Driving The Honda S2000 CR Will Change Your Life
I don’t know how I’ve made it to this stage of life without driving a Honda S2000. I haven’t avoided them or anything; I’ve just never had the chance to drive one. When the opportunity came up to review a one-owner, 15,000-mile Club Racer, I got on a plane to San Francisco to understand why the CR and S2000, in general, are so beloved.
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When the S2000 CR was announced in 2008, many viewed it as a cynical, model-run-out cash-grab. Journalists asked why you’d pay the extra money for no more performance, a boy-racer body kit, and some suspension upgrades when, for less, you could just modify the already excellent AP2 S2000.
However, the CR developed a reputation over time that elevated it to legendary status. The values of these cars reflect that, regularly bringing anywhere from $50,000 to more than $100,000 at auctions – multiple times the value of a normal S2000. This trajectory of appreciation for run-out models isn’t unique to the S2000, though. It was the same with the BMW E36 M3 Lightweight, along with cars like the Ferrari 599 Fernando Alonso Edition, the Superbird, and the Porsche Cayenne Transsyberia. Two questions entered my mind, though: why is this car so revered, and is it worth it?
From the outside, naturally, the body kit, wing, and subtle “S2000 CR” badges easily distinguish it from a normal S2K. The Berlina Black hardtop in place of the conventional soft-top is also an interesting touch, though Honda claims that the removal of the soft top, air conditioning, and radio (as this car was optioned) resulted in a 90-pound weight loss. That’s not insane, but then again, the S2000 wasn’t exactly heavy to begin with.
Inside, the black and yellow theme runs deep. Honda selected Kevlar as its inspiration for the interior touches, so a Kevlar-like pattern adorns the seat inserts, flanked by bolsters of Alcantara. Yellow stitching contrasted against even more Alcantara, leather, and carpeting continue the theme throughout the interior; a yellow line even makes an appearance on the tachometer. It’s cool, but again, worth it? I’m not sure, but the seat inserts might be my favorite in any car.
Divorced from its value and looking at the car objectively, driving the CR is a masterclass in balance. The shifter feel is crisp and direct, the chassis dynamics are perfectly judged, and the suspension is firm but akin to what you’d expect from the “hardcore” S2000. Out of the box, from the factory, it is very impressive. No characteristic of the car presents itself more than any other aspect – it’s all in perfect harmony.
It’s not entirely faultless. The top squeaks in place and the engine sound is okay but definitely not godly – it’s also not particularly fast; it only has 240 horsepower. But that’s not what the S2000 is about. It’s about the sensations of a balanced sports car, and I instantly saw why this car is so beloved. I totally get it.
Can you achieve the same result with modifications to an AP2 or, maybe even better, the higher-revving AP1-generation S2000? Probably. The difference is that this is a factory car. Collectors want the rare, ultimate version of an already competent car. That’s what the S2000 CR has become. It was the limited-edition version of an otherwise seemingly unlimited production sports car, underscoring its potential for collectibility. It also hails from the golden age of the modern, analog sports car.
I realize that the value of this car means you can buy or modify a multitude of other cars that are empirically better. But, if you want to experience the superior balance and poise in an analog sports car from this era, the S2000 CR punches far above its humble roots. I now understand the S2000 CR, I just wish rarity and value hadn’t relegated them to garages and collections.