Project S2000 – Guest Test Drive
By Vic Y.
My old college roommate Vic from Texas called me up on a Friday afternoon as he was in Tucson for work and bored out of his mind. He wanted to see if he could hang out in LA for the weekend, so I told him to fly on out. Vic is a car guy too and a pretty decent driver at that, though it did take him about eight years before he finally beat me in a go-kart race. LA is car mecca and I’m always curious to hear what others think of my project vehicles, so I let Vic drive the S2000 up in the canyons. Come to think of it, the last time he was in town, I let him drive my old Evo in the canyons too. Well, here’s his test drive of the S2000. Enjoy! -Khiem
I am what you’d consider an auto enthusiast, with a few track days and quick karting times under my belt. I love taking advantage of the fun roads in the Hill Country near Austin (but probably not often enough). On the technical side, I come from an engineering background and the backing of a dozen auto RSS feeds. When the random opportunity came up to visit Khiem in Los Angeles (and drive his tuned S2000), I couldn’t turn it down. Having originally driven the car in stock form back in Austin before it made the cross-country trek on I-10, it was good to be reunited with an old friend (and Khiem too).
My daily driver is an ’07 Civic Si Coupe with the optional summer tires, so I was acquainted with pretty good handling already. I’ve also had some seat time in other rides like the Evo 8, RX-8, E36 M3, G35, and Boxster. And unsurprisingly I’ve flogged my share of crappy rental cars that will remain unnamed.
As we head northwest on the Pacific Coast Highway away from the Los Angeles gridlock, we traded overpasses and onramps for some interesting hilly terrain. Just north of Malibu are a set of scenic canyon roads filled with beautiful ribbons of tarmac that hug the hills overlooking the beach. Think two lane roads with “twisty road ahead” signs and no passing zones. To offer some perspective, there are some switchbacks tight enough for first gear. These canyon roads are filled with elevation changes and should bring a smile to any driver looking for some spirited driving. Don’t expect everything glass-smooth though, given their purpose and California’s maintenance schedule.
|Stopped on the side of the road in the hills of Malibu. The clouds are from the Pacific side, rolling over the peaks and into the valley. -KD|
Khiem started behind the wheel first, setting the pace. Jumping into the tuned S2000 I immediately noticed the elevated grip and neutral balance. When my turn to drive came up, I felt right at home with the small steering wheel and slick 6-speed stick. The ride definitely fell on the stiff side, but remained compliant even over road imperfections. Mild mid-corner bumps didn’t upset the chassis. I was shocked at how well it stuck through the corners. Yours truly needed a mental recalibration!
|The route we took through the canyons. -KD|
As I warmed up, the devil on my shoulders dared me to push a little harder. Khiem reminded me that we were riding on older Potenza RE-11s with 19K miles already, including three track days. Cornering speeds rose, yet the S2000 remained confidence-inspiring. One blind downhill right hander turned out a little tighter than expected, and I finally exceed the car’s superhuman capabilities. With a quick “chirp-chirp warning” and a slight steering adjustment we left the corner unscathed. I discovered first-hand that this particular setup understeered slightly at the limit in a very progressive manner. Dare I say fast and forgiving?
|Don’t forget to drive by Victory Jon off of Mulholland! -KD|
Realizing that the track is the best place to safely reach the limits, I dialed the speeds back a bit. That offered an opportunity to soak in other aspects of the car I hadn’t noticed earlier: the cowl shake that plagues every convertible. Or rather, the lack of it in this particular case. It’s testament that the extra braces installed further enhanced Honda’s engineers X-bone structure. Rental Sebring convertibles should take a lesson or two.
Even after repeated runs, I didn’t notice any brake fade thanks to upgraded Stoptech brakes. A good brake system means you don’t have to worry about it.
Overall, I walked away from the drive feeling rather impressed. First, of Khiem for putting the rights parts together that worked in harmony while keeping with the original’s accessible nature. Second, for the insane level of grip and confidence even while wearing worn street tires. And finally, of Honda for making such a platform that could reach these stratospheric levels.