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article details
Author Jeff Palmer
Categories S2000
Create Date August 20, 2007 14:56
Last Update August 20, 2007 22:24
Honda's Franchise Sports Car

Shigeru Uehara, father of S2000

It's no secret that we've always held a special spot in our hearts for Honda's S2000. Combining a lightweight and rigid FR chassis with a world-class drivetrain, Honda quality, sharp styling, and great value, the S2000 represents one of Honda's finest engineering and development efforts to date. Indeed, many of the dreams that sustained the Temple of VTEC through the 1990s were fueled by the scant details we gathered on Honda's SSM (and later, SSX) concept.

The S2000's Development since 2000

The S2000 debuted worldwide in late 1999 as a 2000 model, featuring the F20C - a 240hp 2.0L DOHC VTEC inline-4-cylinder that spun to a dizzying 9000 rpms. The specific output (120hp/L) of this motor put it way ahead of any other naturally aspirated mass production automobile motor offered to that point. Eight years later, the feat has yet to be matched by any other automaker (before you point to the Ferrari FXX, remember that it's not street legal, and with only 30 built in total, not exactly "mass-produced"). While many Honda enthusiasts were thrilled by the F20C, the high-strung nature of it generated some criticism. For the record, we never complained.

Honda seemed to take this criticism to heart, however, and for the first significant update to the S2000 (which came in the 2004 model year), the engine displacement was bumped up to 2.2L (and thus called F22C) and a revised transmission with a shorter final drive ratio was fitted. Additionally, the chassis received several key changes in 2004, with a larger 17" wheel/tire package, a slower steering ratio, and a redesigned rear suspension - the objective of these chassis revisions was to make the S2000 easier to control at the limits. (Historical note: this package of updates precipitated a change in the S2000's chassis designation to "AP2". 2000 through 2003 model S2000s have a chassis code designation of "AP1"). Until the 2008 model year, there were no further changes of note apart from a minor drivetrain update for model year 2006, when the S2000 was fitted with Honda's VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist) system. The fitment of VSA required a switch from a cable-actuated throttle body to a "Drive By Wire" system with an electronically actuated throttle body.

Bolt-on MMC?

While 2008 marks the first time Honda's introduced a trim level variant to the S2000 line in the United States, the overall changes fall more into the "fine tuning" category than anything else. Evidence to support this notion comes with the fact that the chassis code remains unchanged, and this S2000 is still called an "AP2". While the S2000 CR is a distinct variant, the distinction arrives via "bolt-on" upgrades. To some, this may come as a bit of a disappointment, but for others (such as yours truly), this "bolt-on" MMC opens new doors for possibly upgrading their own older S2000 models. In any case, given the S2000 platform's age, the approach Honda has taken for this final update clearly makes the most sense.

The letters CR represent "Club Racer", and as such the S2000 CR was designed for the guy who wants a ready-to-roll track car for weekend club racing events. To reduce weight, several items have been chucked, such as the A/C, radio, sound insulation, spare tire, jack, and convertible top and related hardware. The elimination of all this ballast results in a weight reduction of around 141 lbs. The A/C and radio can be added back as options, but that eliminates 42 lbs of the weight savings.

While the weight savings sound great, in order to meet Honda's dynamic objectives for the CR, some of those weight savings had to be offset with new hardware (yeah, "bolt-ons"). To stiffen the body, a brace has been bolted into the area vacated by the convertible top mechanism while up front, another brace is installed to stiffen the steering box. To reduce lift, improve stability, and generate downforce (when the aluminum top is in place), aerodynamic bodywork has been employed. Roll bar cowlings, a tire repair kit, wider rear tires, and slightly heavier suspension components and rear tires also add to the tally, with the sum total of additions weighing in at 42lbs. If you're trying to keep track of all this with a spreadsheet, relax - the net result is the lightest configuration for a CR model weighs 99lbs less than the base '08 model, or 51lbs less if you wish to have a roof over your head. In its heaviest form (with A/C, stereo, and hardtop in place), the CR comes in at right around 9 lbs under a base S2000.

Chassis Updates

For 2008, both S2000 models have benefited from suspension updates. First off,the base 2008 S2000 runs stiffer springs and dampers than the '07 model, to the tune of +7%/+9% (F/R) for the springs and +10%/+5% (F/R) for the dampers. For the CR, the suspension spring and damper rates compare to the '07 model as follows - +47%/+27% (F/R) for the springs and +65%/+39% (F/R) for the dampers. Honda's engineers determined that the increase in the CR's spring and damping rates called for a rear body brace in order for the stiffer suspension components to operate with more precision. Sway bars on the '08 S2000s have been enlarged up front on both the base S2000 and the CR, and the CR gets a larger rear bar as well. The size of the wheel and tire package for the '08 base S2000 remains unchanged from the '07 spec but a new 5-spoke wheel design is fitted to both the 2008 base and CR models, with the CR's wheel being finished in a darker silver color. Additionally, the CR sees 10mm of additional width on the rear tires (upgraded from 245/40R17s to 255/40R17s), and the CR's tires are all new super-sticky Bridgestone Potenza RE070s. The 2008 model year marks the return of the AP1 S2000's original steering ratio of 13.8:1, but only in the CR model - the base '08 S2000 continues on with the AP2's slower 14.9:1 steering ratio.

Other Changes

Beyond the chassis tweaks and a new 5-spoke alloy wheel design, there are a few other minor details to note. A tire pressure monitoring system and a new gauge cluster have been fitted to both '08 models. The new gauge cluster ditches the AP2's triple rainbow configuration (thankfully) for a layout featuring a single continuous arc, with roughly the first 2/3rds of the arc occupied by the tach, and the remaining third split into two segments for the fuel and coolant temp gauges. The digital readout for the speedometer maintains its familiar central location, and on the CR, a special green LED indicator is located just to the right of the speedo. The function of this LED is to indicate when the motor is operating in its range of maximum power output. The LED begins blinking when the revs are approaching the range of maximum power, and goes solid when it's in the range of maximum hp. Further changes to the interior are limited to the CR. The CR gets a slightly shorter shifter, resulting in an even shorter shift stroke (-2.1 mm/-5.7%) with a modest increase of around 10% in effort. On top of this shortened shift lever is a CR-exclusive all aluminum shift knob. "Kevlar-inspired" yellow and black mesh fabric inserts and black faux-suede bolsters are used (instead of leather on the standard S2000) to upholster the CR's seats. Further differentiating the CR's interior is yellow stitching (regardless of exterior color), accenting the seat stitching, steering wheel, shifter boot, and door panel trim. The final CR-exclusive touch to the interior are "Carbon-Fiber-like" panels on the center console and the lid that normally covers the radio.

page_number=2">Read on to the next page for our impressions of the S2000 and S2000 CR on the street and at the track.

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