ON SALE: NOW / $40,000 (EST.)
The first thing you notice about the Honda S2000 Club Racer (CR to you and me) is that giant rear wing. Then you see the more-than-a-little-dorky headrest fairing and the garish yellow stitching on the seats. Oy, you think, it looks like a cartoon.
Happily, the S2000 CR is so entertaining - and so capable - that its looks don't matter. The CR is essentially the Honda S2000's swan song, a factory-built, lightweight track toy for diehards. In pursuit of lower lap times and better street cred, Honda ditched the base S2000's folding top, air-conditioning, and stereo (the last two can be regained on the CR as factory options). In their place, you get the headrest fairing, a welded-in rear body brace, a boy-racer-ish body kit aimed at reducing lift, stiffer springs and dampers, quicker-ratio steering, and assorted CR-specific interior bits. Engine and driveline specifications mirror those of the base S2000, although the CR does get slightly wider rear tires and stickier Bridgestone rubber. On the street, the tweaked roadster drives little differently from the base S2000 - the livelier steering and better wheel control are about all you notice, and ride quality is little changed. On the track, however, the car comes alive: the additional grip, decreased understeer, and extra chassis composure are welcome enhancements to the S2000's already track-happy personality. Fittingly, the Club Racer is the final work of retiring Honda sports car guru Shigeru Uehara (chief engineer for the S2000 and the Acura NSX), capping off his nearly three-decade career in R&D. As farewells go, the CR is one heck of an apex-swallowing sayonara.