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If you’re searching for an affordable sports car, there are a few options in the used market. One option is the venerable Honda S2000, which was discontinued in 2009. However, the 2023 Toyota GR86 could fit the bill if you want something newer. Both cars have a rear-drive, front-engine configuration, and similar power ratings.

I’ve had the privilege to test both of these cars back to back since I own an S2000 and found a few key differences between them. Here is a breakdown of my findings.

The 2023 Toyota GR86 and Honda S2000 together
2023 Toyota GR86 and Honda S2000 | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

The 2023 Toyota GR86 has a quieter cabin than the Honda S2000

Let’s face it, neither of these cars are luxury cruisers, so you’re going to have to deal with a loud cabin. However, if your ears don’t like the sound of hitting every bump and dip in the road, the 2023 Toyota GR86 is a better choice. Since it’s a coupe with a fixed roof, the GR86 is better insulated from the outside world, so its cabin is quieter at every speed.

I must point out that road noise is prevalent, so you can hear the tires contact the pavement pretty loudly at freeway speeds. It’s loud but not unbearable.

The Honda S2000’s cabin is a little louder because it is a convertible. Fortunately, my car has no annoying squeaks or rattles as some older S2000s have. But that’s something to look out for if you shop for one. That said, plenty of road and wind noise fills the S2000’s cabin, but again, it’s not unbearable.

Either way, if you’re looking for a quieter ride, the Toyota GR86 is the better choice.

The Honda S2000 has the Toyota GR86 beat in the transmission department

I have driven the Toyota GR86 with a manual and an automatic transmission, and the stick shift is a must-have. Although automatic transmissions, in general, are getting better, it zaps the raw driving feel that the GR86 has in manual guise.

Don’t get me wrong, the auto transmission shifts smoothly, but its gear ratios are too long to take advantage of the engine’s powerband. It also shifts to a higher gear too early, but that can be fixed with a downshift on the left paddle shifter. I found that the “sport” and “track” modes don’t help that much with the driving experience on the street. They mainly hold the gears a little longer and make the steering feel a little heavier. But that doesn’t take the place of the manual transmission.

The Honda S2000 only comes with a six-speed manual transmission, and its shifter feels like it was built by automotive gods. I know I’m a little biased, but many S2000 owners would agree that the car’s shifter is buttery smooth, and its gear ratios are well-spaced for performance driving and commuting.

Ultimately, if you’re shopping for a Toyota GR86, I highly suggest opting for a manual transmission. But if you want a more visceral experience altogether, the S2000 is where it’s at.

Both cars feel similar when it comes to power

Honda S2000 engine bay
Honda S2000 | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

You won’t find any turbo or superchargers under the hoods of either of these cars. The 2023 Toyota GR86 is powered by a 2.4-liter Boxer engine that produces 228 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. The 2008 Honda S2000 is motivated by a 2.2-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 237 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque.

Of course, we can bench race these cars all day and throw 0-60 mph times at you, but it won’t really help. To sum it up, the GR86’s power band feels wider than the S2000’s, which means that it’s easier to drive around town. Speeding up to pass cars at 40 mph is easy because there’s plenty of mid-range torque. You don’t even need to downshift.

With the S2000, all of the torque and power are made higher in the rpm band. That means when you’re driving down a 40-mph road and want to pass a car, you may need to shift down a gear to do it.

Once both cars get going and you drive them in a spirited manner, they feel similar. The Honda S2000 feels a lot more fun, though, especially when VTEC kicks in after 6,000 rpm.

Which car is more comfortable?

The 2023 Toyota GR86 beats the Honda S2000 when it comes to interior comfort. Its seats are more comfortable and supportive. It has a backseat that’s good for kids and great for extra storage. There are also heated seats, dual-zone climate control, and plenty of cupholders. It also has an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple Carplay/Android Auto connectivity.

The 2008 Honda S2000 has none of those things. Honda intended for it to be a driver’s car, so the seats are supportive but not that comfortable. Also, after 15 years of use, they feel a little worn out. As for entertainment, the S2000 comes with an AM/FM radio with a CD player. It’s pretty terrible, so I replaced it with an aftermarket head unit.

Otherwise, the S2000’s cabin is sparse and straightforward. The climate and radio controls face the drive, and the passenger has nothing but a vent to stare at. The radio even has its own cover so the driver can pay attention to the road.

Case in point, if the Toyota GR86’s interior is a fun amusement park, the S2000’s interior is the DMV. No thrills, all business.

2023 Toyota GR86 vs. Honda S2000: Which affordable sports car should you pick?

Rear view of the 2023 Toyota GR86 and Honda S2000
2023 Toyota GR86 and Honda S2000 | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

The choice between these two cars is easy – if you want a newer car that’s comfortable and sporty, the 2023 Toyota GR86 is the way to go. However, if you want a genuine sporty roadster that’s sole purpose is to put a smile on your face with its razor-sharp driving dynamics, the Honda S2000 is the better choice.

Regarding price, you can spend around $20,000 to $30,000 for a good used S2000 and around $35,000 to $40,000 for a GR86. That depends on any dealer markups and the availability in your area. Both cars are exceptional performers, but the choice depends on how much comfort you want on a daily basis.