Guest contributor: Rick Flores on his 2002 Honda S2000
We think that the Honda S2000 – produced from model year 2000 to 2009 – is destined to become a classic. Respected by driving enthusiasts the world over as much today as they were when first introduced, we suspect they will only increase in esteem with the passage of time. And while we’re usually a proponent of a car’s stock wheel-and-tire setup, we like owner Rick Flores’ example – a lot – for the way its delicious BBS RXes fill out the Honda’s wheel arches. It just looks the business, doesn’t it?
MCB: Why the S2000?
RF: Going into my search for a car I knew I wanted the car to be five things: a) exceptionally sporty, as well as a good platform for modification, b) reliable enough to not leave me stranded wherever I needed to go, c) rare enough to turn heads, d) easy enough to work on with hand tools and basic mechanical skills, and e) rear wheel drive. I had a preference for something with an open top and a naturally-aspirated engine. Naturally, my short list included cars like the Porsche Boxster, the BMW Z4, and the Honda S2000. Projected running costs nixed the Boxster, and poor performance compared to the S2000 nixed the Z4. There was only one car for me.
MCB: What’s it like to own?
RF: The car is very easy to live with. I drive it everywhere, including to my girlfriend’s house 70 miles away every weekend, and it doesn’t mind a bit of it. It’s relatively frugal (averaging 24 mpg) on the combined cycle, and has enough space inside for me not to feel claustrophobic.
MCB: What’s it like to drive?
RF: Driving the car is always a pleasure. Turn-in is crisp on summer tires, the fully independent double-wishbone suspension soaks up bumps while gripping the road in a way the Z4 or Audi TT could only dream of. The only thing that compares with it would be the Boxster/Cayman, and those cars are much more expensive propositions. The engine never underwhelms, has enough torque to get you around town, and is glorious when you wind it out. I still have the OEM exhaust on the car, and I find it to be the perfect balance of noise and civility for city driving. These cars sound amazing with an aftermarket exhaust, though. Visibility is excellent, especially when you put the top down. Everything you touch in the cabin has a very direct feel to it. The steering is quick and precise, the switchgear is arranged to be driver-centric, and the gearshift… I have owned the car for almost four years now, and I have not met a single owner that has even thought about putting a short shifter in his car. It’s perfect, and it matches the character of the engine perfectly: short gears, short throws, deliciously precise. Powertrains simply are not made like this anymore.
MCB: What makes you love this car?
RF: So many things, honestly. No other car, for the price, offers the same kind of manic, performance-minded nature that you get in the S2000. The comparison between the S2000 and a street bike that you sometimes hear from the motoring press is an appropriate one. I love the way the engine screams to the rev limiter, I love the way the gearshift works when you grab the next gear, I love how flickable the car is into corners, I love the way it rewards a good driver (the car needs to be driven precisely to be fully appreciated), but most of all I love the way it makes me feel when I see other S2000 owners and they nod in recognition. Only they know what I know: how genuinely rewarding it is to drive one of these every day. You don’t get tired of it.
MCB: There are two generations of the S2000, the AP1 (2000–03) and the AP2 (2004–09). Is one preferable to the other?
RF: This depends on what you’re looking for in a car. If you can tolerate a little more rawness, a little more NVH, and don’t mind owning an older car, the AP1 is for you. The engine capacity increased to 2.2 liters for 2004 (AP2), and the suspension was revised slightly as well to make it more tolerable to those who intended to drive the car in the city. There were cosmetic changes as well, inside and out, but on the whole the S2000 lost a bit of its personality with the update. I prefer the rawer AP1 to the AP2 as it stays truer to the original SSM concept Honda had in mind when it originally introduced the car.
MCB: What should someone look for when buying one of these cars?
RF: Check the underside for any signs of the car being spun into a curb. Check the timing chain tensioner for wear (if it is worn out it will make a loud “tick-tick-tick” sound when the engine warms up). The tops on these cars tend to tear and crack over time, so avoid an example with a cheaply-replaced top. There’s not much else; these cars were made very well.
MCB: What should someone expect to pay?
RF: For an AP1, expect to pay from 8 grand for a run-down, high-mileage example, all the way up to 18 grand for an immaculate AP1 that has lived in a garage all its life. AP2s go from 12k all the way up to 26k for newer, mint examples. The AP2 CR is a later addition to the range, and you won’t find one for less than 25k.
MCB: What else would you like to own?
RF: I have a bit of a wagon obsession, so I’d like to have a Volvo 245 with an LS1 swap at some point. I will also own a Porsche 911 at some point in my life. I’d love an Alfa Spider as well, the original boat tail versions. Those are lovely.
MCB: Any favorite drives in your area?
RF: Yes— the ones that leave Florida and enter Georgia, going up toward the mountains…
MCB: Concluding thoughts?
RF: If anyone is looking for a car and is considering an S2000, drive one and you will be sold. To borrow another manufacturer’s line, there is no substitute.
Images © Rick Flores