Owners Review: Honda S2000

Jimmy Sadri’s thorough report on buying and owning a modern-day legend

Owner/Reviewer: Jimmy Sadri
Model: 2008 Honda S2000
Price: AED 79,000
Where: UAE

I, Jimmy Sadri, have a secret I’m going to have to admit. While my love for cars has crossed the threshold of passion and is happily an obsession, my day job still remains as an auditor. That means I should get stereotyped as the type of person most likely to be in a staid ol’ beige car. In the first year of my career, that is exactly what I drove.

I completely understand why people have cast this stereotype when I take a look around me. The job can get monotonous and exhausting and is filled to the brim with people who try to logicize every decision they make in life, even when buying a car. That’s why you’ll find my colleagues most satisfied with a Japanese econo-box and not much else. The accountant in me completely understands the logic behind the purchase and there can be no way of arguing against them in a logical manner.

The enthusiast in me, though, is all of about 5 years old. When it comes to cars, all semblence of logic leaves my being and I choose straight from the heart, even throwing a tantrum when I can’t reason my side of the case. That is exactly how I came to own a 2008 Honda S2000.

I first saw the car sitting at Al Futtaim Automall in January 2010 and had jokingly pointed at her and said, “You’re going to be mine”. Little did I know that when I actually did look for a car a few months later, this little baby would still be waiting for me. With less than 17,000 kms on the clock, the car was in mint condition and looked gorgeous in berlina black. However, less appealing to me was the AED 99,000 price tag stuck to it.

No matter what I hit on my trusty calculator, it just wouldn’t come up with a figure I could manage and so I put the thought of owning it out of my head. That lasted all of two weeks up until the point where the salesman rang me informing me that the price was, in his words, ‘slashed’. There I sat wondering why this salesman was rubbing salt in my wounds by bring the price down by a piddly couple of grand when he uttered something magical: AED 79,000!

My mind ran a million thoughts a second, my hands physically shook as I started furiously clicking away at my calculator to find numbers that were suddenly possible. That very evening, I left work early and was back at the showroom discussing everything I could. I inquired about maintenance costs (turns out to be the same as a full options Accord and has proven to be so), the payment options and the potential deal breaker, insurance.

Being under the age of 25 and trying to insure a high performance vehicle is difficult to say the least. Al Futtaim’s tie-up was giving me an effective interest rate of almost 13% which was working out to a ghastly amount. And so as I went on my quest to find a good insurance cover at a price that wouldn’t break the bank, I had two of the leading motor insurance companies not even offer a quote due to my age (I think one of them actually laughed before putting down the phone). Finally, I found solace in Noor Takaful who not only offered me a much more decent rate of 6%, but also an extremely comprehensive cover.

Once the car was booked, I asked Al Futtaim Automall to also do the window tinting and body paint protection and while waiting for delivery is when I had a weak moment. I was out one evening waiting for a friend when I started flipping through the pages of a magazine that advertised number plates.

I was a stout believer in not spending ridiculous sums of money on a piece of metal stuck to the two ends of a car but suddenly, I found myself tempted. And while I did not pay too princely a sum, I found myself reaching deep into my pockets to spend a little more on jewellery for my soon-to-be lady and I have to admit now in hindsight that I wouldn’t have it any other way. Waiting for the plates to be put on the car before handover, I had many eyes come from across the showroom to take a gander at the number being placed on the car.

On 29th July 2010, I first laid hands on Estelle (don’t mock me, we all name our cars).

I took delivery of the car on my salesman’s day off (yes, I was pretty anxious but he did ask me to come back in two days so that he could talk me around any additional tidbits) and this did led to an interesting first couple of days. It started with me getting behind the wheel of a manual transmission car after over four years leading to quite a nerve wracking drive out of the showroom. This was followed by a 20 minute hunt for the fuel cap knob (tiny black knob on a black door sill) and then a mighty fear that the car did not have a reverse gear.

Let me explain the latter. All the manual cars I had driven to date were five speed transmissions with reverse being under 5th gear. With the S2000’s six speed transmission, reverse was shown on the gear as past 5th and 6th gear and down. Yet each time I tried this, I stuck it into sixth. In the end, I just got out of my car and heaved it backwards (advantages of owning a light car) for the 2 feet it needed to be reversed and then spent the next few hours holding my head in my hands worrying that I had bought a lemon.

That’s when my uncle came and told me that the gear lever probably requires a tug up or a push down and sure enough as I pushed it down, it depressed and slid into reverse. Sure I was pink in the face with embarrassment but by the time the two days were over and I went back to the showroom, I did not need much more information from the salesman.

Many people scoffed the idea of me using this car as a daily driver. Closing in on two years now and it is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. From being extremely reliable as an every day car to also putting the biggest smile on my face every time I need to get anywhere, the car is a legend for a reason!

The driving experience is one of the purest I have come across. Being a light-weight roadster, the car brings the biggest smile to my face every time I get behind the wheel. The engine is definitely the highlight of this car. With just 2 litres of displacement, Honda must have used every bit of know-how back in 1999 (when the car was first launched) to be able to pull out a not insignificant 250bhp from the engine, the highest specific output for a naturally aspirated engine.

The car admittedly lacks low end torque, but this is more than made up for when you rev it to an unbelievable 9000rpm redline. It gives the car a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde character. Potter along below 3500 rpm and its like being in any other city car. Put your foot down and somewhere between 5500 and 6000rpm, Honda’s V-TEC cam technology kicks in giving the car a surge of power and a distinct change in the note of the engine. As the car weighs an anorexic 1,250kgs, the power to weight ratio of 200bhp/tonne is very respectable.

With a 0-100 time of about 6 seconds, the car may not be the fastest in a straight line but the way it handles begs belief. Corners can be attacked at ridiculous speeds in this car. Turn in is crisp and the car can be balanced beautifully on the throttle thanks to its rear wheel drive layout. However, the engine does need to be revved to keep it in its sweet spot so as to be able to shoot out of corners on the exit. When perfected, the car can take on competition from significantly more expensive cars and come out a winner.

This does not mean it has suspension that will rattle the fillings out of your teeth. In fact, the S2000 is surprisingly compliant, particularly at speeds and it rarely ever crashes through a dip in the road. However, it does have the tendency to get a little flustered while turning on road-joints (particularly on off-ramps) and also tram lines on extremely uneven roads. It just adds to the ‘character’ of the car when the steering wheel gives a little tug. The brakes are nice and progressive, and while they resist fade admirably thanks to the lack of weight, the brake pedal does start to get a little bit long after repeated heavy use.

The 6-speed manual transmission has its gears stacked quite closely. While this makes it a lot of fun to play with, aided by a short throw, it does allow for a noisy ride on the highway. Driving at highway speeds of 120kph has the engine buzzing at 4000rpm. This does make it tiring on a long journey, but highways are not what the S2000 was born for.

While the car revels in drives out to Kalba on the mountain roads at least once every two months, I have to admit that the majority of its life is spent in the city. And while some might consider this sort of usage criminal, I beg to differ. At the end of a hard day at work, nothing is more therapeutic than dropping the soft-top roof (semi-electric and the whole process takes less than 6 seconds) and cruising home, which is something the car can do surprisingly well.

The only disadvantage of the vinyl roof is that after long exposure to sun, the colour does fade causing it to look quite unsightly. Having a faded black roof on a black car does not work well. With the lack of availability of roof care products in the U.A.E., its best to import good quality sprays and other products to keep the roof clean and at its best.

On the whole, the car is a joy to own. It turns heads every where it goes, and I get an incredible number of people who make offers to buy it from me when I’m stopped at the traffic lights. If its not offers, its people taking photos and considering this is a humble little Honda, it says something about those beautiful lines. I also get many people who know the reputation of the S2000 and want to have a conversation about it.

Something that I cannot forget to mention while discussing this car is the S2K Community. While clearly more tightly knit in other countries, owners of S2000s are a very close bunch of blokes and the world wide forum (www.s2ki.com) has pretty much every owner of an S2000 on it.

This allows for access to a wealth of knowledge and advice on anything you could ever imagine relating to the car. While it’s not very often that you pass another S2000 on the road, if and when you do, there will be greetings exchanged, a knowing smile of owning something special and the cursory little honk on departing. That feeling of being part of something special, even if it’s not under an official title, takes the ownership experience to an even higher level.

My love for the S2000 also causes it to raise my biggest fear. While I don’t think I could ever sell this car, I would definitely like to own other cars and this brings me to the question of what I would like to own next.

Today, Honda seem to have lost their mojo when it comes to performance cars. The NSX and the S2000 are now things of the past and the future seems crammed with ideas of fuel efficiency and hybrid technology – important ideas, but definitely nothing to stir the soul. With the Accord Crosstour sitting as the current flagship in the showroom, Honda is not a brand to turn to today for a car that can make my heart race.

As of now, I pine for a second S2000. Why two of the same car? While my current car is absolutely stock, I would like a second S2000 to tinker with. While it’s arguably difficult to improve on the performance of this car without significant modification, I would like to keep it as a project and play around with.

The Honda S2000 is fun when you’re in the mood to hustle, therapeutic at the end of a long day while cruising with the roof down and also scary to the extent that most people would run out of balls (I could not find a better way of putting it) before the car runs out of capability and composure. It is one of the most complete cars to me at an attainable price and with mind blowing abilities. It would take something extremely worthy to replace its place in my eyes. It is a living legend!

Let us know what you thought of Jimmy’s review and his experience with the S2k!

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