Bringing back great cars that people love is never a bad idea. Trouble with reviving a great name from the past is doing the name justice. Honda hit an absolute home run with the relaunch of the NSX. It is the perfect combination of speed, technology and downright spectacular looks. Buoyed by the success of the NSX Honda is seriously considering bringing back another great name from their history. The S2000!
The Honda S2000 was launched in 1998 as a 50th birthday gift to itself. High revving NA engine up front, 6 speed manual transmission in the middle and drive went to the rear wheels. The S2000 was a Miata on steroids. The F-Series engines made as much as 239 NATURALLY ASPIRATED horsepower and could rev to an astonishing 9,000 RPM. They are on the short list for greatest 4 cylinder engines ever built. You could rev the absolute nuts off of it and it kept coming back for more. Couple that with a brilliant sports tuned suspension, the manual box and rwd, it was one of the greatest enthusiast cars ever built. if the recent rumors are to be believed the S2000 is poised for a come back.
Honda is seriously exploring the idea of a sports car to sit under the NSX supercar. A revived S2000 would certainly fit that bill. A new S2000 should be cause for great excitement right? The world needs more small, fun sportscars, so why am I not running the halls of Shifting Lanes singing praise to the automotive Gods? The S2000 is supposed to be small, simple and fun with more refinement and performance than its Japanese cousin.
I know we are slowly seeing the death of high output naturally aspirated engines. Turbocharging and hybrid drive are the way of the future. The immediacy of the NA F20C and F22C is what made it fun. The titanic redline made the experience of running through the gears a borderline spiritual experience. The new engine will be a twin charged 4 cylinder. That means a turbo and an electric supercharger. This allows for more power, more efficiency and effectively eliminates lag. All of this high technology gives the new S2000 an estimated 320 horsepower. No lag, efficient, and plenty of power, that is a hugely capable engine, unfortunately I sincerely doubt it will live up to the epic charm of the F-series engines.
I get it, the times dictate you need turbos and electric wizardry to meet mpg targets. That said, 320 horsepower, rwd and a manual is a pretty spectacular package in a small car. The new S2000 will be rear wheel drive, unfortunately Honda is ditching the manual box in favor of an automatic eight speed dual clutch transaxle. Yes this optimizes weight distribution and the shifts will be lighting quick, but no manual? This isn’t supposed to be the last word in performance. It is about a driving experience, an experience that the original deliverd brilliantly. If any car deserves a manual its the S2000. Its part of the car’s DNA, it’s what made it such a great car in the first place.
The new S2000 will start at $50,000. That is a huge chunk to spend on a toy. A toy you can’t really play with. The essence of the original S2000 was a high revving NA engine, rear wheel drive and a manual box. A car for enthusiasts. It wasn’t a sweet 16 present from daddy, it wasn’t cute, it was designed to be fun. It was designed for a person who has a list of great roads and drives them because they can. I don’t get that feeling with the new one. Plus for around $50,000 you can get a Shelby GT350. You know what that has? An epic engine that will rev forever and a manual gearbox. It is one of the best cars I have ever driven. You mean to tell me Honda couldn’t capture this same spirit in a new car?
I think this is a marketing move by Honda. They’re trying capitalize on one of their more famous names to make some money in a segment they currently don’t occupy. From a business stand point I get it. This doesn’t live up to the name, the original was a scalpel that you felt a part of. Every input from the driver had an effect on the car. I get the feeling the new one will be duller, detaching the driver from the car. I have no doubt this new car will be fast, reliable and brilliantly put together. I think in its own way it could be fun but more as a GT car then a true enthusiast’s sportscar. It would have been very nice, had they named it something different. By naming It an S2000 you set an expectation. An expectation that this new car comes woefully short on matching.