If not Honda, what other major automaker could offer a $40,000 sports car with a tiny, normally aspirated four-cylinder engine, a functional, no-nonsense interior, and no transmission option beyond a six-speed manual?
The S2000 has had a good run. I was happy to have one last turn behind the wheel of this 2009 model, since there will not be a 2010 model. Although the S2000 is a lot of fun to drive on a good road, you really need to take it to a racetrack to fully take advantage of its capabilities. The S2000 has always had a very-high-revving, DOHC four-cylinder engine; taking it above 7000 rpm, you're rewarded by a fabulous high-pitched shriek. An ultrasharp chassis, a stiff body, and communicative steering complete the picture. Let's hope that Honda's upcoming CR-Z hybrid, which will evoke the popular CRX, is at least half as fun to drive.
For a while, I was lamenting the fact that this S2000 didn't come equipped with a top that I could lower or deploy single-handedly, but one drive in the CR changed my tune. Scrapping the folding top makes the transition to topless running a two-person affair, but it gave engineers space to add additional chassis braces. The result is a roadster that's virtually free of the flex and shimmy usually associated with its ilk. Impressive.
I've been fortunate enough to drive three Honda S2000s during my career as an automotive journalist. Sadly, only the first was a regular S2000 with a cloth top. The CR is, as Joe DeMatio points out, a track star, but it doesn't suit regular roads quite so well. Taller drivers have a hard time seeing traffic signals when the removable hard top is in place. I realize this top is needed to make the CR track-ready right from the dealership, but the best way to enjoy a roadster on public roads is with the top down, and that's always a two-person job with the CR. A "base" S2000 also has slightly softer suspension that does a better job absorbing road imperfections but gives up almost nothing in the corners on the road.
It's a shame that Honda can't clean up the interior and perform a minor face-lift to keep this rare masterpiece around for another ten years. The S2000 CR comes with quicker steering than the base Honda roadster, and it is absolutely fabulous. The connection to the road is pure, and it's weighted to inspire confidence. Wonderful! A solid chassis and a tight suspension complement that steering to round out corner-carving goodness.
I'm sure going to miss the S2000 when it goes away after the '09 model year. I'm not a huge fan of this racy CR edition, what with its garish wing, hard top, and wild fairings behind the headrests; I'd honestly prefer to own the $2000-cheaper base S2000 and have the benefits of a stealthier appearance and an easier-to-lower roof. Depriving a CR of regular track exercise would be a crime, but if I had the money for both an S2000 and regular track time, I might change my S2000 preference.
2009 Honda S2000 CR with A/C & Audio