The 30-mile stretch from Willits to Ft. Bragg along Highway 20 in Northern California is an ideal place to drive a sports car, like a Honda S2000. The two-lane road offers tight switchbacks, extended flat stretches and plenty of climbs and descents.
On a warm, spring day and with a convertible top down, anyone who enjoys the combination of shifting gears, fresh air and the open road will thrive on the route. It’s a drivers’ nirvana tucked among forests of Redwood trees and rolling hills.
And so it was recently when my wife and I spent a getaway weekend. We drove the segment twice en route and returning from the Mendocino/Ft. Bragg coastline to Sacramento in the Honda S2000, the 2005 edition.
The two-seat convertible, unchanged from its 2004 debut, is Honda’s only sports car, and it adds a pure-fun component to the popular manufacturer’s line of efficient, well-designed sedans, SUVs, vans and hybrid vehicles.
For my weekly drive, I had the 4-cylinder, 240-horsepower, 2.2-liter, 16-valve, six-speed model that includes a power soft top and 17-inch alloy wheels. With its bright (Rio Yellow Pearl) paint, black top, black interior and sleekly contoured exterior, the vehicle immediately attracted attention.
Two fellow gas station patrons offered compliments. The driver of the identical car and his passenger offered an enthusiastic wave when I passed them on one afternoon’s solo oceanfront drive. And several other pedestrians and drivers offered praises.
Yet the S2000, while offering a wonderful appearance, also presents a varying mix of sports-car niceties and disappointments as a practical vehicle.
The positives are numerous: The six-speed transmission shifts nicely through gears. Acceleration tests for this year weren’t available, but the 2.0-liter model from 2004 was given a 6.7-second mark in its 0-60 mph test. The tight, conforming seats, small, rigid steering wheel and short-throw gearbox afford plenty of excitement. The vehicle maneuvers well through traffic and despite its small size, has great balance and little body lean or wavering in the proximity of 18-wheelers.
The convertible top works easily. The routine includes unhooking or hooking two side top latches and engaging one electric console switch. The top seals tightly and folds well.
The S2000’s standard interior and exterior features include: leather-trimmed seats, AM/FM/CD stereo system, air-conditioning, cruise control, power window and door locks, remote mounted audio controls, aluminum pedals, dual exhaust and Xenon HID headlights.
The console is nicely appointed. It’s tight on space, but there’s a small, lockable vertical glove box between the seat backs and another push-button storage area between the front seats.
The trunk will hold two medium, soft-side duffel bags and a few other small items like a purse and small backpack. But the trunk won’t hold much of anything unless the trunk cover is left behind.
Just like the 2004 model, the current S2000 has a few overt drawbacks. There’s very little interior room, the seating material is less than comfortable and the car’s quietness or lack of quietness is perplexing.
The S2000 is considerably more noisy with the top up than it is with the top down. And with the top up, there are driver’s corner blind spots. Further, the car’s suspension absorbs little; Every road bump and can be felt by driver and passenger. Entering and exiting the S2000 defines well the “crouch-and-crawl” method.
Still, the S2000 is a formidable offering. Its good looks are eye-catching, and its shortcomings can be overlooked if their buyer’s desire is sports-car fun, not vehicle practicality.
Safety Features — Driver’s and front-seat passenger’s airbags.
Fuel Mileage (estimates) — 20 mpg (city), 25 mpg (highway). Premium gas recommended.
Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited mileage.
Base Price — $32,950.00.