A black cloud is moving quickly from
East to the
West, covering the whole Europe .... people in Norfolk (Lotus),
(TVR), Zuffenhausen (Porsche), Munich (BMW) and Stuttgart
heard a thunderstorm consisting of mostly 9,000 rpm scream. They saw a
240 horsepower lightning hit right on their gates. A letter for
was discovered there, in which the signature started by a letter "H".
they thought the 9,000 rpm challenge started by a letter "H" must be a
motorcycle, a voice from the sky said, "Sssss TWOoooo THOUSANnnnnnD !"
Originally they thought the number "2000" refers to engine
but having scared by the 240hp lightning, they changed the meaning to
of the year 2000". The black cloud roared, "2000 c.c. !"
Engine and performance
amazed people in the world by its near 120hp / litre specific output,
of its high reputation in this field. Since the arrival of the first
few Honda sporting machines deliver less than the magic number
according to Japanese JIS rating. The Integra Type R has about
Civic Type R has 115/litre. Even the long stroke Accord Type R can
100hp/litre. 20 years ago motor engineers believed the magic number is
hardly achievable in road cars. 14 years ago the turbocharged Sierra RS
Cosworth broke this barrier. Then the VTEC brought this efficiency to
normally aspirated engines. In contrast to many believes, the "Valve
and lift Electronic Control" was derived from Honda’s motorcycle racing
program instead of F1. Honda never said its F1 engines have VTEC or any
variable valve timing.
Yet by Honda’s
2-litre unit of S2000 is extraordinary. While the famous Integra Type R
is proud of its 8,400rpm redline, S2000 is enjoying full song at
According to the stricter European DIN rating, the Integra delivers
well beaten by S2000’s 118.5hp/litre. Most magazines tell us this is a
new world record for road cars, however, someone will argue. Two of
are Chris Craft and Gordon Murray. They would say their little thing
"Rocket", powered by a Yamaha motorcycle engine, is good at 140/litre.
Another one is ex-F1 driver Jonathan Palmer, whose name donated to a
2-litre Caterham Seven JPE in 1992. In response, Honda would point out
that the JPE cannot pass today’s emission test while S2000 is certified
R, the all-alloy
unit has hollow camshafts, forged pistons, con-rods as well as counter
weight to reduce moment of inertia of moving parts. The VTEC is still a
two-stage design, the second phase cut-in at about 5,000 rpm.
ratio of 11:1 is also unaltered. What separate it from other Type R
are the bore / stroke aspect ratio and cam profile. Basically the 87mm
bore is identical to Accord Type R’s, but the stroke is as much as
shorter thus account for the reduced displacement. Measured at 87 x
we find it is obviously bias towards top end power and rev compare with
Accord’s 87 x 90.7mm and Integra’s 81 x 87.2mm.
chart supplied by Honda we can see the high speed cam profile has been
pushed to even more racy, farther away from the low speed cam. The
peak arrives at 3,500rpm, where 133 lbft is available. Then the curve
out and even drops slightly until 5,000rpm where the second phase
At 5,850rpm the high speed cam started to display true colours,
the torque curve all the way up to the peak 153 lbft at sky-high
Yes, it is really 7,500 rpm, a new record that Honda would rather
of VTEC is very different from its rivals. We don’t need BMW Z3
/ 3950rpm) or Porsche Boxster (181lbft / 4500rpm) to disgrace the
torque delivery, just an ordinary sedan is enough. For instance,
406 2.0SRi pumps out 140lbft at 4,100rpm without any help of VVT or
induction. The power-biased S2000 couldn’t match that until
in town feels
the car nothing spectacular. Forget the 240hp rating, it doesn’t feel
punchy than an Accord sedan (and we are only talking about an Accord
The only noticeable difference is a louder exhaust note. Well, Mr.
would say the car is a present celebrating the 50 years anniversary of
the company so that it must be driven with an enthusiastic mind. To
its real potential you must keep the engine at near 7,000rpm, of course
this requires a long open road. If you find such road, always shift the
6-speed gearbox as frequent as possible to follow the fast-rising rev.
Never up-shift before the rev risen to 8,500rpm. Going into corner,
down, at the exit phase you’d better to take the shifter back to 2nd
quickly, then shift up and up again .... in this way you’d enjoy the
Mr. Honda suggested, although even the drivers of Elise or Boxster
think this is too tiresome for everyday driving. This mean 90% of the
you could hardly enjoy any performance advantage, the remaining 10% is
the time for demonstrating you driving skill matching Ayrton Senna.
measured performance on long, open straight road. S2000 took this
to exploit its substantial potential : 0-60mph was done in merely
The ton was reached in 14.3sec. 30-70mph through gears acceleration
5.2sec. Among its main rivals, only the superlight Lotus Elise 111S
equal. Yet the 111S could match neither its 147mph top speed nor any
tests take places in excess of 100mph. Porsche Boxster, another our
roadster, seems hopelessly slower.
a purposeful look for the S2000. The most dramatic place is undoubtedly
the narrow nose section, whose width is just 40% of the body. From the
big air intake the nose extends linearly towards the wheel arches,
an outside-faced inclined surface on either side. In other words, 60%
the frontal area faces a direction 30 degrees from the North-South.
description to this feature is useless because it contributes nothing
are recessed into those tilted surfaces, so are the ducts underneath
which channel cool air to the brakes. Observe right from the front, you
may confuse it with an ET shown in X-file ... and the big mouth is
to have human being as breakfast ....
distribution, the cabin locates far behind the front and it is just in
front of the rear axle. This makes the bonnet seems too long. The small
area, black-frame windscreen stand oddly at an extraordinarily large
angle. Everywhere else comprise of angular planes, edges and corners.
a whole, the design works against any existing philosophy.
thing you notice is the high transmission tunnel. Common sense tells
it is either a mid-engined sports car or a car with backbone chassis.
isn’t. The cabin is quite lack of design - the transmission tunnel
be more plain. The facia at the passenger side has nothing other than a
ventilation outlet. The centre console is nearly inexist, as the only
(stereo) hides behind a plastic cover. Japanese version adds a
screen oddly near the passenger side. So the passenger is supposed to
a navigator as in rally cars ?
in red leather, carpet is red too. Honda installed a 9-seconds electric
hood with the switch on transmission tunnel, but they forgot to provide
the most important ergonomics - the steering wheel is fixed and the
are mounted too high for a sports car. Otherwise the driver could enjoy
seeing the F1-style instrument panel. Dominating the panel is a
bar graph revcounter as in any F1 car, although the latter by means of
LCD while the S2000 needs LED to provide night vision. Most interesting
is : the non-linear graph spends more space to higher rev as an
to the driver. The last figure marked is "9". Under the rev graph is a
Chassis and handling
NSX in the human intensive Tochigi factory, it doesn’t share the
chassis technology. For cost reason it is built on a conventional steel
monocoque and ride on cast iron suspensions. The only piece of
is the bonnet. (and don’t forget the titanium gear knob !) No problem,
Porsche Boxster and 911 GT3 are also built on steel monocoque yet
people couldn’t help falling in love with them. Moreover, the 1260kg
weight is already lighter than BMW Z3 2.8 and Mercedes SLK, or just
in excess of the less powerful Boxster. The aforementioned performance
figures confirm that it needs no more weight reduction.
In fact, the
is part of the effort to bring front to rear weight distribution to the
perfect 50 : 50. Open the bonnet and you’ll see other effort done - the
red-head engine is located completely behind the front axle, battery
ABS pump are near the firewall, leaving only plastic air box and
radiator hanging in front of the axle. ( too waste of space !)
wide and high
tunnel is strengthened to enhance chassis rigidity, hence improved
Further more, engineers connect the side chassis rails to the tunnel,
a so-called "X-bone", thus enhance protection against side impact.
the X-bone, most roadsters need to strengthen (hence raise) the door
thus making in and out more difficult.
perfect configuration - double wishbones all round. Honda called them
wishbones" because of their compact design. They are rumoured to be
in the forthcoming BMW-chasing sedan. As the chassis is ruled by pure
it needs no more assistance than a Torsen limited-slip differential. No
traction control nor stability control is provided.
pinion with a quick 2.4 turn lock-to-lock. Like Cadillac Seville and
other GM’s new models, steering is assisted by an electrical mechanism
instead of conventional hydraulic.
The 16 inches
wrapped with fat Bridgestone tyres - 205/55ZR16 in front and 225/50ZR16
at the rear. Note that a wider rear tyre is unusual for a small FR
front, with a class-leading 300mm diameter. However, remember its 50 :
50 weight distribution. Under braking the weight transfer from rear to
front so that the front brakes must be stronger than those mid-engined
rivals, say, Boxster (298mm). The rear’s are much smaller at 279mm, not
ventilated too. The Boxster has 292mm rear ventilated brakes. In fact,
most German cars are hard to beat in deceleration - Boxster, Z3 2.8 and
SLK all capable to stop from 60mph in 2.6sec. The S2000 takes another
Anyway, pedal feel is terrific.
Is it terrific
one hand, the
requires the driver to drive in racing style. It’s a joy to shift the
slick 6-speed box. The horizontal and vertical movement are only 23mm
40mm respectively, and there is a well defined, mechanical slot for
ratio. The clutch is as light as Civic, also encourage shifting.
On the other
hand, it doesn’t
attack corner as sensational as Boxster and Elise. The grip is there,
turn-in is super quick, the weighting of steering is perfect, the body
roll is minimal, ride is hard but still provide admirable bump
Chassis response is superior to other FR, say, Z3 and SLK and even the
4wd Audi TT. Thanks to the weight distribution, understeer is never a
issue. At the exit phase with sufficient throttle the mild understeer
way to reasonably neutral oversteer.
and Elise requires more than pure ability. The S2000 still lacks the
10% steering feel and feedback to match with the mid-engined rivals.
only the European roadsters, Mazda MX-5 is also more involving to
Someone even prefers Accord Type R’s steering, which was tuned in
rather than Fuji circuit. Power oversteer isn’t its favourite trick.
the Boxster or Elise can be thrown into power slide like normal
the S2000 needs a heavy foot on the throttle to introduce rear wheel
thanks to the 50:50 weight and 225 rear tyres. When it slide, it goes
quickly and rather difficult to catch smoothly.
is not really a milestone of Honda’s 50 years history. Its engine
suggest a racing style driving but the chassis doesn’t. In addition to
the poor exterior and interior styling, it can’t match half the
of NSX. The thunderstorm over Europe fades away....
above report was last updated on 30 May 99. All
has released the first major update of S2000. Highlight of the change
enlarging the engine to 2.2 litres as a response to criticism about its
peaky manner. Unfortunately, the larger engine is only available to the
American version but not the Japanese and European version. The latter
2 continue to use the old engine, although they share other changes,
as suspensions, steering, gearbox and tires, with the American version.
To confuse us, the American version still calls S2000, not S2200.
the engine raises capacity from 1997cc to 2157cc. Compression ratio
increases slightly from 11.0:1 to 11.1:1. However, maximum power
unchanged at 240 horsepower, because its VTEC cam timing has been
to favour torque rather than horsepower. Maximum
torque now reaches 162 lbft (up from 153 lbft) and it arrives at
instead of 7500rpm. Between 1000 and 8000rpm, the engine produces 4-10%
more torque than before. Not big gain, but undoubtedly welcomed.
7800rpm (down from 8300rpm). Inevitably, the longer stroke has a
effect on revability - it can no longer rev to the magic 9000rpm as the
old engine. Redline is now set at 8200rpm.
American S2000 feels more eager in real world driving. In the past,
required to drop a couple of gears and then it took extra patience to
for the rev to rise to 6,000rpm, where the second phase of VTEC started
delivering. Before that happened, the engine was hopelessly weak. Now
2.2 engine has more usable torque at all rev thus the wait is less
(if not completely free of pain) and the transition from first to
phase is smoother.
of the improved eagerness is owing to the revised gear ratios - the
4 gear ratios have been lowered to quicken engine response. Besides,
already outstanding shift mechanism has been further improved. It is
the best manual gearbox in the world.
The old S2000
for oversteer - it was not too keen to oversteer, but when it did, it
that suddenly and was very difficult to rescue. Therefore in this
the suspensions and tires are tweaked to deal with this problem. All
now grow from 16-inch to 17-inch. They also gain width (front: from
to 215/45; rear: from 225/50 to 245/45). The much wider rear tires make
oversteering more difficult. The front suspension has been stiffened by
6.7% while the rear has been softened by 10% (along with thinner
bar). This also make the rear end more forgiving at the limit and the
the steering rack ratio has been tightened and power assistance retuned
to deliver quicker and better feel.
a restyled front and rear bumper. In the cockpit, much-needed shoulder
room is released by making the door panels deeply sculpted.
to the kerb weight, but the dynamics of S2000 is much improved. Now it
finally becomes a truly enjoyable sports car. If it were handsomer and
had a V6 engine, it could have been a class winner.
above report was last updated on 17 Dec
2003. All Rights Reserved.
the most driver-delighted Japanese brand, Honda has changed its
interest to more profitable recreational vehicles, people carriers and
small cars. It let the exciting Integra Type R died without
replacement. It delayed the successor of NSX again and again (and the
final car will be front-engined and far more civilized, sadly). Now it
lets its final sports car, S2000, dying. 8 years has passed since I
wrote the original S2000 report, Honda has no plan to renew or replace
it. However, to stimulate sales and celebrate the retirement of Shigeru
Uehara - the father of S2000 and NSX - later this year, Honda approved
a small budget to produce a special edition called S2000 CR. The CR
stands for Club Racing and you can easily see that from its aggressive
yet extremely ugly aero kits. These aero kits, in particular the rear
spoiler and front air dam, reduces aerodynamic lift by some 70 percent.
However, headline of the modifications is a 40kg reduction of kerb
weight by deleting audio, air con, sound insulation and even the
convertible soft top. Yes, it ditched the soft top. This mean the
S2000CR offers zero weather protection if you leave the aluminum
hardtop at home. Isn't it going too extreme ?
Because of the free of soft top storage, Honda can install a tower
brace to the rear suspensions thus reinforces the chassis. Firmer
springs and dampers, quicker ratio steering, a set of slightly wider
rear tires and stickier Bridgestone Potenza RE070 rubbers sharpen its
handling and contribute to faster lap time. What about the engine ?
sadly, the S2000 CR is still powered by the peaky 2.2-liter 16V engine
like the regular American S2000. In other words, output is 237hp at
7800 rpm and 162 lbft at a sky-high 6800rpm. Shigeru Uehara said it was
impossible to boost more horsepower while meeting emission regs. In
fact, nothing is impossible if he had a generous budget.
That means while track performance is greatly improved, S2000 CR has
few advantages on regular roads. Most people, even the keenest drivers,
will find its ride too stiff, its cabin too noisy and too hot in the
absence of air conditioning. The lack of weather protection also
hampers its usability seriously. After all, it is a track car rather
than a road car. Some 1,500 units will be offered this year, only in
the US. I doubt
how many people will be interested.
above report was last updated on 2 Sep 2007. All