Used 2008 Honda S2000
Edmunds' Expert Review
The Honda S2000 has long been an impressive, fun-to-drive roadster for the price, but its appeal is tarnished by its dearth of amenities and aging design.
The 2008 Honda S2000 isn't like one of those infomercial all-in-one vacuum cleaners that can clean rugs, mop floors, cook your dinner and do your taxes; it doesn't attempt to woo you with its versatility, or leave you speechless at its miles-long list of features. Instead, it has but one purpose, which is to deliver a high-performance driving experience at a relatively low price. Impressively, Honda's eager little roadster has made good on that single-minded mission statement since its launch eight years ago.
Thanks to its racecar-inspired suspension, perfect weight balance and high-output four-cylinder engine, the S2000 holds its own with costlier German and American rivals on twisty roads. It also offers another attribute -- the bulletproof reliability promised by its impeccable Honda bloodlines.
For 2008, a new trim level debuts that's geared to boost this Honda's performance profile even further: the CR (an abbreviation for "club racer"). The CR is quicker than the standard S2000, but its gains aren't achieved via increased horsepower, since the CR offers the same 237-horsepower engine as the base model. Rather, the CR quickens its heels by lightening its load; it weighs up to 99 pounds less than the standard S2000. This has been achieved by deleting the air-conditioning and audio systems (they're optional) and deleting the power-operated soft top entirely in favor of a removable hardtop. The CR also has an aggressive track-tuned suspension, a quicker steering ratio and stickier tires.
Oh, and let's not forget the big honking wing bolted to the trunk lid and a chin prominent enough to make Jay Leno envious. Honda says these pieces reduce high-speed aerodynamic lift by about 70 percent. Maybe so, but one could argue that they also reduce the car's overall visual appeal by, oh, 79 percent. And of course, the aero pieces are only effective on the track. We think most S2000 buyers will be better served by the standard model, which is just as well because Honda says it's only going to make 1,500 CRs this year.
Whether you choose the standard or CR model, the S2000 offers a purely visceral driving experience. This will please some, but will likely alienate others used to traveling in a bit more comfort. It's also hindered by its aged design; save for minor tweaks, the car has remained pretty much unchanged since its introduction almost a decade ago. During this time, the segment has only grown more competitive. The raw lightweight Lotus Elise has come along to take top honors as the segment's pick for sports-car purists. BMW's Z4 and Porsche's Boxster have benefited from recent improvements, and while flawed, the Solstice GXP and Sky Red Line twins offer stronger performance and competitive prices. The 2008 Honda S2000 continues to be an impressive choice in this segment, but buyers would be wise to investigate all the latest offerings before making a commitment.
trim levels & features
The 2008 Honda S2000 is a compact two-seat roadster that's offered in two trims: standard and CR. Standard models include a power-operated soft top, a glass rear window with a defroster, 17-inch alloy wheels, xenon HID headlights, leather seats, full power accessories, air-conditioning and a CD player.
The performance-oriented CR lacks the power top and instead has a lightweight removable hardtop. Air-conditioning and the sound system have been similarly stripped to reduce weight, but they can be added back on as options. With the CR, you also get more aggressive body styling (with spoilers that are hard to miss), fabric seats, a sport-tuned suspension and high-performance tires. No factory-installed options are offered.
performance & mpg
Powering Honda's roadster is a 2.2-liter four-cylinder that churns out 237 hp at a lofty 7,800 rpm and 162 pound-feet of torque at 6,800 rpm. This power is routed to the rear wheels through a six-speed close-ratio manual transmission. Fuel economy for 2008 is rated at 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.
Both trims feature standard antilock disc brakes and stability control. The 2008 Honda S2000 performed impressively 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.
Piloting the 2008 Honda S2000 takes some getting used to, since peak power is delivered at almost 8,000 rpm. Revving the engine to its upper limits rewards the driver with a surge of power once the variable valve timing system switches modes at about 6,000 rpm. 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. The noise factor is even more of an issue with the CR trim, since CR models sacrifice sound-deadening material in the interest of reducing curb weight.
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. CR models feel quite at home on racetracks, stable at even the highest speeds. On the street, though, there is little discernible difference in the performance offered by CR models relative to the standard S2000.
The S2000's cockpit is basic and businesslike. Only the most essential convenience features are provided, and nearly all the controls you'll ever need are mounted within a finger's 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 tightly during aggressive cornering. The trunk, with 5 cubic feet of volume, is about average for this class of car.
Features & Specs
More About This Model
If you're not already planning to purchase a 2008 Honda S2000 CR, then it's not the car for you.
We do not write this as a knock against this special-edition S2000. Indeed, it's a compliment.
We've counted the S2000, entering its eighth year on the market (yes, you're getting old), as one of our favorite roadsters since we first piloted one in late 1999. We've always praised its knife-edge dynamics, its simplicity, its utter lack of electronic intervention, its resolutely modern and anti-retro style, and six-way toggle switch of a shifter. The CR edition doesn't change any of that. In fact, the stripped-down CR, which stands for club racer, is an even more intensely pungent version of that same flavor.
And, after a day of hammering an S2000 CR on the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, we found it to be the most tightly focused, single-minded performance roadster on the market. Even a Lotus Elise has air-conditioning.
In an effort to shave off bits of weight and wring out the last few droplets of performance that the standard S2000 leaves on the table, the CR version comes without a stereo, air-conditioning, sound-deadening material or a top. Take into account the heavier-than-stock components the CR adds, such as the rear wing, body strengthening and wider rear tires and Honda says the CR weighs 2,765 pounds — 99 pounds lighter than the standard '08 S2000. However, secure the standard aluminum hardtop in place and the CR's curb weight goes up to 2,813 pounds.
These are trade-offs only a few will be willing to make, and unless we're going to spend more than 50 percent of our time on a racetrack, we count ourselves among the majority on that matter. Hey, maybe you want a steaming-hot, music-free buzz box to advertise your commitment to performance, but A/C and a stereo are on our necessary list. And the 42 pounds saved by their omission doesn't seem worth the discomfort factor.
So we're soft. We'd also like a power-retractable soft top, too, but that's another story.
The thing is, saving weight is the only way to make the S2000 quicker. Honda has given up on improving the roadster's weight-to-power ratio on the engine side. The CR's 2.2-liter DOHC makes the same power (237 horsepower at 7,800 rpm) and torque (162 pound-feet at 6,800 rpm) as the standard car's motor.
According to Senior Chief Engineer Shingeru Uehara, there is simply no more power to be had from the four-cylinder without adding forced induction or failing to meet drivability and emissions targets. And Uehara knows from Honda performance vehicles, having birthed the NSX and the original S2000. A few within the company consider the CR a retirement gift for him. The gear ratios of the six-speed manual and final drive remain the same as well.
Super Happy Terrific!
If we're giving you the impression we do not like the CR, then we have failed. It is double-throwdown happiness — maybe triple. Driving it makes us feel like Ayrton Senna, the living version. And we're prepared to say that it carries the finest, most satisfying shifter we have ever used.
But all of those things are true of the standard S2000, too. The changes to turn a standard car into a CR are most evident on the racetrack. In fact, we would challenge anyone to pick up the differences in public road driving behavior between the two in a blind taste test.
The biggest changes are to the front and rear double-wishbone suspensions. The CR's spring rates are up 38 percent up front and 17 percent out back, compared to the standard '08 S2000 (which in turn has a slightly stiffer suspension overall than the previous year's car). Honda seriously tamps down body motions by increasing the monotube shocks' damping rates by 50 percent front and 32 percent rear compared, again, to the standard '08 S2000. The CR's tubular antiroll bars are of a larger diameter front and rear, although the wall thickness of the front bar is 19 percent thinner. The rear suspension benefits from a structural brace mounted where the soft top would stow on a standard car.
The effect in ride quality is, remarkably, not really very noticeable. How can this be? Well, Honda credits the CR's Bridgestone Potenza RE070 tires. The standard S2000 uses RE050. The CR's rear tires are also 10 millimeters (about a third of an inch) wider than the standard car's (255 vs. 245), but the aspect ratios and diameter remain the same.
Even the CR's quicker steering ratio (13.8:1 compared to 14.9:1) is tough to pick up on because both ratios result in systems with less than three turns lock to lock.
Looks That Kill
Honda says the aforementioned rear wing and lowered and bulging chin significantly reduce high-speed aerodynamic lift (by something like 70 percent). We say those pieces reduce the car's overall visual appeal by 79 percent. The roll bar cowlings (those humps behind the seats) look merely silly.
The one successful visual change on the CR regards its wheels. They're the same size and design as the wheels used on the standard car, although the CR's are painted a sassy dark silver color.
Other than the dummy panels in place of where the stereo and A/C controls would be, the interior of the CR is pretty much standard S2000. The seats, though, are covered in a yellowish meshlike fabric trimmed with yellow stitching, and the shift knob is spherical instead of barrel-shaped.
It's not until we were scaring ourselves on the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course that the differences between the standard S2000 and the CR became evident.
First, we used the rearview mirror less so we almost forgot about that hideous rear wing, but the CR also feels more at home on a challenging racetrack than the standard car. We're not sure if it was the quickness of the steering gear or the increased authority given steering commands by the stiffer suspension and grippier tires, but the CR turns in more quickly and with certainty.
By the end of the long back straight, both the standard car and the CR top out at about 120 mph, but the CR is as stable as a church elder at that speed, while the standard car felt a little light and spooky. Maybe the wing and deeper front spoiler are functional after all. The brakes are identical to the standard car, and failed to fail after four hard laps.
Even the shifter feels better out on the track. We hadn't really noticed a difference on the road, but the CR's shorter stem reduces the shift stroke by a couple of millimeters and increases the force required to complete the shift. On the track, where shifts are more deliberate, shorter and stiffer felt better.
We're not sure if our lap times were any quicker in the CR compared to the standard car, but we certainly enjoyed the experience more.
And the Point?
It's possible that the CR version of the S2000 could be used to homologate certain things for use by amateur S2000 racers. The aerodynamic bits would certainly be something a racer might like the option to fool around with. But in terms of the suspension, well, the classes in, for example, SCCA racing that allow the S2000 to run also allow for modification of suspension components, so we're not sure what benefit the CR's settings would be.
The CR goes on sale on September 17 for "well under $40,000." We interpret this to mean about $37,000. Honda will build 1,500 CRs for '08. Frankly, we wouldn't be willing to give up the retractable soft top and clean, unadorned body of the standard car for the improvements the CR brings. Maybe we'll just slap some RE070s on a standard car and stop eating so many Coney dogs.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2008 Honda S2000 Overview
The Used 2008 Honda S2000 is offered in the following submodels: , . Available styles include 2dr Convertible (2.2L 4cyl 6M), CR 2dr Convertible (2.2L 4cyl 6M), and CR 2dr Convertible w/AC, Audio (2.2L 4cyl 6M).
What's a good price on a Used 2008 Honda S2000?
Price comparisons for Used 2008 Honda S2000 trim styles:
- The Used 2008 Honda S2000 Base is priced between $20,995 and$20,995 with odometer readings between 79314 and79314 miles.
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