Honda S2000 – PistonHeads

28 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Honda S2000 – PistonHeads

Honda S2000


Launched in 1999, the S2000 was built to commemorate Honda’s 50th anniversary, and with Honda having the massive budget and resources they do, rather than simply fitting an existing engine from their range they decided to design a completely new one for it – something a bit special utilising technology derived from Honda’s racing engines.

Designed by some of the engineers behind Honda’s winning F1 and CART engines, the S2000’s two litre DOHC straight four (a configuration chosen for compactness) boasts such race-bred features as roller rockers, forged shallow skirt pistons, ladder frame main bearing stiffener and fibre reinforced aluminium for the cylinders. It’s also smaller and lighter than Honda’s regular two litre engine, and at 237bhp sets a new record for highest specific output for a normally aspirated production car engine.


Of course without some form of forced induction, getting such high power outputs from just two litres requires high revs, which in turn requires cams with high lift and long duration to provide sufficient valve opening to allow the engine to draw in large amounts of air/fuel mix. Great at high revs but crap at low revs, which is a real problem for a road car – or would be without Honda’s ingenious VTEC system, which works by literally having two camshafts in one, with three cams (two mild ones sandwiching a central wild one) for each pair of valves.

In normal running the mild cams do the work, operating the valves via rocker arms just like with an ordinary 16-valve engine. The clever bit happens around 5850rpm when pins lock the previously redundant central rocker arm to the two outer ones, at which point the valves are then controlled by the high lift, long duration cam, providing the improved breathing the engine needs to run at high revs. And in the S2000’s case high revs means a mind-boggling 9000rpm.

Having read the S2000’s power delivery described as all or nothing I was interested to see what it was really like, so on my first outing I ran up through the rev range waiting for a point when the power kicked in with a bang. It never happened, the S2000 accelerating with what seemed like a very linear power delivery. A subsequent look at the power curve graph in the press pack (which the post office belatedly delivered after I’d finished testing the car) confirmed that this is indeed the case.

The S2000’s engine will actually pull from around 1000rpm/20mph in sixth, even though the vibrations make it obvious it isn’t happy doing it, and it’s sufficiently flexible that you can stay in top and still catch up with A-road traffic. But while the engine might have 237bhp and linear power delivery it lacks the low to mid-range grunt of similar power but larger capacity engines, so getting the S2000’s 1260kg past that traffic on anything other than a dual carriageway requires full use of the gears and the top end of the rev range.

Honda S2000

Scream if you want to go faster

That’s because the S2000’s engine only starts doing its best work after most car engines have stopped doing theirs, namely over 6000rpm, with maximum performance requiring the sort of revs that would blow most car engines to bits, peak torque (208Nm) being delivered at 7500rpm and peak power at 8300! And maximum performance in the S2000’s case equates to 0-60 in 6.2 seconds and 150mph.

With the engine running on the mild cams the S2000 remains reasonably quiet, hood up or down, which with little wind noise or buffeting makes for a relaxed, comfortable cruiser. Start putting those central cams to work though and things understandably get rather raucous, though that’s not because of any harshness from the engine but down to the exhaust, which if you keep the engine working in its upper range through the lanes produces a glorious race car soundtrack.

The result is a footwell that accommodates three widely spaced pedals and a full size footrest with ease, while there’s plenty of room for the other end of your body too, with about three inches of headroom for Mr Average types. Other ergonomic points worth mentioning are the comfortable, supportive seats and the siting of the heater and various stereo controls (volume, track/channel change and mute) within easy reach on either side of the instrument binnacle.

On the practical side, the S2000’s power hood comes in handy when you run into rain, taking as it does just six seconds to close, and thanks to the brilliant British summer weather I can tell you that the cabin remains completely dry even during torrential downpours.

Honda S2000
Honda S2000
Honda S2000
Honda S2000
Honda S2000
Honda S2000
Honda S2000
Honda S2000
Honda S2000
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