The new, improved Honda S2000 isn’t much different from the old one in look, sound or spec, except that they’ve changed the suspension again to make it more predictable on a track. The 1999 original would understeer until you got close to the limit when, abruptly, it would do the other thing too quickly for a normal mortal to catch. There were improvements in ‘04, but they weren’t the final answer.
So when we learned that the new ‘08 version had been given the further modded chassis from the Japanese S2000 Type-S, our first priority was to try it on a track. As it turned out, Honda had a bunch of cars at Brands Hatch, so we came up with a series of tests which would establish once and for all whether this was a car you could trust on the limit.
First, I drove a few laps myself. It felt decent. The understeer was still there, but fainter, but the old snappy tail-happiness seemed to have disappeared.
Then I enlisted the aid of racer-cum-hack Tony Dron (right), a truly skilful driver, and we turned another seven or eight laps at full noise, using the morning dampness to amplify any problems. Again, the car felt stable, predictable and pretty quick. Tony had no beef with the car, and from my spot beside him, there seemed no threat of the old rapid rear breakaway. Even if you brake too late and entered a bend too fast, you can drag this new car through in a stable sort of way.
At lunch, I suddenly realised we hadn’t tried the car with its new Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) turned off — as it can be by confident drivers. I wanted to be sure the new-found stability was built-in and not merely electronic, so I attacked the track again, this time with vastly experienced racer-instructor David Roucka-Brown, whose intimate knowledge of Brands helped me get going quite well. Then David drove.
The car seemed perfectly stable and predictable at and over the limit in the dry, to the extent that the only difference we could notice, VSA on or off, was a small improvement in braking stability into corners (VSA on). The system didn’t seem to intrude when working, which leads me to conclude that its main function is to rescue you when you’ve seriously overcooked it, or over-estimated the grip on damp roads.
All in all, the ‘08 S2000 seemed a very good — though pricey — track-day option, what with its inate stability, its quick steering, its six close ratios, its bulletproof, rev-forever VTEC engine, its low seating position and its compact dimensions.
And does it swap ends when provoked? On pretty decent evicdence, I'd say no.