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The Honda S2000 is a convertible sports car made by Honda Motor Company. Launched in 1999, it is Honda's first front-engined sports car since the 1960s, when last they produced the S500, S600 and S800.
The S2000 features a high-revving 2 L four cylinder engine producing 177 kW — the most powerful normally aspirated engine of its size in the world — although a 2.2 L variant was later introduced to the American and Japanese markets. Power is transmitted through a six-speed manual gearbox to the rear wheels, which feature a torque sensing limited slip differential. Throughout its lifetime the car received minor tweaks to the styling and drive train components designed to improve the driving experience over earlier models.
The S2000 has won numerous awards and praise from journalists largely due to its high engine output, balanced chassis, slick gearbox and responsive steering. Criticism has largely been levelled at earlier models for their lack of low down torque, rough gear changes and tendency to "snap" oversteer, all of which were addressed by changes to subsequent models.
Despite being in production for eight years, Honda have not revealed any plans for a replacement model or indicated that the S2000 would be discontinued.
The S2000 has a front mid-engined, rear-wheel drive layout with a torque sensing limited slip differential. With the engine mounted longitudinally behind the front axle and the gearbox located at the back, the car achieves a 50:50 weight distribution. The chassis is an extremely rigid "X-bone" monocoque which improves passenger protection as well as handling, while suspension is by independent McPherson struts both front and rear.
In terms of exterior design the car features a long bonnet and short rear, giving it a "classic" roadster look. The front features high intensity discharge headlights while the rear sports LED tail lights (on later models) and an exhaust pipe at each side. The interior is spartan and focussed around the driver, with the audio and ventilation controls located close to the steering wheel. The instrument panel is entirely digital, with the tachometer, fuel and temperature gauges displayed as a series of LED bars rather than traditional needles. Speed is indicated by means of a readout on the dash.
The S2000 was first launched in 1999, featuring a 2 L engine, 16" wheels with Bridgestone Potenza S02 tyres (205/55/16 front, 225/50/16 rear) and a plastic rear window built into the electrically retractable canvas roof.
Some minor styling changes were made in 2002, including the addition of silver trim on the interior and chrome ring surrounds around the tail lights. The rear window was replaced with glass and included a built-in demister. Honda also offered an aluminium hard top as an optional extra. The biggest change however was to the gearbox, which was reworked to provide smoother gear changes.
The 2004 model saw further upgrades, with the suspension setup being tweaked to provide more progressive oversteer than previous models. The tyres were replaced with 17" Bridgestone Potenza RE050s (215/45/17 front, 245/40/17 rear). A stroked version of the engine displacing 2.2 L as well as shortened ratios for the first four gears were introduced to the American market following criticism about a lack of low-end torque.
Drive by wire throttle and traction control — which the driver could optionally turn off — as well as a pair of speakers integrated into each headrest were introduced in 2006. During the same year Honda introduced the 2.2 L engine to the Japanese market.
In 2007 Honda released the S2000 Club Racer edition in the U.S., featuring a light-weight fixed roof and dispensing with equipment such as the folding soft-top, air conditioning, radio and spare wheel in order to reduce weight. Designed as a track day racer, the CR sports firmer suspension and stiffer anti-roll bars, as well as a rear spoiler and additional changes to the body work in order to produce more downforce. The tyres are upgraded to RE070s and at the rear are wider at 255 mm compared to 245 mm. A Type S model, essentially the same version as the CR but retaining the folding soft-top instead of the fixed roof, was introduced in Japan later that same year.
The S2000 was introduced with a new engine bespoke for the vehicle. Designated the F20C, it is an inline 4 cylinder engine which displaces 1997 cc (bore 87.0 mm, stroke 84.4 mm), revs to 9,000 rpm and produces maximum power of 177 kW at 8,300 rpm and peak torque of 208 Nm at 7,500 rpm. With a specific output of 88.6 kW/l, it produces the most power per litre of any normally aspirated engine in the world (in a road-legal production car). The F20C has won numerous awards, including five International Engine of the Year awards in the 1.8 L to 2.0 L category between 2000 and 2004, as well as being named in Ward's 10 Best Engines for 2000 and 2001.
Despite the high output, the engine was criticised (particularly in the American market) for having too little low-end torque, making it hard to drive in daily traffic. Honda responded by introducing the F22C1, essentially the same engine with the stroke lengthened to 90.7 mm, increasing displacement to 2157 cc. The F22C1 produced 220 Nm at 6,800 rpm, resulting in more usable power lower down in the rev range. The power output remained the same at 177 kW, although at a lower 7,800 rpm. Because of the longer travel distance of the pistons, the redline was reduced to 8,000 rpm.
The S2000 has been well received by critics and has received numerous awards from motoring publications. It was the highest ranked premium sports car in the J.D. Power and Associates vehicle dependability study for 2004 and 2006, and is consistently amongst the top three positions. The S2000 was ranked no. 1 in the BBC Top Gear reliability survey for 2004, 2005 and 2006, and also featured on Car and Driver's Ten Best list for 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004.
Marketing and sales
The S2000 competes in the market place with other convertibles such as the more expensive Porsche Boxster and BMW Z4 and the cheaper Mazda MX-5 and Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky. The largest market for the S2000 is North America (primarily the U.S.), followed by Europe (mainly UK) and Japan. U.S. sales figures for 2006 show that the S2000 sold 6,271 units compared to 4,503 units for the Boxster, 11,520 for the Z4, the MX-5's 16,897 units and the Solstice/Sky's 28,381 units combined.
Although speculation is rife about a possible successor (including it being moved upmarket and becoming a four-seater), Honda have not officially commented on the future of the S2000.
- Honda S2000 Review. Retrieved on 2007-11-09.