The HONDA S2000 is a 240 PS front-engined, rear-wheel drive, two-seater roadster, clothed in a sleek, muscular body. Aimed at the sports car purist, its traditional configuration is underpinned in true Honda style by innovative, race-bred technology that is guaranteed to stir the emotions of performance motoring enthusiasts everywhere.
At its heart lies an extraordinary, spine-tingling four cylinder 2.0 litre DOHC VTEC engine that spins all the way to 9,000 rpm before hitting the rev limiter. At 120 PS/litre, its specific output is greater than any Naturally Aspirated engine on the market and yet, incredibly, it conforms to some of the toughest emissions legislation in the world, including both California's LEV (Low Emission Vehicle) and the full EU2000 requirements.
Dubbed a 'high performance eco engine', it propels the HONDA S2000 from 0 to 100 km/h in just 6.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 241 km/h. It is also remarkably flexible even at low speeds thanks to the latest generation of Honda's VTEC variable valve timing.
This outstanding combination of abilities owes much to the expertise developed by Honda's engineers during four decades of motorsport activity on race tracks around the world.
A lightweight six-speed manual transmission with short-throw shift action, compact electric power steering, anti-lock braking with electronic brake force distribution, and torque-sensing limited slip differential as a guard against wheelspin in tight corners complete the technologically-advanced specification.
The HONDA S2000's compact dimensions and low weight provide outstanding agility. Under the skin is a unique and innovative structure known as a 'high X-bone frame', in which the frame rails and centre tunnel combine to create an immensely strong body-chassis. Its effect is to provide a level of rigidity and passenger crash protection equivalent to that of a closed body, while keeping overall weight to a minimum.
It also provides a solid platform from which the HONDA S2000's new generation in-wheel double wishbone suspension can work effectively. Together with a low centre of gravity, an optimum 50:50 front/rear weight distribution and a compact engine mounted well behind the front axle, Honda's new roadster provides precise, balanced handling, responding to driver input in a predictable and linear fashion.
Styling is purposeful, yet elegant. With an arrow-like nose, sweeping headlamp covers and ultra-low bonnet line, the HONDA S2000 has real on-road presence. Taut flanks that flare out to tightly hug the front wheels signal its performance potential.
The cockpit-like interior features a small, leather-wrapped steering wheel, supportive leather seats and Formula 1-inspired digital instrumentation designed to convey the high-tech, high-revving nature of the new Honda engine. The electronic tachometer and speedometer illuminate once the ignition key is turned, but the engine is actually fired by a push button starter - a feature that will appeal to all motoring enthusiasts.
For fresh air aficionados, top down motoring can be achieved in seconds thanks to an electric hood mechanism, while the HONDA S2000's boot is ideally sized for a weekend away, swallowing two large soft bags with ease.
The HONDA S2000 may be a lightweight, high performance roadster, but it is also well-equipped. Included in the standard specification are driver and passenger airbags, central locking, immobiliser, power windows, power mirrors, power roof, leather-trimmed steering wheel, leather seats, stereo radio/cassette, roll over bars, alloy wheels, ABS, limited slip differential, electric power steering, and high intensity discharge headlamps. Air conditioning is either standard or a factory fit option depending on the market. There are four colours to choose from: silver and black complemented by either black or red leather upholstery and red and blue with black leather upholstery.
Released to celebrate the company's 50th anniversary, the HONDA S2000 is designed to reflect the company's exemplary tradition in sports cars and its rich motorsport heritage: a thoroughbred sportscar crammed with racing-derived technology in other words. In particular, Honda sees it as the spiritual successor to the S800 sports car launched in 1965; indeed, the HONDA S2000 is the first front-engined, rear-wheel drive Honda since that model.
In positioning the new car, Honda identified three categories of affordable sports cars currently available: 'Ultra-enthusiast' cars which provide enormous driving pleasure but which may not be easy to live with in everyday usage; 'nostalgic' sports cars, which are often based on the floorpans of ordinary saloons, use conventional technology and lack much of the technical content of a traditional sportscar; and thirdly, 'advanced' sports cars, which match luxury with technology, may therefore be compromised, and aimed at owners more concerned with making a style statement than the driving experience.
With its new sportscar, Honda wanted to match the driving excitement of the ultra-enthusiast cars with the sophistication and comfort of the advanced class rivals, while also minimising environmental impact. To do this Honda elected to develop an all-new car, with an all-new drivetrain, and the SSM (sports study model) concept roadster first shown at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show formed the basis of the new model.
The complete project was handled by Honda's engineers at the Wako and Tochigi, Japan R&D Centres. Development lasted almost three years, longer than that required by a typical Honda, but reflecting the challenge of creating the first front-engine, rear wheel drive model for 34 years, and the project team's desire for outstanding performance. A part of the development programme, the HONDA S2000 was optimised for European driving conditions with a comprehensive test programme in Europe.
The HONDA S2000 is built at the Takanezawa plant in Tochigi, Japan alongside the Honda NSX and production is limited to around 12,000 cars a year. It is subject to the same meticulous build process as the NSX, and the prime objective of the low volume, high technology plant is the achievement of world-leading levels of quality. Rather than a heavily automated assembly line, the HONDA S2000 is constructed at a series of work-stations by a number of teams.
Company press release, last updated before 12 / 01 / 2004
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