The Honda S2000 is one of the most beloved Japanese sports cars of all time.
Honda’s high-tech answer to the Mazda MX-5/Miata has firmly cemented its place in automotive history, thanks in part to its insane, high-revving VTEC engine that was one of the most powerful ever produced (relative to its size).
The S2000’s superior power, relative to the MX-5/Miata of the time, was always one of its drawcards.
In fact, the S2000 could hang with the likes of the Porsche Boxster and BMW Z3 – and often beat them in track tests – provided you were working the engine properly to make the most of all that top-end power.
But is the S2000 fast?
In this edition of Car Facts, we are going to look at whether or not you can really call the S2000 a fast car.
How Fast Is an S2000?
Driven by a 237 – 247hp (depending on the market) 1,997cc inline four cylinder DOHC-VTEC engine, the S2000 can hit 100 km/h in around 6 seconds and go on to a top speed of just over 255 km/h (158 mph).
The main thing to remember with the S2000 is that if you want to extract optimal performance from it, you have to rev the car hard.
Drive it sedately and change gears early, and the performance is honestly rather disappointing.
Motor Trend found that if you shifted an S2000 at 5500rpm instead of at the redline, it would take the best part of 12 seconds to get to 60mph.
However, shift properly – with the engine buzzing away like crazy under the bonnet – and you high 5s are possible in the right conditions.
Long story short, the S2000 can be fast indeed if you drive it properly, and as the manufacturer intended.
Conclusion – Are Honda S2000s Fast?
Yes, in our view the S2000 is a fast car.
It was fast in its day, and it is still fast now for what it is. Maybe it’s not quite so impressive any more, but honestly you’ll be having too much fun in an S2000 to really notice.
While car performance has moved on since the late 1990s/early 2000s (especially for things like hot hatchbacks, some of which now can crack sub 4 second 0-60 times) when it comes to two seat roadster cars, the S2000 still sets a cracking pace.
Is it the fastest convertible on four wheels? No.
But if you think that a ~6 second 0-60 time is slow, then you have either been spoiled by just how fast some new cars have become, or you need professional help.
All that aside, with the S2000 it isn’t just about how quick it can sprint to 60mph/100kph – it’s the manner in which you have to extract the performance out of this brilliant piece of engineering that makes the S2000 so special.
The S2000 gives you a different sensation of speed/quickness, owing to just how you have to rev the car to really get it moving.
Most modern cars achieve their impressive performance through the use of forced induction, typically turbocharging. This allows for smaller, more economical engines that can still produce very impressive power figures (and often superior characteristics for daily driving, with more torque available down low making it easier to quickly step on the gas to merge or pull away at the traffic lights).
Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, Honda’s approach was different to how things are done today. Instead of turbocharging, they used their VTEC technology to build engines that could achieve respectable economy figures when driven gently, but which could also produce impressive performance when driven hard and high up in the rev range.
This approach wasn’t for everyone (especially those who didn’t really know what they were buying, and never worked out how hard you have to rev an ‘old school’ VTEC to really start moving) but for those of us who like the way Honda did things back in the day, there isn’t much better. The driving experience of something like an S2000 or DC2 Integra Type R is just so different to what you get with modern cars.
The S2000 is fast. It might not be the fastest (especially not by today’s standards), but it is more than fast enough to be serious fun, and it achieves that quickness in what feels in this day and age like such a unique manner.
At around 5500-6000rpm, when most modern turbo cars are likely getting near to the rev limiter, the S2000 is only just getting started. That is the magic of the S2000. While the guy next to you at the lights might get more power out of his 1.5 turbo, you will be having more fun as you send the tacho screaming into the stratosphere … guaranteed.
A contemporaneous review of the S2000 from Motor Trend said ‘drive it like you hate it and you’ll love it’ – we couldn’t agree more. Drive the S2000 with kid gloves, and it will probably disappoint and leave you feeling cold. Thrash it to within an inch of its life, and you won’t be able to wipe the smile off your face.
If you’re interested in getting your own, then make sure you read our Honda S2000 buyer’s guide and model history here.