I always find it funny how the world works. Take this review you’re about to read for example; yesterday, I was scrolling the never-ending depths of Facebook, where I found myself gazing upon a clean Honda S2000 posted by a friend of mine, Jon-Paul. Alongside the image, was a caption, which read, “If you haven't driven an S2000 yet..... WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!?” Well, I had never driven an S2000, so simply replied, “Me, let's do this!” A cheeky Facebook message later, and we’re organising the time I would be collected from home to be driven to Auckland’s eastern suburbs where there would be not one, but two Honda S2000s waiting to be driven.
JP’s friend owns a business named MRN Wholesalers and it just so happened that he personally owns an S2000 which has been tastefully modified and currently has for sale a near-on factory example. It would prove to be the perfect comparison for a first-time S2000 experience.
Upon arriving, JP and I were greeted by the blue modified S2000, which features external reservoir Bilstein coilovers, Volk CE28n wheels, Dunlop Z1 semi-slicks, ASM headers, high-flow intake, bracing, and wide-body front guards. Not overly modified, but would prove to be a good comparison against the silver example, which featured a factory drivetrain and Tein Super Street suspension.
Lurking in the MRN Wholesaler’s garage was an FD2 Civic Type R in black and a K20AR-swapped DC2 Integra Type R which produces 165kW at the front wheels and features a Spoon gearbox. To say I was in Honda heaven would be an understatement. Anyway, time was getting on and I was itching to get behind the wheel.
To start off the right way, I would be driving the stock example first before progressing to the modified platform. Our destination would be Hunua Falls, some 45-minutes from our current destination which would feature a wide variety of touge-worthy roads, long country straights, and beaches.
After shoehorning my camera bag onto the passenger seat, we were off. Initial thoughts were that the steering wheel felt incredibly low and without adjustment, I thought would be in the way during the drive. The clutch – somewhat different to my Exedy Hyper Single race clutch in my car – took some getting used to, with an incredibly short throw compared to other cars I have driven. The gearbox shifter throw was incredibly short and direct, but classic to Honda, was incredibly satisfying.
To my surprise, the Honda’s F20C engine provided ample mid-range grunt to get around town and in no time at all, we were out of the suburbs and into the action going toe-to-toe, slowly working into the platform. As speed increased, it felt as though the steering feel became heavier with an incredibly connected feel to what the front and rear wheels were doing.
The perfectly-balanced chassis had exceptional turn-in, mid-corner grip, and predictable oversteer when pushed harder than the tyres allowed. Then, as if hit in the head with a bees nest, the F20C buzzed angrily as the RPMs exceed 6000 and propelled at an exponential rate towards the 9000RPM rev-limit, then again and again as I worked my way through the gears. So, this is why people buy these — these angry little fuc*$rs!
Soon after, we switched cars. After becoming somewhat attached to ‘my’ S2000, I was reluctant to give the modified example a decent shot — how could you beat what I just experienced? As I soon found out, an angrier exhaust tone, gnarlier induction noises, stiffer shocks, much gripper tyres, and race-brakes would prove a far superior combination, in some ways.
Without effort, the modified blue example would be on the tail of the silver factory example. The upgrades, although subtle, transform the chassis into a nimble, grip-heavy machine that soaks up speed leaving you somewhat senseless, wanting more — more than the laws of New Zealand’s roads allow. In the silver machine, however, the limit was found much earlier, giving you a greater sensation of, well, badassery — leaving you feeling like the son of Ricky Bobby.
One thing I forgot about and I am sure you have too, is the steering wheel height; what I thought was going to be a problem wasn’t. Honda knows best, apparently. Another important thing to note was the serious lack of fuel we used. We weren’t beating on these Hondas too hard, but it was nearly two hours of spirited driving and we both used around a quarter of a tank of 98-octane. An extremely important factor to consider with fuel prices being where they are in New Zealand.
After pulling in the drive to the MRN Wholesalers HQ, I had myself seriously pondering which one I would prefer. The conclusion, I think at least, would be the near-factory example. It did need better tyres, however, the predictable handling, the smooth ride, and just-loud-enough engine provided ample entertainment and even more so than the modified example on the street. Get them side-by-side on the circuit though, and I would be jumping into the modified example for sure.