Continuing our Cold Start theme of “Great cars that just don’t or can’t get made anymore” after yesterday’s salute to the Dodge Viper, let us turn to another car that is often on my mind: the Honda S2000.
I would’ve bought an S2000 by now, but besides the fact that we lost so many good ones in the Tuner Wars (RIP), the damn things simply refuse to go down in price. This is a common trend with popular cars that never got a true second-generation model: see also the Toyota FJ Cruiser.
But if you ask me what the best sports car of the last 20 years was, I’ll always say it was the S2000. Yeah, seriously—the best of them all, and you could make a very long list of great contenders for that title. To me, it’s because of the S2000’s price tag around $30,000 when it was new in the early aughts.
Thanks to rampant inflation, that’d be almost $50,000 in today’s dollars. (Depressing, I know.) But 20 years ago, that price was expensive-ish—more so than a Mazda Miata or other options—but still quite attainable. And the S2000 offered a driving experience that, to me at least, very few cars have been able to match.
You have to be a certain kind of person to enjoy it. Infamously, it’s not a straight-line car; it’s a high-rev corner car, and we Americans broadly don’t define performance that way. Yet it took the Miata playbook and added a far greater degree of athleticism, coupled with one of the best manual gearboxes Honda’s ever built—which, for Honda, is saying a lot. It also never came in an automatic version, ever. That’s another benchmark for a truly great sports car, at least at one time.
You could spend a lot of money on a performance car and there’s no guarantee you’d have as much fun as you would in the considerably more affordable S2000. I’d take one over many six-figure options in a heartbeat.
So between the attainable price, the roadster body, the high-revving four-cylinder engine and the lack of compromises, it’s just the kind of car we don’t get today and may not get again. And trust me, I get and believe in the shift to zero-emission vehicles and electrification that’s happening now. But EV batteries present possibly insurmountable challenges around weight, and the lack of weight is a key ingredient for any great sports car. I hope Honda—or Lotus, or Toyota, or Gordon Murray, or some startup, or anyone—can find a way to overcome this someday.
And I hope we find a way back to truly great affordable cars. Or, hell, just affordable cars, period. In the meantime, can someone do anything about those S2000 prices? Please and thank you.
All photos: Honda