On Tuesday, November 17 of last year, I took a flight from New Jersey to Charlotte, NC, and made the 6th car purchase of my life: a 2003 Honda S2000. My vision was a light, probably-rear-drive car with excellent dynamics and an engaging personality. My search led me through all the Miatas, FR-S/BRZ twins, EcoBoost Mustang, MR2s, Fiesta and Focus ST, and probably some other cars I’m forgetting. I would have pulled the trigger on a first-gen MR2 if I’d found a clean one, but that didn’t happen, so I went with the first clean Suzuka Blue S2000 I managed to get a bid on. I couldn’t be happier.

Twelve months and about 8000 miles later, I’ve done:

  • 3 oil changes
  • OEM air filter element
  • Viper alarm
  • alignment
  • aftermarket radio with Modifry dash button adapter
  • aftermarket horns
  • replaced soft top latches
  • cleaned soft top drains and sealed trunk vent to stop leaks
  • flushed brake and clutch fluid with DOT4
  • improved timing belt tensioner
  • polished headlamps
  • spliced broken wire for trunk release
  • replaced battery
  • replaced some interior panels butchered some time in the car’s past
  • replaced worn pedal covers with aftermarket
  • valve adjustment
  • re-patched a crack in the soft top

The cruise control never worked, but other than that everything’s functional. Idle can be shaky at times; not sure whether that’s a function of gasoline, or atmospheric conditions, or what.

As far as I’m concerned, the S2000 has earned all its reputation. The AP1 chassis is very sensitive and willing to oversteer, so appropriate tires are especially important. The engine has about the right amount of power, and does make you wind it above 5000 RPM to access it, sharing your joy with its remarkable howl. It’s a playful companion to drive fast on backroads and interstates, and still engaging around town.

I haven’t done any upgrades, yet. The two things that would be first and second on my list after good tires: a roll bar, because track day bro, and a better seat. The factory seats are leather, which is hard and slippery after 13 years. They’re mounted relatively high, and the bolsters are prone to collapse. Assuming you are on board with the car’s dynamics proposition, I believe the seats are the weakest part of the overall package, not quite in character with the remarkable lack of compromise everywhere else in the design.

If you want a car in this segment for a daily driver, and you don’t have to deal with much particularly bad pavement (which is really uncomfortable) or stop-and-go traffic (which is really annoying), I recommend the S without hesitation. If you want to modify and track/autocross, its record speaks for itself, but I’ll join the chorus of praise on that note too.