This weekend provided an opportunity to take the S2000 out for a first true cruise. I bought the car, which I’ve been using as a daily driver, back in December, but even though the car puts a smile on my face every time I start it up, I still felt I was unqualified to offer any sort of review. Sweet DC traffic sports car, bro, totally gets you to your destination after 40 minutes of 25 mph bumper grinding.
No... that wouldn’t do for a review of what for all measures felt like a true sports car, even burdened with a minefield of SUV cones to maneuver through.
It was one of my best friends’ dirty 30 weekend and we had a party planned on Saturday, but Friday was free and his fiance wanted him out of the house so she could prep. Camping time? Camping time. We stayed the night in George Washington & Jefferson National Forest off Route 603 (Van Buren Road). I guess neither ex-prez is special enough to get the forest to himself in memorandum...
The next day we set out for a cruise, deciding on Fort Valley Road over Skyline Drive to avoid the $20 cover. A modern V8 pony car, N/A Exige, and my ‘06 S2K.
Power/Straight Line Speed:
Driving exclusively in the city, I’d probably spent less than a minute total on the high cam while I’ve owned the car. Finally, a chance to breathe deep of clean country air and lay some rubber. The car inhaled air from 5500-8200 RPM over the course of the day, but very little rubber was laid; the S2000 is just too sorted and carries speed too well. Instead, driving becomes an exercise in exiting a turn right in or barely under the power band.
It’s an intoxicating sensation, feeling the car settle into the straight as you lay into the throttle right after apex, but it does require quite a bit of rowing down to second to stay in that sweet spot.
Regardless, the Camaro SS, with it’s 420HP, was destined to rule the day in this regard. It devoured long straights and closed gaps on the long sloping straights of Fort Valley Road. With it’s constant 45 mph speed limit, these straights become an exercise in futility... a siren calling, waiting to dredge you down into a reckless driving ticket and weekend in jail. We stayed reasonable. We were not pulled over. We didn’t see a single police vehicle. 240HP was plenty exhilarating but lagged behind the other two cars by a walk’s margin.
S2000: 8/10; great power for this sort of mission but lagging behind its drive cohorts
Winner: Camaro SS with it’s wide powerband and high power/drag
Fort Valley Road: 7/10- lot’s of fun to be had but precipitously low speed limit to really open up
Fort Valley Road offers a series of long sweeping turns, sharp turns and diverse slope angles with limited visibility from the inside lane. The road is well marked for the most part but there are two or three turns with little to no notification.
I wasn’t sure what to expect of the S2000 on a series of switchbacks, high speed sweepers, and other tasks where I’d be creeping somewhere in the general vicinity of what the car is capable of. In every scenario the car greatly exceeded my expectations. The excellent visibility and low ride height make the road ahead look like a putting green to a crouching golfer. The near-flex-free chassis allowed me to pick a line, pick an entry speed, downshift and chain turns together. I’d never experienced anything quite like it on 4 wheels. The car encourages driving at the limit with precise steering and incredible feedback.
I watched the SS labor it’s way through a series of switchbacks in front of me. 5 mph extra coming out of this turn, 6 seconds back, 4 seconds back, there... whoops... better back off again.
The same seat that felt like a vise in the city now faded away. I didn’t feel myself in the seat— instead I felt the rear end start to step out. I felt the reverberations of the road through my hands. I felt the transition of the road from a negative to positive slope as the crested one bank into the next in my core. My body faded away. Only car. Well, car, and that stupid Exige huddling behind me with it’s stupid cheater wing and stupid cheater 2000 lb curb weight.
Winner: Duh— the go-kart.
Fort Valley Road: 9/10
I feel like this goes without saying at this point, but I guess I’ll reiterate: I can’t think of another car I would prefer for this road. Sure, the S2000 is a little down on power, but it’s too much power to fully stretch it’s legs out on a road like this anyways. The joy of a carving experience is the precision of the instrument. For a day I owned the roads without a single fear blasting up a hill at a sustained 5500 RPM in second gear, entering a series of complicated turns with a line in mind, and finding the car begging me to throw a little more throttle at the asphalt. All the while, I was enveloped in a perfect driver’s cabin, compact and efficient with the sky as my only ceiling. I’ll trade a little unnecessary power or extra grip for that feeling any day of the week. The highly communicative steering, precise gearbox and perfect clutch and brakes round out the package. The stereo is tinny? I guess that sucks... I’m reaching here.
Fort Valley Road is a little less consistent here; when the path is clear it’s brilliant and awe-inspiring for driving or sight-seeing. It is also a road escorted on both sides by a series of increasingly boring farms, with all the associated slow traffic. Even so, it’s a world apart from DC, an isolation chamber from a time when any car that could bring a smile to your face could become a roller coaster for a day; whether a beefy muscle car, nimble ultralight or perfectly balanced roadster. It’s a dead era, and even the last remnants are feeling the constrictions of traffic and tourism. The road effectively ended at the top of a spectacular overview out across the Shenandoah Valley from the lip of the forgotten natural refuge of Fort Valley. Consider this review a time capsule; Fort Valley Road is far too close to civilization to stay wild much longer.
Fort Valley Road: 8/10
Fort Valley Road: 8.5/10