One Last Blast in the Honda S2000
Time to say 'sayonara' to the tiny, exhilarating sports car
The final S2000 convertible rolled off the assembly line about a month ago. And though it might sound strange to get all nostalgic about a car that’s been around for only 10 years, Honda’s sweet little 2-seater deserves an 8,000-rpm salute for the pure pleasures it delivered over that decade. (In fact, imagine this: Owners of the earliest models get a 9,000-rpm salute thanks to the frenetic Cuisinart of a 4-cylinder engine that spun to redline heights unmatched by any production car, then or since.)
Honda first hinted at this roadster with the Sport Study Model, or SSM, at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1995. The S2000 finally went on sale here in 1999 as a 2000 model-year car, which was just in time for Honda’s 50th anniversary. The S2000 was the company’s first sports car since its dinky S500, S600 and S800 roadsters of the '60s.
From the beginning, the S2000 was special: a lightweight roadster with a minimalist, Formula-style cockpit, a gymnast’s balance, a jaunty red “start” button (now emulated by dozens of cars) and, especially, that engine -- the world’s most powerful naturally aspirated 4-cylinder, squeezing a monumental 240 horsepower from a mere 2 liters of displacement. For Honda, already respected as the industry’s small-engine king, this engine was its jewel, a testament to engineering skill.
The S2000 was naturally a niche model, with just 63,855 copies sold here over a decade. But sales had begun to wane, and Honda said that, given the slump in both the economy and sports car sales, the time had come:
“It became clear that the S2000 had run its course,” Chris Naughton, a Honda spokesman, told me.
Like some other future-collectible roadsters -- the Mazda Miata and the Porsche Boxster being two -- the Honda reminded us that cars don’t have to have fusion reactors under their hood to be mad fun. When I turned my electric-blue S2000 loose this week for memorable gallops up the Hudson River Valley in New York, the Honda still felt more vital, more fused to the road and my brain’s own hard wiring, than many cars with 400 or 500 horsepower.
The Honda’s funeral leaves the carmaker with no sports car in its lineup. The carmaker will introduce the “sporty” CR-Z hybrid next year, but that’s hardly a replacement. And Toyota long ago ditched its once-trusty Supras and Celicas to concentrate on building the world’s most boring (yet unbreakable) cars instead. Toyota has its own affordable sports car in the works, which may revive the Celica or Supra name, and has been tinkering with a Lexus supercar for years, but neither one seems a done deal, considering the current sales climate.
So it’s RIP for the S2000. You were fast and furious, my friend. And you will be missed.
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