manual transmission shifted easily, being one of the smoothest I've ever used, and its suspension ate up all the defects in the road. Despite being a convertible, the S2000 is as solid as a rock, although a bit of a costly rock at $48,500. It's still a huge bargain compared to a Porsche Boxster or Audi TT, both of which aren't as easy to drive as the S2000.

Most people who stopped to chat about the car -- it has a look that attracts a lot of attention -- were quite surprised to learn the S2000's maker was Honda. I had to tell them that this is one sports car that can match the unsurpassed fun-to-drive quotient of the old '63 MGB I used to own.

© Copyright Bill Roebuck, 2002.

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