For years, avid roadster fans have lamented the untimely retirement of the S2000, a car that critics and consumers alike raved over all the way up until its abrupt demise in 2009. Featuring a dual-overhead cam F-series powerplant that redlined at 9,000 RPM, the convertible commonly referred to as the “S2K” put smiles on faces not just with its engine, but with a six-speed manual gearbox that had been mated to a slick rear-wheel drive limited slip differential, double wishbone suspension, and damn near perfect weight distribution. It was a vehicle that reminded us that the NSX, Prelude Si, and Integra Type-R weren’t the only ones slapping asses at the time, which made us lament the S2000’s retirement all the more, for all three of its companions and the S2000 are extinct at this point.
But the U.K.-based publication Autocar says that a Honda insider has leaked that a third generation of the famed roadster is under development. While both sources and validity remain undisclosed at this time, it’s on good authority that Honda engineers did recently attend an S2000 owners event in the British Isles in order to better understand what the most devout enthusiasts would desire if the badge were resurrected. While quite a few classic S2K touches are necessary mainstays, others will likely remain shelved in favor of more developed, modern upgrades — a move that is to be expected considering the brand’s recent gravitation toward turbocharged powertrains.
On the retention side of the things, the next generation S2000 will likely “stay true to the original’s principles” by featuring a front-mount engine that is positioned right behind the forward axle for better weight distribution, and a rear-wheel drive, short throw manual lay-out for more spirited driving. Designed to be a “faster alternative to the MX-5,” Honda may be training its cross-hairs on both Mazda and Fiat with this one, both of whom have roadsters at the ready in smaller form.
While nothing is set in stone, Autocar’s sources say that there are “a number of powerplants under consideration” for its forthcoming reincarnation of the legendary roadster. Basic trim levels will likely be powered by a modified version of the 1.5-liter turbocharged motor you saw getting installed in Civics at the Honda plant in Indiana when we toured it this past autumn, and while this engine only produces around 150 horsepower now, with a little coaxing it will likely hit upwards of 180 ponies if all goes well during testing. But allow us to reiterate — this isn’t a formal confirmation, though it is fun to speculate.
At that point, the Civic Type-R will likely already be throwing its weight around in America with its turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, so it wouldn’t be entirely unreasonable to assume that many of the CTR’s components could be modified to fit the third-gen S2K. Toss in a stiffer chassis that features bigger sway bars and tower braces both front and rear, a beastly big brake kit, adjustable dampers, a tricked-out limited-slip differential, and voila — you’ve got a Type-R S2000 that likes to eat Abarth-badged 124 roadsters for breakfast.
But not everything is as easy as it seems — it rarely is. Honda has kind of dug a hole for itself recently by adopting a “global architecture for front-wheel-drive cars,” which is great for safety and savings, but is damn near impossible to overcome if you want rear-wheel drive fun. I can’t think of a single suitable platform on the market today that Honda’s engineers could use as a springboard, an issue that some say will likely cause the automaker to “pitch the car as a more expensive rival to the MX-5 in a bid to maintain workable margins.” This may sound like an issue at first, but let’s not forget that both previous generations of the S2000 never were labeled as inexpensive, and by aligning this next version with Acura price points, Honda could potentially attack BMW’s forthcoming Z4 and Audi’s TT Roadster with its luxury badge instead.
This is all very exciting, and even though for now these are just rumors on the wind, it’s hard to deny the fact that Honda has been on a performance kick. With turbocharged 10th-gen Civics already out in the market, a Civic Type-R on its way to go alongside the long awaited NSX and boatloads of pressure to bring forth a “baby NSX,” there is little doubt that Honda is back and better than ever. Adding further fuel to the fire is the fact that engineers have been working on an all-electric sports car after the SH-AWD CR-Z finished 11th in this year’s Pikes Peak hillclimb out in Colorado, making us more excited about the idea of a CR-Z Si down the line. Or something.
As for whether or not the third-gen S2000 will be a hybrid, global head Honda honcho Takahiro Hachigo recently squashed these assumptions by saying that while the new NSX retains a clever hybrid setup, most forthcoming sports cars won’t have electric assistance — a wise choice if the brand wants to keep costs down. “Whether or not we develop a hybrid depends on the type of car,” Hachigo said. “It is not the case that we have a fixed notion that a sports car always has to be a hybrid.”
So what if Honda has decided that the microscopic Kei car S660 roadster will remain exclusive to Japan due to it not being performance-oriented enough for American taste? Give us the motorcycle-inspired 2&4, with its free-floating cockpit and 13,000 RPM redline, along with all the other cars Honda is developing, and we will keep quiet and play with our toys responsibly. That may sound a bit facetious, but Hachigo says this request really is not too far out of the question, stating that Honda has been “receiving requests from our regions who are saying they would like more sports cars, so we are considering ways to do that.”
Hachigo also humbly admitted that Honda made a poor decision when it decided to dump the S2000 brand a few years back, and that “abandoning” a product with such a strong reputation and devout fan base was about as ill-advised as it gets. Nevertheless, no one seems to recall that the Japanese automaker did actually have plans for keeping the roadster around, but when the global market shit the bed back in 2007-2008, Honda chose to play it safe, and the third-gen S2K never saw complete gestation.
That’s all in the past now though. With Honda’s new boss declaring that his goal is to see the brand produce more cars that are fun to drive than ever before, Japanese motoring enthusiasts have reason to celebrate. The return of the S2000, and the potential introduction of the first ever Type-R variant would be a huge boost for the brand’s image, which has sadly been riddled with droll cars over the years, even when we the consumers prefer something a bit more topless, wild, and completely uninhibited.