Give me Gone in 60 Seconds any day of the week over The Fast and the Furious. That has nothing to do with Angelina and everything to do with Eleanor and her friends. I certainly appreciate the love that the tuner folk have for their cars, but it’s not my scene.
Of course, Japan has given the world some outrageous cars that are special from the minute they left the factory. The Supra 2JZ-GTE, Honda NSX and Skyline R32 (which set the foundation for the remaining Skyline monsters of the 90s and early 2000s) are perpetual icons.
However, things get pretty dreary at the bottom end of the Japanese market. That’s always been the issue for me. Even when building cars to a budget, the Koreans for example have tried much harder when it comes to styling and achieving a premium feel.
As someone who has driven primarily Italian cars for over a decade, with a foray into French somewhere in the middle, I’m gobsmacked by how deeply and quickly I’ve fallen in love with my new car, even though she’s Japanese.
9000rpm does that to a man. So does the best manual gearbox ever produced in a road car.
I’m genuinely embarrassed that the S2000 was never on my radar. I obviously knew about them, but I didn’t know how epic they are. While they were causing heart palpitations on showroom floors in the first decade of this millennium, I was in high school with bedroom wall posters of Maranello’s finest and later at university with a full heart but empty pockets thanks to my Alfa 156 2.5 V6.
An appreciation for proper sports cars only comes later in life, perhaps when you realise just how insanely well your life must go for you to ever have supercar money. Thankfully, 80% of the thrill is available for 5% of the cost, particularly when you’ve earned your RWD stripes in a DD2 kart and you’ve at least got some idea how to extract the best from a small RWD car – preferably one with no traction control.
Carbs and Coffee columnist Quintin Smit made his views on the S2000 abundantly clear in The List and I couldn’t ignore all the other voices telling me to just go and drive one…
So I did. It was a religious experience.
The S2000 is, quite simply, one of the greatest cars ever built. End of story. I’ve driven plenty of cars in recent times, but absolutely nothing offers the giggle factor that this one does at the price or at even 3x the money. It revs to 9,000rpm for goodness sakes!
But, what is it like to live with?
A roadtrip to the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb along the gorgeous Route 62 of the Western Cape would give me over 1,000kms to get to know the car, including through some ridiculous mountain passes. We did the trip with Kenji from Kenji’s Garage, a YouTuber with a BMW M2 Competition. The Beemer might have almost 130kW more than the S2000, but you would be hard pressed to see the difference when things get twisty.
That’s because with near-perfect weight distribution, a go-kart seating position and genuinely accessible power even without traction control, the S2000 is a destroyer of mountain passes. Also, mountain passes are destroyers of stock S2000 brakes, which will not be stock for much longer.
People complain about the lack of torque. It’s true that this engine is all about top-end, much like a kart or a superbike. The solution is very straightforward luckily – Honda gave you the greatest manual gearbox in the world, so use it!
The car sprints to 100km/h (in 2nd gear!) in around 6s, so it’s no slouch robot-to-robot. Once you are in the powerband above 6,000rpm, 99% of cars on the road will be eating VTEC humble pie out your exhaust while you disappear into the mountains.
To complement the wonderful performance, the car is genuinely comfortable to drive. The S2000 has a perfectly reasonable ride and enough interior space as long as you aren’t a front-row Springbok. The boot is decent, easily swallowing luggage for three people (a friend joined us on a BMW GS bike) for the weekend including laptop bags etc.
Fuel consumption? We weren’t exactly on an economy run (braaaaaaaap) and still managed to beat 10l/100kms on the trip with the top down 90% of the time.
Aah yes, the soft top. Combined with the manual gearbox, this is what makes the S2000’s package utterly incredible. The S2000 gives you open-top motoring at less than 1,300kgs. The Nissan 350Z roadster ate many pies to achieve the same with 1,650kgs. The Z4 of the time needed 1,400kgs. Weight is absolutely the enemy of performance and the S2000 would make Colin Chapman very proud if he was still around today.
The factory stereo system is great. The headlights are excellent. The aircon works like a dream. It’s almost too good to be true.
It’s not just me who feels this way. My friends who have driven plenty of other cars tend to agree with me. Even Ronnie from the World Famous Ronnie’s Sex Shop approved! (PS: it’s actually a pub)
I am completely besotted with my car. I feel like I’m driving my DD2 kart to work every morning and the respect it gets on the road is endless. It’s a bone stock 2005 car with only 87,500kms on the clock and one owner since new.
All this for less than the price of a new Polo? Madness. Utter madness.
I might not be a JDM fanboy, but I’m only too happy to let the VTEC kick in yo…