Honda S2000 2.2

It all started as a one-off anniversary celebration for 50 golden years of Honda. But the original S2000 was never the perfect present. That is why the car has been tweaked every year since it was launched in 1998, despite the low production numbers.

Upping the engine size has had a dramatic effect on the S2000's character. More responsive at low revs and better behaved at the limit, it's a far easier car to drive than the 2.0-litre machine. Sadly, though, it's unlikely to come here, so UK drivers will have to make do with the new looks alone.

It all started as a one-off anniversary celebration for 50 golden years of Honda. But the original S2000 was never the perfect present. That is why the car has been tweaked every year since it was launched in 1998, despite the low production numbers.

Now, for 2004, the model gets its most radical revision yet. With a larger engine, modified suspension, fresh body detailing and an even better six-speed box, this S2000 is virtually brand new - and Auto Express has driven it first.

The results are startling. Just a moment behind the wheel convinces you that this is the car Honda's engineers always intended the S2000 to be. That said, the cockpit is still as tight as a pair of drainpipe jeans, but ergonomically, it remains one of the best around.

After the snug leather interior, the first thing you notice is that the tacho red line has fallen from 9,000rpm to a more sedate 8,200rpm. Only when you head to the test track do you see why.

S2000 owners have been craving more mid-range urge since the launch. Honda's answer was to up capacity to 2.2 litres and increase torque. The unit can't rev as hard, but that's no bad thing. Peak power is still 240bhp, but it's now achieved at 7,800rpm - down from 8,300rpm - while torque jumps from 207Nm at 7,500rpm to 218Nm at 6,500rpm. Yet performance is largely the same, with a 6.0-second 0-60mph time and a top speed of 155mph.

It's when you reach 4,000rpm that you notice the extra poke, and as you pass 6,000rpm, the VTEC variable valve timing system switches the engine to warp drive. True, you still have to work it hard, but that just adds to the thrill of this car. The six-speed gearbox is now closer to perfection. Ratios are longer, while the synchromesh has been uprated to improve shift quality. The result is a more precise, positive gearchange that goes exactly where you want it to.

The other area of improvement is the steering and suspension package. Honda's engineers have sharpened the steering and stiffened the front end. The rear ride height is also lower and the springs slightly softer. So gone is the inherent tendency for snap oversteer at the limit. It all means the S2000 is great fun to drive, better than even the brilliant Porsche Boxster.

But it's not all good news, as Honda has no plans to import this less frantic S2000. While UK cars will get the styling upgrades early in 2004, there'll be no new engine or suspension tweaks. Given the 2.2's promise, that's a shame.

Most Popular

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time
Vauxhall Astra teaser 1
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time

The new Vauxhall Astra will get electrified powertrains and a more premium image
8 Jun 2021
‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'
Gearknob
Opinion

‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'

Want to drive a manual car? You need to take your test in a manual car. So what happens once all driving-school cars are automatic EVs?
8 Jun 2021
New Vauxhall Astra prototype review
Vauxhall Astra prototype - front
Vauxhall Astra

New Vauxhall Astra prototype review

A new Vauxhall Astra is on the way and we've driven a prototype ahead of its official arrival
14 Jun 2021
'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'
Toyota Mirai opinion
Opinion

'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'

Mike Rutherford says hydrogen-powered cars could still be a frequent sight on UK roads
13 Jun 2021
UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars
Electric car charging
News

UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars

Analysis reveals lithium refining takes 65 per cent of Chilean region’s water, while 40,000 child miners dig for cobalt in DRC
14 Jun 2021
New Porsche Macan facelift prototype review
Porsche Macan prototype - front
Porsche Macan

New Porsche Macan facelift prototype review

We get behind the wheel of a prototype version of the facelifted Porsche Macan SUV
13 Jun 2021
Illegal car modification hotspots revealed
Volkswagen Polo exhaust
News

Illegal car modification hotspots revealed

Gloucestershire has the highest proportion of illegal car modifications, with altered number plates the most common breach
14 Jun 2021
'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'
Car manufacturing
Opinion

'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'

Steve Fowler points out the fresh issues facing global car manufacturing
9 Jun 2021
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Car group tests

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300

The capable Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport goes up against its new Cupra Leon 300 sibling in this hot hatch battle
12 Jun 2021
New Nissan Qashqai production begins in Sunderland
Nissan Qashqai - front static
News

New Nissan Qashqai production begins in Sunderland

Nissan will offer every school child in the North East of England a place on the Nissan Skills Foundation course to mark 35 years of manufacturing in …
14 Jun 2021
New 2021 Volkswagen T7 Multivan replaces Caravelle
Volkswagen T7 Multivan - front
Volkswagen Caravelle

New 2021 Volkswagen T7 Multivan replaces Caravelle

The Volkswagen T7 Multivan MPV switches to the MQB platform and adds plug-in hybrid technology
10 Jun 2021
New 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid launched with 1,006bhp
Tesla Model S facelift - front
Tesla Model S

New 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid launched with 1,006bhp

Range-topping version of the Tesla Model S officially unveiled, with a sprint time of 0-60mph in less than two seconds
10 Jun 2021
New hydrogen-powered Land Rover Defender prototype in development
Land Rover Defender
Land Rover Defender

New hydrogen-powered Land Rover Defender prototype in development

The Land Rover Defender FCEV prototype will be assessed for off-road and long-range zero-emission motoring
14 Jun 2021
New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 Sportline - front
Skoda Enyaq

New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review

The new Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech firm’s first bespoke electric car and we've tested the full range on UK roads
10 Jun 2021