Best sports car for the money, period
Noisy differential was replaced under warranty at about 1K miles.
I have owned three S2K's now, and have thoroughly enjoyed every one. They are solid, reliable as a hammer, perform superbly, and have handling limits that often exceed the skill of the driver.
I was stunned that this last one had such a problem as a defective diff, but Honda service replaced it with no hassle. No other issues since then. With these cars, all you truly need to do is perform regular maintenance and they will run flawlessly and without issues.
The negatives are few, and mostly minor. First, the stereo, while upgraded from earlier S2K's is still weak, but you tend to care little about that. The cabin and instrumentation is pretty sparse, but everything is very well-made. One quibble is the lack of variable intermittent wipers (just has a 1-speed intermittent), which Honda even puts on Civic EX's... why not on their $35K sports car?
The paint is beautiful, but chips easily, aggravated no doubt by the low nose. A clear film kit on the nose may be an option to consider.
One design issue is the need to fit the semi-rigid boot when the top is down, if you want a "finished" look. Honda could have come up with a better solution, perhaps a cover panel or a nicer folding option, like the MX-5 Z-fold roof. I have come to not worry about it too much - it doesn't truly look bad without the boot, so I leave it off.
Seating/interior space can be tight for bigger people, but the car fits me perfectly (5' 10", 155 lbs). Great, supportive seats, and a perfect driving position (Hondas are usually strong that way).
Budget for tires when you buy this car, especially rears (the rule of thumb is two sets of rears for every one set of fronts), as they tend to wear out at under 12K miles. And they are not cheap.
The driving experience is exceptional. While getting the best performance means keeping the revs in the VTEC-zone, it is highly rewarding when you do, with stunning acceleration. Driven moderately, you can get excellent MPG. In mixed city/highway, and occasional spirited driving, I easily get 22-24 MPG. 28 MPG or better is achievable on highway trips. All this in a car that will do 150 MPH, and the 1/4 mile in under 14 sec.
Helping performance is the superb 6-speed transmission, the absolute finest manual I have ever driven, without exception. Short throws, solid, and precise, with perfect feel. The handling is superb as well, with snap-oversteer tendencies considerably tamed from the first series S2Ks. This is very much a responsive car that can be precisely placed on the road and easily run away from most vehicles that will try to keep up with you.
The ride is stiff, and a bit harsh, but not to the severe levels of say, a Lotus Elise (have driven a couple of those too). Noise levels can be obtrusive to some, but I have gotten used to it. Of course, these considerations melt away when you drop the top on a fine Spring day and get a chance to blast down your favorite back road.
The car is tremendously well-made, with excellent fit, finish and materials. I have never had one thing fall apart on any of the three of these cars. They don't squeak or rattle, even after riding on crappy Eastern US roads all their lives.
The body structure is extremely strong and stiff, with no chassis flex noticeable at all; very commendable for an open car. Clearly the X-frame backbone construction works well. At one point, I was considering trading my 2nd S2K in on a new '06 BMW M-3 convertible, but that car flexed like an old wooden galley by comparison (plus shifted much worse, was not especially quicker, and had a joke price).
For comparison, one other vehicle that I considered as a replacement for my first S2K was a 350Z roadster (Grand Touring package). Driving my S2K to the Nissan dealer and directly into the 350Z was not a good thing... for my impressions of the Z. The latter felt like a convertible sports-truck by comparison, too heavy, and not nimble or especially quick-feeling. Plus, let's face it, a 350Z roadster with the top up looks hideous... who was responsible for the poor integration of the tiny ragtop greenhouse to the over-bulging body on that car? Yeah, I guess you could say you are supposed to always have the top down, but I live in PA and it rains here... a lot. Needless to say, I passed on that one, as I did the M-3 later.
Which brings me to the final point - the S2K is a handsome, clean, and timeless design, that will look great for years to come. It is well-balanced, with not one bad line to be found on it. Also, there never were many made, so you have a certain amount of exclusivity, but reliability and low running costs like any other Honda. The saddest thing to me is that they have now ended the run and have killed off the previously planned replacement. Right now for me, it looks like I'll be trading in my '06 for one of the last of the '09's while I still can.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 5th May, 2009