It’s been 10 years since Honda axed its S2000 roadster… yet the question still lingers—how could Honda dump a precious gem loved by so many so easily?
But perhaps ending the production of the S2000 was a move that didn’t come easy for Honda. It has often been said that the dominating success of crossovers in the market due to their bigger body and better fuel economy killed consumers’ appetites for smaller, open-top sports cars.
Maybe the Honda S2000 was just another casualty in this industry trend that continues to this day.
Honda pulled the plug on the S2000 in 2009. Since then, Honda S2000 rumors and controversial “official” statements have populated the Internet. The discontinuation has only fanned the flames of curiosity from S2000 fans everywhere, as enthusiasts cling to the tiniest shreds of evidence that Honda’s beloved roadster will one day make a comeback.
Is there hope for a third-generation Honda S2000? To answer the question, we will take a look at the colorful history of this fan-favorite sports car, the rumors swirling about in car enthusiast circles, and its chances of a glorious return.
How was the Honda S2000 developed?
The development of the Honda S2000 started with a concept car that was showcased at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show. The Honda Sport Study Model (SSM) concept featured a rear-wheel drivetrain and carried a 2.0 liter inline five-cylinder engine.
Little did anyone know that the SSM concept car would soon give birth to one of Honda’s best-loved sports cars. Four years after the SSM’s appearance, Honda introduced the S2000, which featured a finely sculpted body, a soft-top roof, and a pair of sweet headlights. A hardtop option came out later in 2001.
Honda’s nomenclature for the S2000 followed its tradition of naming roadsters after their engine displacements, such as the S500, S600, and S800 in the 1960s. The first S2000 design, which lasted from 1999 to 2003, was given the chassis designation “AP1.”
The AP1 was powered by the 2.0-liter F20C inline four-cylinder engine and a 6-speed manual transmission. Honda introduced a new-generation model in 2004 with the designation “AP2.” This time, the S2000 was produced in Suzuka, Japan. The AP2 was powered by the 2.2-liter F22C1 inline four-cylinder engine and transmitted by a 6-speed manual transmission.
Why are Honda S2000s so expensive?
When Honda debuted the S2000 in 1999, people quickly noticed its simplicity. The exterior was sleek without being too aggressive, and unlike the concept model, which had its headlights on the bumper, the S2000 had a pair of conventionally placed headlights. These headlights were among the most important exterior characteristics of the car, aside from the long hood and open top.
Its simplicity flowed into the interiors. Edmunds even referred to the S2000 in 1999 as a minimalistic car due to what can be seen in the cabin. Of course, there’s the red upholstery for the sporty impression but aside from that, you only got a steering wheel, a digital gauge, a six-speed stick shift (manual transmission)—and that’s it. It was a car for purist drivers whose happiness were drawn only from driving.
Minimalism aside, the characteristics that people loved most about the S2000 were its crazy rev limit and impressive handling. What else could you expect from a 2,800 lb roadster with a 2.0/2.2 liter inline-four/five-cylinder engine?
The engine was placed behind the front axle, giving it the front mid-engine rear-wheel-drive layout (FMR). This layout allowed nimble steering as the weight distribution in FMR vehicles reduces the moment of inertia. This is also why FMR offers quick acceleration.
Another notable thing was that the Honda S2000’s overall design was so flexible, people could easily tweak it to give it more power. Buyers could opt for a Honda S2000 twin-turbo kit or a full-blown stage 2 turbo kit, whichever caught their fancy. Its good-looking exterior, simplistic interior, driving quality, and flexibility for modifications created a cult following that has only grown stronger in the 10 years since it has been discontinued.
In fact, the sports car has become so popular that used Honda S2000s on listings still go for a lot of money these days. Many car enthusiasts still find them attractive and since these cars only had a limited run, their value is still going up, especially those that have low mileage and are stock.
Why was the Honda S2000 discontinued?
The Honda S2000 stayed in production for 10 beautiful years before the market saw the rise of its eventual predators—crossovers: small, SUV-like vehicles that use platforms similar to a regular sedan or hatchback. The AP2 was the last S2000 that ever came out of Honda’s manufacturing plant, and the Japanese carmaker would go on to announce plans to cut all of its sports car projects in 2009.
The decision was influenced by the drop in sales in both Honda and Acura. The then-CEO of Honda, Takeo Fukui, said the need for sustainable cars had taken over and the demand for sports cars had died down, partly due to an oil crisis. Honda only took the smartest move as one of the S2000’s competitors, the Mazda MX-5 Miata, suffered a great decline in sales around that time as well. Meanwhile, Acura experienced more than a 39% drop in sales in December 2008.
As a response to the growing industry trend, Honda promised to build 500,000 hybrid vehicles by 2012. What puzzled fans of the S2000 was that Mazda and other manufacturers, specifically European carmakers like Audi, Fiat, and Alfa Romeo, still managed to keep their roadsters alive despite market hurdles.
Will Honda bring back the S2000?
Skeptics are still wondering, “Is it really the end for the Honda S2000?” A lot of fans like to imagine the car inside a top-secret incubation room at the Suzuka Plant, undergoing some classified development, but what we do know right now is that Honda isn’t playing the revival card—or maybe not yet.
It was made clear that the reason why Honda cut the production of the S2000 was the inflating demand for crossovers. Honda has made solid statements about not reviving the S2000 and the Japanese automaker seems to be serious about it. For fans, however, there’s no such thing as zero chance—and despite Honda’s statements, rumors continue to swirl in forums of the sports car’s impending return.
So when is the new Honda S2000 coming out?
If Honda is to be believed, the S2000 isn’t returning to go head-to-head against the Mazda MX-5 Miata and all the roadsters out there soon… or is it?
In a report published in Jalopnik in January 2018, an insider said that a lot of people in Honda were pushing for a Honda S2000 revival. The source even claimed that proposals were constantly being presented internally even if there were no actual plans for a revival on the table.
As long as crossovers continue to dominate the market, fans’ chances of seeing a new Honda S2000 are pretty slim. But as local and global automotive trends continue to shift, and as carmakers continue to look for new ways to excite consumers, who knows? Maybe a new generation Honda S2000 will finally get approved for production by Honda.
Until then, fans will be on the lookout for any new update or rumor about the car, hoping that someday soon, it’s going to take the sports car segment by storm again.