ATLANTA — We've come roaring through the dense pine forests north of Atlanta at what one might euphemistically call extralegal speeds. All right, to be more precise, the speedometer is nudging 120 as we crest a small hill and dip towards a lush green pasture. The digital tachometer "needle" climbs fast, and as we nudge the car's inspiring 9000-rev redline, the little engine under the hood is letting out a scream that would impress a Formula One fan — and frighten any nearby wildlife.
Taking Honda's new S2000 up to the limits isn't for the faint of heart. And, indeed, there aren't many places you really can put this eagerly awaited roadster through its paces. But The Car Connection got the chance during a recent daylong test drive, snaking along a thinly populated stretch of backwoods roadway that defines roadster terrain.
This sexy little two-seater is Honda's first true sports car in three decades, so it's generated plenty of interest since making its debut at the North American International Auto Show last January. But could it live up to expectations? As we began the day's journey, that was the critical question we had in mind.
Hot and heavy competition
Clearly, S2000 will go up against some serious competition. There's the Miata, Mazda's lovable little retro machine. And, at the other end of the spectrum, there are the German entries — BMW's Z3, Porsche's Boxster and the SLK from Mercedes-Benz.
For the S2000 to play in this segment, the roadster will have to live up to a very different standard than the traditional price/value winners from Honda, such as the Accord and Civic. Right off the bat, it looks like it will do quite well in the pocketbook equation. While final numbers haven't been set yet, expect a price tag of "about $30,000," says Honda's top U.S. product planner, Don Bonawitz. It's a bit more than Miata, but offers Honda's new entry a significant advantage over the Teutonic two-seaters. Still, it takes real style and performance to counter the Germans.