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Honda S2000 GT

The Honda S2000 GT arrived just in time for last month's sports car group test, so the first job was to whip off the hard-top and stash it in Mr Metcalfe's office. It's quite a tricky two-man job and gives you the willies as you try not to damage anything (car/hard-top/office furniture/fingernails). But then Mr Metcalfe came back from his holiday and, when we couldn't persuade him that it was a very expensive piece of modern art, the Honda's roof had to be returned to the Honda.

The Honda S2000 GT arrived just in time for last month's sports car group test, so the first job was to whip off the hard-top and stash it in Mr Metcalfe's office. It's quite a tricky two-man job and gives you the willies as you try not to damage anything (car/hard-top/office furniture/fingernails). But then Mr Metcalfe came back from his holiday and, when we couldn't persuade him that it was a very expensive piece of modern art, the Honda's roof had to be returned to the Honda.

Not that I'm too bothered, as the weather's not been great and the car looks a lot better with the hardtop on than the slightly peculiar profile of the recently revised soft-top with its glass rear screen.

The ΂£27,500 S2000 GT was the bargain of our sports car test and comes pretty well equipped with 17in alloys, LSD, leather, air-con, hard-top and electrically-operated soft-top as standard. So out of the short list of options that are available we went for the N΃¼rburgring blue paint (΂£300) which looks fantastic with the exclusive groovy blue interior, and a pair of neat headrest speakers (΂£365) that complement the hi-fi without making you conscious that they're there. The Honda shows its age, though, by not having such niceties as a trip computer or outside temperature read-out display (some things are strangely compelling).

My first major outing in the S2000 was a trip to Lincolnshire for this month's cover story. The well-built interior is a pleasant place to be, with a comfortable if slightly aloof driving position. Shame that Honda felt the need to put digital instrumentation in the binnacle as traditional dials would be far more in keeping with the style of the car and would probably be easier to read.

The Honda can feel a bit of a pussycat when pottering about, the light drivetrain and slick gearbox masking the presence of the 237bhp engine they're attached to. That engine is both the S2000's crowning glory and its Achilles heel, because its VTEC zone - the area of its rev range where the second set of cam lobes take over to make the motor madly revvable and stonkingly powerful - is up there in the stratosphere. I bet there are probably plenty of owners out there who haven't actually taken the engine above 6000rpm, which is on the very lowest edge of the VTEC zone.

The narrowness of the power-band doesn't help your confidence in tricky conditions, or when overtaking. You have to judge carefully when the S2000 is going to come 'on-cam', or you can end up dawdling on the wrong side of the road. Choose second gear and you'll probably have to change up in the middle of the manoeuvre, losing a bit of power as the engine drops off the boil momentarily between second and third. But if you're in third gear you may have to wait a couple of seconds before the engine stokes itself into action.

Following the Ferrari 360 CS along Lincolnshire's A-roads was a case in point. When an overtaking opportunity arose, the Ferrari would romp hundreds of metres ahead before the Honda woke up and revved towards its power-band. Okay, so the 360 Stradale is a very quick car, but I didn't expect an Audi TT to also leave me standing...

When the roads are empty, though, you can have a fantastic time revving the highly strung 2-litre engine to its 9000rpm redline. You can be well into three figures before you know it, but it never subjectively feels it's accelerating that quickly. The digital speedo seems to rob you of some of the sense of speed, too.

The steering has little in the way of feel but it's well-weighted and the grip and turn-in are superb, as are the brakes, gearchange and pedal spacing. The S2000 seems to prefer a take-it-by-the-scruff-of-the-neck-and-thrash-the-pants-off-it approach, which is a characteristic it shares with the Civic Type-R. Flicking the gearlever as fast as you can up and down the gate, chasing out from the stable every last one of the engine's 237 horses, can be a fulfilling experience, though it helps if you're the only car on the road...

Maybe the badging's a little misleading. The S2000 is a roadster for those who like to thrash their machinery within an inch of its life; if you're looking for a genuine GT, this probably doesn't fit the bill. Even with the excellent hard-top. The 'race-bred' S2000 feels happiest playing the hardcore sports car, so we'll just have to see how well it performs at the next evoactive trackday.

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evo Statistics

 
Date acquired: June 2004
Total mileage: 2106
Mileage this month: 1718
Costs this month: £0
MPG this month: 24.5

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