2008 Honda S2000 Review

Consumer Reviews
1 Review
2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
September 14, 2008

The 2008 Honda S2000 is a purist's sports car, with the resulting compromises in room and refinement.

The car experts at TheCarConnection.com researched a wide range of road tests of the 2008 Honda S2000 to compile this conclusive review. TheCarConnection.com's resident sports car enthusiasts also drove the 2008 Honda S2000, to help you decide which reviews to trust where opinions differ, to add more impressions and details, and to provide you with the best information.

The 2008 Honda S2000 is a classic sports car: It has rear-wheel drive, a ragtop to open on sunny days, a six-speed manual transmission, and a rev-happy four-cylinder engine. It also is one of the least practical cars on the planet—maybe the least since the Toyota MR2 Spyder was discontinued. There's almost no interior or trunk storage, the cockpit's more cramped than the coach seats on a Boeing 757, and it's priced above $30,000.

The S2000 has been on the market since 1999. The roadster has a 237-horsepower, 2.2-liter four-cylinder, coupled to a six-speed manual gearbox, stability control, drive-by-wire throttle, and an engine Start button. It gets respectable 18/25-mpg fuel economy ratings, yet the engine's performance is stunning. Handling is also a strength, as the S2000 is already tuned to perform on tight hairpins, though it can feel overly taut and a little jittery on public roads. You'll have to wind out the engine and push its limits in corners to find out what the Honda S2000 is all about.

This year Honda has trimmed some weight to create a new S2000 variant that’s even more race-track friendly. The "club-racer inspired" S2000CR gets a full-body aerodynamic kit, high-performance Bridgestone tires, firmer suspension settings, a thicker anti-roll bar, and new wheels. A lightweight aluminum hardtop that cuts weight by about 90 pounds replaces the soft-top mechanism. Inside, the CR gets distinctive cloth seats with yellow stitching, a new aluminum shifter knob, and carbon-fiber look-alike trim panels.

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You'll be cramped inside the Honda S2000's cockpit, no matter how small you might be. Where Mazda's Miata feels almost roomy in comparison thanks to a low beltline, the high shoulders of the S2000 confine the driver and passenger, and the steering wheel sits low even at its highest adjustment point. Uncharacteristically, the controls aren't laid out cleanly (there's not a lot of dash space to do so), and the big red Start button seems more like a gimmick. There's plenty of black plastic, too, in the name of saving weight.

Dual front airbags, stability control, and anti-lock brakes are standard on the 2008 Honda S2000.

8

2008 Honda S2000

Styling

Though the 2008 Honda S2000 has a dated design, the base model stands out for its impressive blend of style and performance, despite the overwhelming additions on the CR.

The Honda S2000 has been a styling favorite among many automotive magazines and consumer car Web sites, as well as thousands of S2000 Honda owners. Although the standard S2000 Honda’s styling remains unchanged for 2008, a new CR (Club Racer) model adds aerodynamics in the form of a new body kit.

According to the reviewers at Edmunds, the “2008 Honda S2000 is a compact two-seat roadster that’s offered in two trims: standard and CR.” Both trims share the same basic profile, which Cars.com calls a “wedge-shaped profile that stands apart from other roadsters,” but Kelley Blue Book notes that “CR models include an aerodynamic body kit,” along with “lift-reducing front and rear spoilers and a removable aluminum hard top in place of the conventional cloth” one on the standard Honda S2000.

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the exterior styling of the 2008 Honda S2000 is a huge success, and Kelley Blue Book says that the Honda S2000 “strikes a very un-Honda like, somewhat wicked poise” that can “resemble an angry cobra about to strike.” Cars.com reports other exterior highlights include stylish “high-intensity-discharge headlamps and 17-inch alloy wheels” that come standard on the 2008 Honda S2000. The most prominent criticism of the exterior of the 2008 Honda S2000 issues from Edmunds, which notes that while the new aerodynamic pieces on the CR “reduce high-speed aerodynamic lift by about 70 percent,” they also “reduce the car’s overall visual appeal by, oh, 79 percent.”

Like many Honda models, the 2008 Honda S2000 has an interior that wins major styling points from most reviewers for its thoughtful layout. Kelley Blue Book says the 2008 Honda S2000’s “interior is full of wonderful surprises,” including a “big red START button on the dash” and “the long center console [that] sits up high, affording you the perfect perch on which to rest your arm.” ConsumerGuide also approves of the interior layout on the 2008 Honda S2000, claiming that the “S2000 has a cozy cockpit, so everything is close at hand,” and while the “electronic bar-graph tachometer and digital speedometer are not the sports-car norm,” they are “easy to read.” Edmunds chimes in, noting that “nearly all the controls you’ll ever need are mounted within a finger’s extension of the steering wheel.” One of the cooler interior features to find its way into a production car is the “new Peak-Power Indicator” on the 2008 Honda S2000 CR, a feature that Cars.com says will flash “a green light when peak power is reached.”

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2008 Honda S2000

Performance

The 2008 Honda S2000 enjoys better handling due to the quicker steering ratio and new tires, and the CR model is a track-worthy contender that can hold its own against more expensive European and American competition.

One look at the 2008 Honda S2000 is enough to realize its mission in life: high-performance driving. The S2000 Honda doesn’t disappoint driving enthusiasts either, offering razor-sharp handling and precise steering.

Despite the fact that two distinct versions of the 2008 Honda S2000 are available, Edmunds reports that the only available engine 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.” Honda has tuned the engine on the Honda S2000 almost to the breaking point, with Car and Driver commenting that “the S2000’s 2.2-liter four is basically maxed out.” Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the engine is happiest when running flat-out. Cars.com notes that “once it reaches 5,000 rpm or so, the S2000 lunges forward like a rocket,” and Edmunds adds that “piloting the 2008 Honda S2000 takes some getting used to, since peak power is delivered at almost 8,000 rpm.” ConsumerGuide reviewers love the engine and find that the Honda S2000 “provides a surprising supply of usable power across a broad rpm range, combined with ultrahigh-revving excitement.”

The transmission also fares very well in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com for its smooth shifts and short throws. Cars.com states that the four-cylinder engine on the S2000 Honda “mates with a six-speed manual transmission” that ConsumerGuide says will offer “manageable clutch action” and a “slick, short-throw gearbox.” Kelley Blue Book claims that the engine and transmission combination makes for “startlingly-quick performance,” while the chassis adds “remarkable nimbleness” to the 2008 Honda S2000 package.

Most cars as potent as the 2008 Honda S2000 pay a significant penalty at the gas pump, but the small engine combined with lightweight construction on the Honda S2000 yields a relatively frugal performance machine. The EPA estimates that the 2008 Honda S2000, whether in standard or CR form, will get 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway—no word yet on what those numbers look like on the track, though.

While reviewers rave about both the engine and the transmission on the 2008 Honda S2000, the real performance on the 2008 Honda S2000 comes in the handling department. Cars.com holds nothing back in praising the “razor-sharp steering, disciplined handling and athletic cornering ability” of the 2008 Honda S2000. Kelley Blue Book reviewers rave about the “nearly flat cornering behavior and extremely crisp response that allows” the 2008 Honda S2000 “to negotiate the corners with sure tenacity.” The Club Racer is even more impressive, with Car and Driver reporting that it “is simply harder and sharper, with less body roll and tire scrubbing and more corner composure and stability under braking.” Unfortunately, the price for all that performance is poor ride quality, and ConsumerGuide points out that “nearly every small bump and tar strip registers through the seats.” On the positive side, ConsumerGuide also comments that “braking is swift and easily modulated” whether you are driving on the street or the track.

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6

2008 Honda S2000

Comfort & Quality

There's no disputing the Honda S2000's quality, but interior comfort may not be as good as that of some other cars in its class.

Like all Hondas, the Honda S2000 has a reputation for high quality and reliability, as well as good resale value. As a sportscar, comfort and practicality are not high on the S2000 Honda’s feature list, but in TheCarConnection.com's experience, those seeking racecar-like handling are usually willing to sacrifice a few comfort amenities for increased performance.

The 2008 Honda S2000 is a small two-seater with a “snug” cockpit, according to Edmunds, and even that description is generous. ConsumerGuide reports that “large people have precious little room to spare, so they may find the seats too confining.” Cars.com reviewers appreciate the “body-hugging, leather-trimmed bucket seats,” but they also note that “the range of driving positions is limited because the steering wheel doesn’t adjust and the seats must be positioned manually.” While the overall dimensions of the S2000 Honda may be a bit confining, Kelley Blue Book still loves the “deeply contoured bucket seats” that hold you firmly in place during aggressive cornering.

What limited space there is on the 2008 Honda S2000 is devoted almost entirely to the driver and passenger, and precious little room is given to anything they might want to carry with them. Cars.com, like most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, says that “storage space is at a premium,” finding that “there’s a tiny bin between the seats and a trunk with only 5 cubic feet of capacity.” ConsumerGuide recommends that drivers “pack light,” since the Honda S2000’s trunk only “holds a fair number of plastic grocery bags or a couple of day packs.”

One area where reviewers are in unanimous agreement when it comes to the 2008 Honda S2000 is build quality, which they all praise as exceptional. Kelley Blue Book loves that the Honda S2000 offers performance “but with a Honda price tag and build quality,” which is to say low and high, respectively. ConsumerGuide points out that the “materials and solid and assembled well,” and the “power top operates quickly and seals well,” despite the fact that the top can be a problem area on some roadsters. Edmunds reviewers rave about the “bulletproof reliability promised by its impeccable Honda bloodlines.”

On many cars, high build quality is indicative of low cabin noise, but the 2008 Honda S2000 is loud in either trim. ConsumerGuide finds that, even with the “top up, tire roar is very intrusive.” Edmunds adds that “the assault on the ears is slightly less endearing, especially on long trips,” and goes on to mention that “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.”

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2008 Honda S2000

Safety

Despite being a small, lightweight sportscar without side airbags, the 2008 Honda S2000 tests well and is track-ready off the lot.

Many sportscars have trouble in crash tests—especially convertibles. Their smaller size, lower ride height, and lightweight roofs can make the occupants inside the vehicle vulnerable in an accident. The 2008 Honda S2000, however, earns an impressive report card for safety from the feds.

Although the IIHS has not had the chance to test any 2008 Honda S2000’s for their crashworthiness, NHTSA did manage to procure a couple to demolish. Their results were, to paraphrase Edmunds reviewers, damn impressive, especially considering the safety features that were and weren’t included on the S2000 Honda. TheCarConnection.com has found that the Honda S2000 earned four out of a possible five stars from NHTSA in the front impact category, while also managing a perfect five stars in the side impact rating.

Edmunds finds this side impact rating for the 2008 Honda S2000 even more impressive because it comes “despite its lack of side airbags.” Cars.com mentions that, unlike with many cars on the road today, “side-impact airbags are not offered,” even as options. Among the included features are “antilock disc brakes and stability control,” both of which are standard, according to Edmunds. ConsumerGuide adds that “dual front airbags” and “brake assist” come standard as well, and in a nod to the Honda S2000’s track-readiness, “roll bars” are included free of charge.

One would expect visibility from within a convertible to be spectacular, and for the most part, that’s true. The only downside to visibility from within the cramped confines of the 2008 Honda S2000, according to ConsumerGuide, is that “top-up visibility is not great over the shoulder,” but they also note that it’s “better than in many rivals.”

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2008 Honda S2000

Features

The lack of options makes shopping easier, and odds are you won’t miss much on the 2008 Honda S2000.

The 2008 Honda S2000 is one of the very few cars on the road today with no available factory options. Fortunately, the standard features found on the 2008 Honda S2000 should be enough to leave most buyers satisfied.

The standard features list on the Honda S2000 may not be lengthy (there’s only so much you can fit inside such a small car), but what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for with quality and usefulness. One of the more talked-about features on the S2000 Honda in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com is the pair of “headrest speakers” that Kelley Blue Book says “are the only way to really hear your music when both the top and the accelerator pedal are down” in the Honda S2000. Edmunds lists some of the other standard features on the 2008 Honda S2000 as “17-inch alloy wheels, xenon HID headlights…full power accessories, air-conditioning and a CD player.” ConsumerGuide reports that “cruise control” and “remote keyless entry” are also included among the Honda S2000’s features.

While there are no additional features available on the S2000 Honda, the S2000 CR does remove some of the features found on the standard Honda S2000. Motor Trend says that the “radio and air conditioning are deleted” on the Honda S2000 CR, though “they can be put back in as an option” at no extra charge. Without those amenities, Motor Trend says, the weight-conscious Honda S2000 CR “weighs 99 pounds less than a regular S2000.”

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May 19, 2015
2008 Honda S2000 2-Door Convertible CR w/Air Conditioning

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This car handles well on both the open highway and around town. I live in a mild climate and have the top down as much as I can. I get great gas mileage and keep the car in great shape. It's a pleasure to... + More »
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Styling 8
Performance 9
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety 8
Features 8
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