Motoring: Noisy, but nice?

Under the bonnet of Honda's new S2000 lies a monster of an engine; our readers find out whether it is tameable
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
Every class has its Timothy Simmons, at least that was his name in my class. Timothy was the class goof. No Frank Spencer impression was too far for Timothy, no stool too high to comically topple from. But 20 minutes into double humanities and the novelty would wear off, and Timothy would be punched in the kidneys until he sat still and shut up. That's rather how the new Honda S2000 made me feel.

Wriggle into the firm, hugging driver's seat, fire up the engine by pressing the very du jour red starting button and snick the short, aluminium gear knob into the first of six forward gears, and all the signs are that a treat awaits. Then, floor the aluminium pedal and watch the electronic rev counter soar to 8,900rpm, and you'll know that this is a road car like no other.

From the outside, the pounds 28,000, 147mph S2000 is undeniably lissom, but visually it's hardly innovative, in the way that the Porsche Boxster was. What really sets this car aside is an engine so astonishingly flexible and dizzying in its rev range that it redlines higher than a Ferrari 360 Modena. In a motorbike or Formula One car that might not be too remarkable, but in a road car it is almost unprecedented.

The S2000 is a mainstream product, and to succeed in a crowded marketplace it will have to appeal to a broad church. The problem is that to get anywhere near achieving its remarkable potential 0-60 time of just 5.6 seconds, this engine must be kept spinning above 7,000 revs at all times, below that it merely plods.

On the right road it can be a fantastic buzz to stoke this car's boiler; pilot the S2000 through traffic, though, and in less time than it took for Timothy Simmons to fall from his stool, you will be sick to the back teeth of it. There is zero storage space inside the innocuous, black interior; the ride is too harsh for a car of this price; the transmission is demanding; and if you're not prepared to endure the din of the engine above 7,000rpm, you may as well be driving a Mazda MX5.

Road test

If you would like to take part, write to The Verdict, The Independent Magazine, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, giving a contact phone number, your address and details of the type of vehicle, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26, and have a clean driving licence.

Lorraine Cini, 39, health manager from Bath

Currently drives a VW Golf

"I was quite surprised at the amount of headroom. It looks sleek and swish, but the name Honda doesn't exactly say classy style. I think if I was spending that sort of money I'd want something with more charisma. This isn't particularly head-turning, but it is very responsive and very fast once you got used to it, especially compared with my Golf. It is difficult to see out of the back with the roof up and you are always conscious of the engine noise. It's not a car for just running around town in, it's for Dinkies or people who can't afford to buy a house but have some money to blow."

Nigel Parker, 39, furniture restorer from Bath

Currently drives a VW Passat

"I felt very claustrophobic inside at first, but there was actually plenty of room for me - I'm 6ft 4in. The gears took a while to get used to. The dash is very basic, it's quite spartan and plastic inside - I thought it was worth about pounds 20,000. I like the way the wheels really fill the arches; it also felt like they were sticking to the road well. The brakes were very good, the steering was just right and the ride was fine, not springing about. You can't exploit the acceleration, though, because you're always looking for the next gear. It is fun, but I couldn't live with it every day."

Lisa Cowtan, 37, administrator from Bath

Currently drives a Peugeot 306

"This was really easy to drive once you got going - it needs to be taken out for a good run rather than pootled around town. It felt tight, safe and solid. I like the short-throw gear change and the fact that the controls are close together. Visibility was actually quite good. I liked the fact that it wasn't as flash as a Porsche but classier than a Mazda, it's understated. I don't think it's necessarily a young person's car - it would equally appeal to more mature males and females. With three kids it wouldn't be very practical, but maybe in my dreams ... "

Peter Royle, 30, hot air balloonist from Bath

Currently carless

"It wasn't quite as powerful as I'd imagined for a car of this price. It had a nice close-ratio gearbox, which you really needed to work to get anywhere. The engine was lovely and revvy, and I like the little touches like the metal gear lever and aluminium pedals, but otherwise the interior is plain, and I'm not too impressed with the finish. I couldn't see the top of the dials because the steering wheel was in the way. It's a tidy looking car, especially the wings, but I'm not too keen on the rear light clusters. I think this would appeal to City types; I'm not taken with it." n

Comments