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?
Indeed, the S2000 perfectly distills what has traditionally made Hondas so appealing. The 2.2-liter engine can be either efficient and well-behaved or raw and thrilling depending on how high you rev it. Lighting quick, accurate steering makes you want to slalom through construction cones. And that shifter, oh that shifter. It feels like it's plugged into your brainstem. And the car even rides well - we've become so accustomed to 3500-pound "sports cars" with twenty-inch wheels that it's shocking to drive something that exhibits practically no body roll yet absorbs every bump Michigan's roads have to offer. Put all this together, and you have a no-compromises track car that's also a perfectly reasonable daily driver.
No, the S2000 won't win many drag races against other $40,000 cars (think about it - everything is fast these days), and you might even lose to a Chrysler Town & Country if you don't squeeze the engine past 7500 rpm. But there aren't many cars left that follow so pure an engineering mission and that put the driver in so much control.
The S2000's departure after this year with no foreseeable replacement again raises questions as to whether Honda's luster is fading. I'll withhold my judgment until the CR-Z sporty hybrid comes out, but it's safe to say that it'll have a lot to live up to.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor