Honda, Road Test Reviews

2006 Honda S2000 – Road Test

The Honda S2000 has been around for several years now, but I was surprised by how many people asked me what it was. When I told them it was a Honda S2000 they’d gasp and say: “A HONDA?!! I didn’t know Honda made a sports car!!” I was as shocked at them for not knowing that, as they were at the fact it was a Honda. Even Honda owners were surprised that Honda makes a sports car! Where have these people been living for the past 3 years? After they found out it was a Honda, next came the “ooh’s” and “aah’s,” followed by, “It’s Gorgeous!” Only 2 people asked me how much it cost.

First Impressions
I must say, being vertically challenged definitely has its advantages every now and then. Getting into low-slung sports cars is one instance that it’s particularly handy, but getting back out it’s not as advantageous. To say the interior of the S2000 is compact would be an understatement, it’s not quite claustrophobic but it is very snug. Seat adjustments forward and backward are limited in range, as is the adjustability of the seat-back tilt due to the rear bulkhead. While there isn’t much room for the seats to move very far back, there is more room for taller people than was available in the MX-5, as my neighbor pointed out with his size 13 shoes. The 4-way manually adjustable leather seats are very comfortable at first, however, I’d hate to spend more than a couple of hours in them. The seat cushion is very nicely contoured and comfortable – it’s the backrest that becomes painful after a while. During day-to-day driving of less than an hour it was okay, but extended journeys were a pain in the back – literally. It was very strange, because they were almost perfect as they held you snugly in place through the pylon test and when the twisty roads beckon. Car seats in vehicles in this price-range should at the very minimum be: comfortable on long journeys, have leather surfaces, include lumbar adjustment and be heated. Unfortunately, the S2000’s seat only met one of my criteria … they were leather.

The centre tunnel is high and all the controls are very close to the driver – no stretching required. The steering wheel is thinner than I expected – Honda’s are renowned for having nice thick steering wheels. Also surprising is the fact that the steering neither tilts nor telescopes, but to be honest I felt it was perfectly placed and it didn’t need adjusting in any way. Audio controls are absent on the steering wheel – they’re hidden on the dash to the left of the wheel – about the same distance away as the stereo unit on the right – my question … why bother? Who thought this was a good and logical idea? Also illogical is the cruise control on/off button that’s even more hidden and awkward to reach as it sits behind the steering wheel, while all the other buttons for the cruise control are on the steering wheel!! Also to the left is the big red start button – trouble is – you still need to put the key in the ignition and turn it before pressing the button! How back-assward is that? Button or key – not both.

In contrast to the very upright steering, is the electronic gauge cluster that slopes away from the driver at an almost horizontal angle. Once the vehicle is started the instrumentation panel lights up in red and orange with a very prominent tachometer line sweeping from lower-left to right (1 o’clock position), with the digital speedometer in the middle directly in front of the driver. As the revs rise, the bars of lights come on – all the way up to the 8,000 rpm red line. To the right of the speedometer are the temperature and fuel gauges. I’m sure many people would like it, but I’d much prefer real dials, or at least electroluminescent round dials. It was too X-Box for my taste. To the right of the steering wheel are the heating and air condition buttons – again unconventional in their design and execution, but very functional. There was also a button marked VSA off. What that was for, I never did find out because there was no manual with the car. Perhaps Vehicle Stability Assist?

All aspects of the test vehicle’s interior were monotone black, although grey or red are also available. Some would call it drab, and at first I thought it was a bit lifeless, but after a short time it was very unobtrusive and – dare I say it in this car – logical. The texture of the door and dash are very close to leather with the top of the dash a dull hard plastic.

The stereo system sits low, just behind the gear shift lever and has an aluminum faceplate that flips down to reveal the unit, or you can leave it hidden and use the redundant knobs and buttons on the left-hand side of the steering wheel. It would have been more logical if the stereo cover door flipped up instead of down, as the flip-down door was always annoying and seemed in the way. At one point, I set the cruise control and pulled my foot away from the gas pedal only to stab my knee with the flipped-down aluminum door – ouch! The door sticks out about ½ an inch to the left-right beside the kneecap. My wife found this all quite hilarious, as I injured myself while explaining to her why I liked the car so much! Oh the irony!

Between the seats is a very small lockable storage bin big enough for a couple of CD’s – notably the only storage compartment in the passenger cabin. There’s a cubby hole with a sliding door in the centre console between the driver and passenger – the manufacturer’s intention may be for it to hold cups, but it was hard to tell because there was no definitive divider that you’d need for 2 cups/cans/bottles. We found it was ideal for our sunglasses though. Additionally, there is a centre arm rest that most definitely appears to have room for more storage, however despite my best efforts to find a way in, there was no storage area there at all – that in my opinion is a serious flaw in the S2000 – a very distinct lack of storage space. Well, “how about the glove box?” I hear you ask – nope. No glove box of any way, shape or form – nothing, but a little shelf that could and should have been a glove box. Also, because there was no glove box there also was no manual for the car – where else could they have put it?

Steering on the S2000 is very sharp, go-kart like and fits perfectly with the personality of the car. The quick steering combined with the close ratio 6-speed manual transmission, and a near-perfect clutch makes the S2000 a sheer thrill-ride to drive. The clutch is light and easy to modulate, encouraging you to row through the gears. Shifting is effortless and smooth while the sound of the engine screaming all the way to the red line is a joy to the ears. Although the suspension is tight and firm, bumps and road imperfections are barely felt and cowl shake is non-existent – a true testimony to the stiff chassis of the S2000. I went out of my way to try to get it to shiver across railroad tracks, but it held firm. Driving around town or on the highway was enjoyable, and every chance I got – even for a quick 2-minute trip – I’d drop the top. Wind noise was well muted and there wasn’t any need to roll up the windows to avoid wind-buffeting. Out on the open roads it really finds it legs, demanding you drive closer to its potential. As the revs rise along with the speed, climbing above 6,500 rpm the S2000 gets a second wind and just takes-off all the way to the red line at 8,000 rpm where electronics kick in and retards the forward motion to protect the engine. I found it exhilarating taking it up just under the red line each time as the speeds got more and more ludicrous. By the time I’d reached fourth gear I was usually out of road and had to ease off the go-pedal.

The 8-speaker, single CD/AM/FM/Satellite-ready anti-theft unit with a clock is good once you have it set up correctly. Speakers are strategically placed in the roll bars to give the system an all-encompassing sound, but if the fader is set too much to the rear, it sounds very tinny and cheap. After adjusting the fader to favor the front speakers the unit produced much better sound. However, when cranked all the way up it loses its bass and gains a lot of highs. The system has a volume limit but it just isn’t all that loud at maximum. A disappointment was the single-disc CD instead of the 6-disc units that have become almost mandatory in vehicles at this price point, and there’s no indication whether it’s even MP3 capable.

For a car of its size, the trunk is reasonably spacious at 5 cu/ft., whether the top is up or down, yet the Mazda MX-5 from the previous week matched the S2000 for cubic feet, but it appeared much larger. One explanation for this problem is that the Honda uses a rubberized convertible boot cover that resides in the trunk when not in use, which takes up a lot of space – the MX-5 neither had nor need one. Installing the cover on the S2000 was easy enough for me, but someone with large hands might have a problem getting into the folded roof area to attach it. Dropping the top was easy enough – undo 2 latches and press a button. The windows go down automatically whatever the direction the top is going.

With the top up, headroom was outstanding for those that wear 10-gallon hats, or just have really big heads. Driving on the freeway at speeds more than 60 mph road noise was surprisingly muted, however it became a bit tedious as the noise level of the interior increased with speed. It wasn’t overpowering, but cranking up the stereo wasn’t an option because it reached its limit long before it was able to drown out the road noise. Besides that, the sensory overload from all that noise felt unbearable.

The 2006 Honda S2000 comes in only one version and has no options available. You do however get the choice of eight external colors and three interior colors, but that’s all the decisions you get to make. The engine is a 2.2L 16-Valve DOHC VTEC 4-cylinder, pumping out 237 hp through a 6-speed manual transmission – no automatic is offered.

Standard features include: Stainless steel exhaust, limited-slip differential, 4-wheel ABS with traction control, front and rear anti-roll bars, black cloth top, dual front airbags, engine immobilizer anti-theft system, steering wheel-mounted cruise controls, power door locks, keyless entry, fog lights, 17” Alloy Wheels with 215/45WR17 tires on the front and 245/40’s on the rear, Xenon HID headlights, rear glass window with electric defogger, air conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel and power windows with driver’s one-touch down.

On the safety side, the S2000 comes with dual air bags, ABS with Traction Control, Xenon headlights, side-impact door beams and an ignition disabler

The S2000 is covered by a Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty for 36 months/36,000 miles [80,000 kms], and a 5 year/60,000 mile [100,000 km] major component warranty, plus 3-years roadside assistance.
Towing capacity: Not recommended.

The Conclusion
I loved the S2000, it’s a blast to drive, and very comfortable – it’s a driver’s car – the passenger is only along for the ride. It’s a car that encourages you to enjoy your drive, however short it may be. It’s powerful and responsive and it’s stunning to look at, I never got tired of its styling. It has a fair-sized trunk if you put the top down and the rubber boot over the folded top – with the top up you have the bulky rubber boot eating up a lot of space – that could be a problem if you’ve got luggage and you head off for the weekend. The gas mileage was very good considering the type of driving the S2000 encourages. The S2000 was a love/hate relationship for me – on so many levels I loved it, but on other silly little quirks I disliked it. Why is there a window lock on a 2-door car? You are in very close quarters, if your passenger insists on playing with the window, slap them on the side of the head!

Pricing for the 2006 Honda S2000
As tested: $34,050 [$50,300 Cdn]

Fuel Consumption: [Premium – 91 Octane]
The 2006 Honda S2000 is rated at 20 mpg City [12 L/100 kms] and 26 mpg Highway [9.3 L/100 kms]
I averaged 27 mpg [9.0 L/100km] in combined vigorous driving

Lots of fun with the top up or down
Gorgeous to look at
Sweet engine/clutch/transmission/steering combo

The stereo system is barely adequate and the stereo controls on the left are dumb, as is the door for the stereo
Reversing out of tight driveways can present a problem visibility-wise with the top up
No lumbar adjustment or bum warmers

Would I Spend My Money On It?:
Yes, if I had enough money to have this as a second car. As a one and only – it’s too impractical

Immediate Competition:
Audi TT Roadster, BMW Z4, Chevy Corvette, Chrysler Crossfire Roadster, Mercedes-Benz SLK, Nissan Z350 Roadster, Porsche Boxster

By The Numbers…
Horsepower: 237 hp @ 7,800 rpm
Torque: 162 lb. ft @ 6,800 rpm
0-60 mph: 5.5 seconds
Max Speed: 150 mph [241 km/h]

8 – Quality
6 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
4 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
5 – Special Features (Sat Nav/Heated Seats/ Sunroof, etc)

6 – Ease of Entry/Exit
7 – Front Roominess
10* – Rear Roominess
8 – Driving Position/Controls

10 – Drool Factor
9 – Fit & Finish

10 – Engine
10 – Transmission
10 – Ride & Handling

Ownership Value
7 – Bang for the $$
10 – Fuel Economy

120 Total / 150

*There is no rear seat, so it gets 10 points to keep all the scores based on 150.

Copyright © 2007 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland

Also Published at: PaddockTalk