What is it?
The latest and most extreme version of Honda’s howling four cylinder open sportster, just launched in Japan. Complete with big front spoiler and extrovert rear wing, this Type S is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. But to drive, it really is rather good.
A couple of months back, American Honda introduced the 2008 S2000 CR, a hardcore enthusiast S2000 set up for track days and club racing. Now comes Japan’s version of essentially the same car.
The CR/Type S treatment brings stiffer-than-normal suspension, new 17in lightweight alloy wheels and those, er, ‘subtle’ body add-ons, to make the S2000 even more of a serious performance tool. Up front, that brilliant, high-revving 2.2-litre engine stays unchanged.
Compared to America’s CR, Japan’s Type S chassis tuning is a little more forgiving, aimed at making the S2000 tauter and more responsive over twisty B-roads, rather than the ultimate hard-and-fast set-up for the track.
Inside you get more supportive yellow and black sports seats and an aluminum gear knob. On the outside, those wild body add-ons are not just for show. They really have been developed to improve high-speed stability, Honda says with a straight face, although for many they will surely be the last word in embarrassment.
What’s it like?
A car like this should really be driven down a demanding road to show its stuff. We had (wait for it)… central Tokyo on a busy Tuesday afternoon. So any impressions gained while dodging the Cedric and Crown taxis can hardly be classed as definitive. But one thing did come over loud and clear: the Type S certainly does not feel as mad as it looks.
When you learn springs, dampers and roll bars are all uprated in a car like this, you expect a ride that’s about as teeth chattering as a Morgan or 911 Carrera RS. Instead the Type S smothered bumps with surprising (and almost disappointing) civility.
Body and suspension, meantime, feel super rigid and there’s virtually no roll. Grip levels are clearly immense. It’s also easy to fall for the Honda’s quick, meaty, go-kart steering action, the rifle-bolt accuracy of that six-speed box and brilliant urgency of the F22C engine, especially when it hits its stride at 7000-9000 rpm.
The Type S underlines how far the S2000 has come since beginning. Honda has steadily reworked its engine and chassis to make it more torquey and handle less edgily, and it's also introduced electronic stability control to tame the car’s renowned unpredictable on-the-limit cornering manners.
So was it fun? Very.
Should I buy one?
Absolutely, if you can live with the looks. The Type S is surely the best developed S2000 yet, a far more convincing all-round package than the fast-but-flawed S2000s of old.
It feels rock solid. The cabin is miles better than it used to be and, while the Type S is surprisingly refined, suspension control and steering feedback are also first rate - at fast town speeds, at least. And then there’s that zoomy 2.2-litre engine that’s more tractable than the original 2.0-litre, yet still sharp, revvy and deliciously hard-edged when it gets to the business end of that 9000 rpm power band.
The less that great news is that Honda UK says there are no official plans to bring the Type S in. Which will surely be music to the ears of England’s grey import market gang.