What is it?
The familiar, nearly-nine-years-old S2000 with the chassis settings of the Japanese market Type-S version, which are designed to be more predictable on the limit and less of a knife-edge drive than the existing version. Which continues alongside this new edition, though we can’t see that remaining the case for long despite slightly higher prices.
The substance of the suspension changes? Re-tuned shock absorbers, uprated springs and thicker anti-roll bars, all with the aim of improving stability, sharpening its handling and improving the steering’s responsiveness.
Determining whether an S2000 has these alterations can be confirmed by a new 17in alloy wheel design, a choice of three new leather interiors (black with red stitching, brown with red stitching or red with black sides) and redesigned headrests which are said to provide better protection. But that’s it.
What’s it like?
The other way to find out - preferably in a wide open space - is to drive it. And on the damp Brands Hatch that we tried it on it didn’t take long to establish that the Honda’s rear end does, indeed, break away with far less of the blood-freezing violence of the previous model, that it can now be teased into angles with the right foot, and that it grips pretty well.
All of which has the effect of making this car gel a whole lot better than the old model. You no longer drive it slightly heart-in-mouth, no longer worry about getting near its adhesion limits and can drive it more positively as a result.
Which means you can enjoy its extraordinary engine more - it revs to 9000rpm, you’ll recall, and does most of its best work beyond an incredible 7000rpm - as well as the old-school mechanical feel of the gearbox and decent brake feel. Just as important, the Honda works well on the road as a keen driver’s tool too.
But there are very definitive downsides. That this is almost a decade-old design really shows now, in the texture of the cabin plastics, the almost crude simplicity of the dashboard moulding, the charmingly olde worlde digital instruments and, more seriously, the refinement shortcomings that render this a short distance car, even with the hardtop of this GT.
The ride is busy - if well-damped - road noise is ever present (though probably not if you remove the roof), the seating position is odd and there’s not much more space in here than you’ll find in an A4 envelope. You’ll want to up sticks once you’ve had your kicks, we fear.
Should I buy one?
Probably not, unless you love these cars. But a solid number do - Honda consistently sells over 500 a year, and these buyers will enjoy a car whose dynamic virtues are vastly easier to exploit, while maintaining the essential, frenetic character of the S2000. And, no doubt, its legendary reliability too.
But this is an expensive toy for what it is, and never mind those 237 yelling horses. Apart from vivid performance - and that’s only available with committed revving - this car offers little that the MX-5 doesn’t, and a whole lot less besides, the Mazda being more spacious, more comfortable, better finished, cheaper to buy and cheaper to run. Alternatively, for the £28,600 Honda asks for this hardtop GT you could buy a 2.0 litre Audi TT Roadster and service it for a couple of years.
It’s great to see the S2000 survive - not many Japanese models achieve a nine years not out - and great to see it being improved. But it needs more than this if it’s to register as more than an engaging curio.