What's New for 2006
The 2006 Honda S2000 receives electronic drive-by-wire throttle control and stability control. A smart maintenance minder has also been added, along with headrest-mounted stereo speakers and an outside temperature gauge. Styling revisions this year include new seat, console and alloy wheel designs. Stated power output for the S2000's engine has dropped slightly due to Honda's adoption of a new SAE horsepower-rating procedure.
When most driving enthusiasts slip off into dreams of sun-drenched, horsepower-infused blasts down Pacific Coast Highway, cars with the Honda badge on the hood are rarely the chariots of choice. Ferraris, Porsches, the occasional Corvette, maybe, but never a Honda. That all changed six years ago with the introduction of the Honda S2000. With its ultrastiff body and racecar-inspired suspension, Honda's two-seat roadster could run circles around just about anything, regardless of which European country it came from. And it didn't require exotic materials or a gas-guzzling six- or eight-cylinder engine to do so.
We were a bit skeptical at first, but after driving it back-to-back against the best roadsters in its class, our editors couldn't help but fall in love with the S2000's precise handling, ultradirect steering and rev-happy engine that made it feel more like a Japanese superbike than a drop-top two-seater. The car's lack of luxury amenities went virtually unnoticed, as driver after driver became entranced by the Honda's incredible handling and slingshot acceleration.
The 2006 Honda S2000 is an enthusiast's car pure and simple. You want fancy leather and beautifully crafted wood grain accents? Move on to the European car dealer of your choice, please. The S2000 dispenses with the fluff and replaces it with a howling engine and a concrete chassis that make no concessions to those who want the best of both worlds in a performance roadster. That might seem like a tight niche to shoot for, but there are still plenty of us out there who dream of such a car. And as long as the company continues to build the S2000 for thousands of dollars less than the competition, we'll be sure to save a spot for Honda right next to the prancing horse and checkered flags next time we're out for a midday cruise down a coastal highway.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
There is only one version of the 2006 Honda S2000 roadster. All cars have a power-operated top with a glass rear window (with defroster), lightweight 17-inch wheels, leather seats, keyless entry, air conditioning, a digital instrument panel, a CD audio system and HID headlights. An optional aluminum hardtop -- it weighs just 44 pounds -- is also available.
Powertrains and Performance
The Honda S2000 is powered by a 2.2-liter four-cylinder that makes 237 horsepower at a lofty 7,800 rpm and 162 lb-ft of torque at 6,800 rpm. Power is routed to the rear wheels though a six-speed close-ratio manual transmission.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes and stability control are standard. The 2006 Honda S2000 scored well in government crash tests, earning four stars (out of a best score of five) for protection against frontal impacts. It also earned five stars for side-impact protection despite its lack of side airbags.
Interior Design and Special Features
The S2000's cockpit is all business. There is no silly fake wood or fancy navigation system to distract the driver from fully enjoying the car's abilities. Spend any significant time behind the wheel of this driver's car, and you'll wonder why so many other roadsters and sports cars don't cater to the pilot with such one-dimensional purpose. Nearly all the controls you'll ever need are mounted within a finger extension of the steering wheel. The cockpit retains a snug fit better suited for hard runs on back roads than daily commuting. The laterally bolstered seats hold the driver and passenger in tightly during aggressive cornering.
With a 8,900-rpm redline, driving the 2006 Honda S2000 takes some getting used to. Whereas most cars are on the downside of their power curves at 5,000 rpm, the S2000 is just getting started. Honda's VTEC variable valve timing system switches modes at about 6,000 rpm, initiating a surge of power that continues right up to the 9-grand limit. It's an exhilarating ride from a seat-of-the-pants perspective, but the assault on the ears is slightly less endearing, especially on long trips. There's virtually no perceptible flex despite the S2000's roofless architecture, and body roll is kept to an absolute minimum by the sophisticated double-wishbone suspension front and rear. A 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution gives the car exceptional balance and predictable manners in the corners. In fact, the car is so well mannered, it's almost scary. You find yourself diving into turns faster than you ever thought possible. There is a slight hint of twitchiness at the limit, but with such a short wheelbase, you can't expect it to be completely drama-free.