Bringing 9000 rpm to the hundreds | Honda S2000 Purchaser’s Information | Articles


[Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the November 2008 issue of Grassroots Motorsports, back when the S2000 was still on the market.]

It is probably not as not unusual as a Miata, however the Honda S2000 represents an outstanding wearing fulfillment from an organization higher recognized to the hundreds for its front-wheel-drive people-movers.

Although it first got here out in 1999 for the 2000 fashion yr, Honda were making plans the S2000 for years—a minimum of for the reason that 1995 Tokyo Motor Display. That’s when Honda took the wraps off its rear-wheel-drive convertible, dubbed the Sports activities Find out about Type. The automobile seemed once more on the 1997 Tokyo Motor Display in addition to a couple of an identical affairs in between. The traces had been blank, and its 2.0-liter engine was once fixed low and a long way again within the chassis to advertise balanced dealing with.

After the SSM were given a heat reception from fanatics and the click, it was once no wonder to Honda-watchers when the Eastern corporate introduced the S2000 in overdue 1999. Some had been stunned when the U.S.-market vehicles won the Honda badge and now not an Acura emblem, as the fee level was once above $32,000. The Honda badge and fashion title, on the other hand, had been meant to echo the primary wearing Honda vehicles—the S500, S600 and S800 of the Sixties.

The manufacturing fashion delivered at the SSM’s guarantees. It had a really perfect 50-50 weight distribution, six-speed transmission, Torsen differential, staggered 16-inch wheels and a jewel of a naturally aspirated engine. The chassis was once stiff and its A-arm suspension was once tuned for efficiency over convenience. Extraordinarily speedy guidance and Bridgestone Potenza S-02 tires got here usual. 

This was once a automotive made to be pushed and pushed arduous, a positioning enhanced via a Spartan inner and a refreshing loss of digital using aids. It did, on the other hand, be offering some sparse comforts: Leather-based upholstery plus electrical doorways and home windows got here usual. Just one trim degree was once to be had, and there have been no choices. A couple of manufacturing unit equipment, together with a neat arduous most sensible, may well be added. The whole thing in regards to the S2000 screamed efficiency, together with a fab racing-inspired get started button. (Take into account, this was once earlier than those buttons was cliché.)

Then again, it was once the two.0-liter, F20C-spec engine that won lots of the reward heaped at the bundle. The engine was once peculiar for Honda on the time, because it featured a timing chain in addition to a traditional clockwise rotation. Mechanical tappets as an alternative of hydraulic adjusters sacrificed quiet operating manners for a excessive rev prohibit. 

The S2000’s most important characteristic is its insanely high-revving inline four-cylinder engine—in 2.0-liter trim it generates a surprising 120 naturally aspirated horsepower in step with liter. Honda livened up the internal with various shiny colours to compare the daring external palette. In spite of the loss of a hard and fast roof, the automobile assists in keeping up its torsional stress because of a structural beam that runs alongside the ground in entrance of the seats. The virtual sprint is an homage to race automotive information presentations. Pictures Credit: Courtesy Honda

The F20C was once extra like a motorbike engine than different car designs, each in format and explicit energy output: The F20C whizzed via its rev vary to a stratospheric 9000 rpm redline, generating 240 horsepower at 8300 rpm. On a per-liter foundation, no different naturally aspirated manufacturing engine may contact it. Later revisions to the ECU didn’t building up rated horsepower, however they did permit the engine to dyno higher.

The six-speed transmission exhibited standard Honda precision and shift really feel. Early variations had tough synchronizers in some gears, however they had been revised in 2002. General the drivetrain was once tight and as responsive as the remainder of the bundle. 

The S2000 suspension was once tuned for skilled drivers searching for the quickest means round a race song. It was once arrange unfastened, even with the inventory staggered tires, and may well be turned around with the brakes or throttle as prerequisites warranted. It was once now not a very simple automotive to power speedy, however skilled drivers liked how it may well be thrown round. Sadly, the dealing with proved to be a susceptible level with some shoppers, particularly the ones raised on front-drive Civics. 

The balanced chassis and unfastened dealing with supposed that ham-fisted keep an eye on inputs ceaselessly resulted within the rear coming round rapidly, particularly when panicked drivers mashed the brake mid-corner. Honda many times revised suspension tuning to tone down the S2000’s tail-happy nature, fidgeting with anti-roll bar sizes, rear keep an eye on arm bushings and alignment specs for 2002.

Decrease Redline, Wider Attraction

Honda revised the still-impressive automotive in lots of small techniques for 2004. General it was once the similar S2000, however with some welcomed tweaks. Honda felt the automobile had modified sufficient to warrant a brand new chassis designation; the place the unique S2000 was once referred to as the AP1, the brand new one was once the AP2.

Probably the most important exchange may well be discovered below the hood, because the engine was once stroked from 2.0 to two.2 liters whilst the compression ratio was once bumped from 11.0:1 to 11.1:1. Whilst the said horsepower remained 240, most torque moved from 153 lb.-ft. at 7500 rpm to 162 lb.-ft. at 6200 rpm. The insane 9000 rpm redline discovered within the AP1 was once changed via a extra piston-friendly 8000 prohibit. Gearing was once revised to raised swimsuit the brand new powerband.

Purists decried the AP2’s rather softened suspension and civilized better engine, however in some ways those mods made for a greater automotive. One of the most snap-oversteer inclinations had been long past, and the bump in torque decreased the take hold of slip wanted when leaving sluggish corners. The automobile nonetheless wasn’t as mass-market because the Mazda Miata, for instance, however in the end it proved to be sooner and extra comfy than the AP1. The efficiency hole between the $33,000 Honda S2000 and $52,000 Porsche Boxster S narrowed much more.

[Project Car: 2001 Porsche Boxster S]

After the advent of the AP2, minimum tweaks marked every yr till 2008, when Honda broke its custom of providing just one trim degree. To spice up gross sales of the now-aging S2000, the Membership Racer fashion was once presented. 

For 2008, Honda presented a 2d trim degree to the S2000 lineup, the CR. Proven above in yellow along its usual sibling, the CR has the similar 2.2-liter engine because the 2004-and-up S2000s. Then again, the suspension and aerodynamics had been remodeled to raised swimsuit competitive on-track use. Plus, grippier material seats substitute the standard leather-wrapped chairs. Pictures Credit: David S. Wallens

Honda claimed that its frame package was once designed to scale back aerodynamic elevate, and the automobile’s weight was once decreased via making air con and a stereo non-compulsory as an alternative of usual. The bottom automotive’s leather-based gave solution to material seats within the CR, and the cushy most sensible and its mechanism had been changed with a difficult most sensible simplest.

Finish of the Highway?

Honda has all the time been an engineering-driven corporate, and the S2000 isn’t any other. Whilst at the floor it doesn’t have the gee-whiz options of a few of its competition, together with the mid-engine Porsche Boxster and all-wheel-drive Audi TT, it’s a cast, no-compromise motive force’s automotive. Because of a stiff rear-drive chassis and a candy, revvy four-cylinder engine, the S2000 provides a large number of efficiency for relatively small cash. It’s so just about best that the majority people would don’t have any bother leaving it inventory.

After a couple of years of depreciation, we’d nonetheless be hesitant to name it a discount. Then again, a used S2000 makes a real fanatic’s automotive with very low operating prices in comparison to a couple of its competitors.

Symbol Courtesy Honda

The S2000 is a straightforward automotive to are living with, regardless that in all probability it’s now not your best choice for an simplest automotive. It is probably not the quickest automotive in the marketplace in a instantly line, nevertheless it was once made to head round corners sooner than virtually anything. It stays a aggressive automotive in A Inventory autocross pageant, and it makes an ideal weekend again street spouse or song day toy.

The S2000’s manufacturing cycle has additionally lasted an incredibly very long time. 9 years with simplest incremental adjustments is nearly extraordinary within the business, and it looks as if Honda’s going for no less than another yr. Let’s hope that no matter Honda comes up with to switch it is going to be simply as spectacular.

Issues to Know

Whilst the S2000 got here from a mainstream provider, the vehicles will also be at the uncommon facet. You’ll be able to’t think that you just’ll to find an instance on your very best yr, colour and value vary instantly. 

S2000 mavens counsel merely choosing the cheap and purchasing the most recent automotive that you’ll. Each and every yr has a couple of small variations in its main points, however they’re all nice vehicles—even the oldest S2000 will supply numerous using thrills. The commonest are 2001 and 2002 vehicles; gross sales of those fashions peaked round 9600 gadgets in step with yr. Green drivers may well be higher served via a automotive with steadiness keep an eye on, however we think the typical GRM reader can be positive with out it.

Pictures Credit score: Courtesy Honda


Swapping the 4.10:1 ultimate power for Richmond Equipment’s 4.57:1 cog is a straightforward transfer for sooner acceleration. It will increase revs at the freeway, in fact, nevertheless it makes the automobile sprightlier from gentle to gentle.


Within the suspension class, once more, the automobile is definitely looked after from the manufacturing unit. The largest bang-for-buck upgrades are stickier tires and a just right alignment. You’ll be able to get greater than a point and a part of adverse camber up entrance on a inventory automotive.

The S2000 is an unbelievable A Inventory autocross automotive, and the system for good fortune is discreet: an enormous entrance bar, R-compound tires, light-weight wheels and alignment.

Frame and Inner

A mix of younger attraction, fairly excessive energy and a tail-happy chassis have led to loads of those vehicles going off the street backward. The choice of salvaged-title S2000s is lovely staggering. While you check up on a automotive, be certain that it has standard Honda are compatible and end. Those vehicles had been assembled very exactly from the manufacturing unit, so a trunk or hood that has bizarre gaps will have to be a pink flag. Take a look at the entire frame panels for the VIN sticky label, in particular the fenders, hood, radiator reinforce and trunk lid. If you happen to to find person who’s been changed, don’t routinely reject the automobile. Simply ask some arduous questions and remember to’re now not paying most sensible greenback for it. 

The sheet steel and inventory Honda paint could be very skinny, so get used to seeing minor scratches. 

A reported downside comprises tears within the cushy most sensible subject matter in the back of the motive force’s head space. The inventory mechanism rubs in contrast a part of the highest, sooner or later resulting in over the top put on and tear. 

The plastic rear window used on early vehicles doesn’t appear to final very lengthy both, because it sooner or later fogs up and cracks. The answer is an oem most sensible with a tumbler window. If you’ll swing the additional money, the manufacturing unit arduous most sensible is a brilliant resolution that will increase safety and cold-weather enjoyment. It’s additionally lighter than the folding cushy most sensible meeting.


Like several Hondas, mileage is just now not a topic assuming correct upkeep. Any S2000 with not up to 200,000 miles has numerous existence left in it. Fortunately maximum have now not reached even part that determine, particularly the ones from cold-weather states. Search for the bottom mileage you’ll, however don’t rigidity over an additional 20,000 miles.

The S2000 has one upkeep factor that’s now not standard for a Honda: The AP1 vehicles have a name for being oil burners. The two.0-liter engine turns out to had been constructed with ring tolerances which can be at the unfastened facet. Whilst this is helping its high-revving nature, it additionally results in a few quart of oil intake in step with each 1500 or so miles.

Take a look at any potential acquire for the best degree of oil and a just right historical past of oil adjustments. An S2000’s engine could be very arduous to rebuild effectively, so chances are you’ll need to go for those who see any proof that any person’s been into it. This comprises oil leaks and extra silicone across the oil pan, despite the fact that that final clue may point out not anything greater than a alternative pan. Take a look at the compression for those who’re fascinated by a automotive. The magic quantity is 240 psi, plus or minus 10 p.c.

AEM provides a few of their neat bits for the S2000, together with cold-air intakes and engine control choices.

Glance out for a damn timing chain, because it’s somewhat not unusual for the car tensioner to wear down. This reasons a high-pitched humming or damn noise. Different noise is not unusual from the S2000’s non-hydraulic valvetrain, however tensioner noise is louder and extra chronic. It is going to sooner or later reason the chain to fail, so it will have to be sorted instantly. 

Someday in 2002, Honda modified the oil squirter banjo bolts to ones that glide higher. Those will also be upgraded with the engine in situ and is probably not a foul thought if long term plans come with numerous song paintings or compelled induction. It’s most likely now not essential for a stock-engined automotive, however the Eu Honda distributor did factor a recall for it. 

Want a programmable ECU for the S2000? Hondata has the equipment and data had to mate a user-programmable Acura RSX keep an eye on unit.



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