Test-drive #1: 2003 Honda S2000

June 12, 2013—Full disclosure: I owned a 2002 Honda S2000, purchased new. I drove it, happily, until 2008 when a woman driving an Acura MDX decided to smash into it while suddenly attempting a U-turn on a busy, four-lane road from the right lane crossing my path of travel. Oh and we weren’t in an intersection either. Anyhow, to this day the S2000 is the most neutral and exciting sports car I’ve driven, the Ferrari 458 being the only potential exception (Jalopnik seems to agree to some extent).

2002 Honda S2000

My S2000, pre-wreck

Yes, I love the Honda S2000, probably an unhealthy amount. It’s just so good. I’m sharing this at the outset because I’m sure there will be claims of bias when I drive the Boxster. So, yes, I am biased. Deal with it.

My S2000 was Grand Prix White with the all-red interior and I’d LOVE to find that same combination but it is extremely rare. What I won’t compromise on however is that if I buy another S, it must be a first generation AP1. They don’t have any electronic nannies except ABS. Pure.

Honda s2000 berlina black

From the interwebs

I found a Berlina Black S with about 100,000 miles and after-market rims. I probably wouldn’t have bought it anyway (high-mileage and ugly rims), but before I really started looking I wanted to be certain that this car was as good as I remembered.

Was it? Well, I arrived at the seller’s home close to the 101 in the Hollywood Hills after some extreme rush-hour traffic, but I was excited to drive an S2000 again and wouldn’t let the traffic dampen my mood. The seller, Mike, answered the door and was ready to go. The S2000 was shined up nicely and after a VERY quick once-over I asked for the keys. “You driven one of these before?” Mike asked. “I used to own an ’02 GP white,” I replied. He looked at me briefly and handed me the keys. “Let’s go…” he said.

From the moment I took hold of the key fob it was like being reunited with some glorious past. I opened the driver’s side door deliberately, with its familiar weight and inhaled. Frankly, it was a little funky. I hate to spoil the romance, but Mike needs to stop smoking so much weed in the car. I climbed in and put the key in the ignition slot. This was always one of my favorite moments in the S2000—starting the car. It forces you to pause and think about what you’re about to do—key in, turn the key to ignition, then press the starter button.

s2000 engine

The magical two liter, four cylinder fired and the tachometer flashed to life. I backed the car slowly out of the space, remembering the weight of the clutch. We pulled out and I threw the shifter the seeming millimeter into first gear. I drove about aimlessly for a couple of minutes before asking if there were some sort-of empty twisties nearby. Yes, yes there were.

Honda S2000 at speed


I’m glad I had worn my Pumas. As the road opened up, I floored the throttle and wound the little Honda up to redline. Shift, third gear. Throttle back on the floor. Corner, hard on the brakes, downshift, turn. Straighten the car up and floor the throttle. Upshift, third again. “Could you please slow down?” a very pale Mike asked. “Sorry” I yelled as I wound up the engine to its 9000 RPM redline. 95mph, whoops. I put it in neutral and let it coast back down to a more moderate 50 mph. I heel-toed into the next corner, matching revs to get the S2000 into second gear. Man this car is just SO tight. The shifter is so precise, the engine so eager to rev and the turn-in so sharp!

Honda S2000

I’ll spare you the usual go-kart and racecar hyperbole. Suffice it to say that my memory serves when it comes to the Honda S2000. It is a riot and the brakes, steering and drivetrain are a gift from Soichiro’s company. I didn’t buy the car, but am now actively looking. But as an unbiased journalist, and since some of you seem to think it’s better car, I’ll go drive a Porsche Boxster and try to dissuade myself from buying another S2000. [kiWO]

All photos (except black S2000): © Taylor Peden