I’ve owned 5 s2000s, a 2000, a 2003, a 2004, a 2006, and a 2008.
They made subtle changes throughout the lifecycle of the car - I won't be as thorough as some other posts but these are the big things:
The s2000 is an incredible car with some very large drawbacks in some eyes.
1. The motor is absolutely gutless at low rpm, and sounds coarse and like a blender when you rev it up. It’s not horrible but spirited driving at 7/10ths will have you redlining the car constantly, and then when you want to go faster you realize “She’s givin’ all she’s got!” This can be fun, especially with such a fantastic gearbox.
2. The fantastic gearbox is fragile and easy to screw up. The synchros die and shifting gets gritty and annoying, grinding gears, etc. I’ve found that driven nicely, the gearboxes will last a long time, but it doesn’t take many power shifts to break or wear the synchros, so be careful on test drives, make sure to drive the car cold, and any notchiness etc, could be an indicator that it’s going to go sideways.
3. The motor is fairly robust but the 00-03 cars had oil starvation issues in cylinder 4, and the valve retainers can crack. These motor issues are rare, and the F20c and f22c motors are not horribly expensive although obviously becoming more and more rare. (And not used in any other cars).
4. 04+ cars have a clutch delay valve, which if you shift hard, will destroy the clutch. If you drive normally, no issue, but I destroyed my 04’s clutch at the track - once it starts slipping, it’s done and will need to be replaced. Most aftermarket clutches suck and give you a super stiff pedal.
5. Ergos for the car are generally good, although I don’t fit... in fact, just in case I buy another one, I have a Backyard Special lower seat rail in the garage. Haha. But, the steering wheel is not adjustable for rake or reach, so if it fits you great, if not, tough shit.
6. They’re really not great track cars to learn on. They’re super easy to drive at 6/10ths and 7/10ths... but they have a razor sharp breakaway (especially the early ones) and insufficient rear damping once you break free to make it really easy to catch. What’s worse is that there is almost no steering feel, so it’s difficult to tell when the car is about to slide. The good news is that it communicates really well through your butt, and you can drive around the steering feel, but a Miata of any generation is way better to go to the track in. Plus, they’re too heavy for the stock brakes, (I ran a gentle 1:49 at Laguna with my last one totally stock, about 3-5 seconds off the pace and completely cooked the front pads, rotors and calipers - dust boots melted, pads falling apart, etc etc.)
7. They’re just not that light. My 08 with me in it, is the same as my mclaren with me out of it. I’m a big dude, but for a lightweight roadster, it’s just not THAT lightweight. It’s no Elise or 4C. Closer to the Evora in weight.
I absolutely love the car, but it’s more nostalgia for me. They’re great, and they represent a time when Honda was at the peak of it’s game, there was just nothing in it’s class at the time. But, I can name any number of cars that are better to drive and better to track... the Boxster S blows it away and a 987.2 Boxster S isn’t much more (although likely will continue to depreciate where the s2k won’t).
If you want something to really appreciate this time in Honda’s history that’s generally reliable, easy to drive, and holds it’s value well, with a good level of mechanical sophistication with a ton of purity (except the steering) then you might really like the s2000. If you want something to go to the track with, and are willing to spend $10k to make it reliable and fast, then it’s not a bad platform, either.
Aside from those use cases (like casual track days, or balls out mountain driving) there are much better cars out there.
Silicon Valley Dad, who loves cars, cooking, clothes and cameras