And now for something completely different; not just different than the Audi but different than just about any car on the market today. The S2000 is a single-mindedly focused sports car. Don't like the black expanse of dash? Then this car isn't for you. Too small? Lose weight or suffer, but its not Honda's problem. Think the carpeting over the huge center tunnel is cheap? You're lucky there is any at all.
Considering its price it's amazing there is a single creature comfort to be found. It's true that $32,000 US is hardly cheap. The point is that there is at least that much money invested in the engine, transmission and suspension alone not to mention the robust structure. The engine is a mechanical marvel. Squeezing 120 hp per litre (125 in some markets) out of an engine that carries a five year warranty and that is expected to last a lot longer is an accomplishment in itself. Making it smooth, tractable, fuel efficient and an ultra-low emissions vehicle to boot is sheer sorcery.
Set the key to ON and press the starter button and caroooom! It springs to life. Blips of the throttle send the F1 inspired digital tach scurrying to redline and the exhaust barks its staccato blat. First is selected by a simple flick and click of the robust gear lever. Give it some revs and let out the clutch. My first impression was surprise at the abundant low-end power. You could drive the S2000 for years never breaking 6000 rpm and think it is a fast car. Venture into the magical land of VTEC, however, and you are in for the most insane auditory and sensory experience the production car world has to offer.
The engine roars as you are pressed firmly into the seat and its tone becomes frenetic as it approaches its 9000 rpm redline. Grab the next gear and the acceleration seems even more fierce and more fierce still in third. By fourth you are breaking every speed limit in the world and fifth is just a few mph away raising the issue of "what's the point of fifth anyway"? It's too tall for low speed acceleration and you're traveling too fast to use it flat out after fourth, so the net effect is that it never gets used. The acceleration fix is satiated by first through fourth and then you jump to sixth for cruising, which incidentally is quiet with the engine turning only 3400 rpm at 100 km/h - remember 3400 out of 9000 potential rpms.
With its roof up the S2000 isn't half as bad as I was expecting, but there are noises that most of us have never heard before in a car. Whirring gears, whoofing exhaust, winding grinding rear end and road and tire noise. Remarkably the S2000 has surprising wet weather grip with its limited slip diff but obviously if inclement weather transportation is your thing the TT offers more practicality and versatility.
The S2000 is of course no slouch in the handling department but it isn't like the "can do no wrong" TT. Nail the brakes mid corner and the back end comes around. Nail the gas and ditto. Hop off the gas (also known as chickening out) and, you guessed it, oversteer. Even in slow corners you can feel the nose tuck in when backing out of the throttle. Is all this dangerous? Well I guess it depends on your driving experience and skill. To the able sport driver it is one of the most responsive and entertaining chassis in production. The Audi is benign and numb by comparison but far less demanding. If you aren't the type of driver that wants to, or can, steer a car with the throttle I would recommend driving school or staying away.
That is not to say that the S2000 can't be used as a perfectly good daily driver; you would just want all your daily drives to be somewhere warm so the top could be down. Despite its larger, albeit plastic, rear window the S2000 has a much worse blind spot than the TT. In fact the S2000 has a perfectly blinding blind spot whereas the TT is easy to drive with the top up. Neither top is lined. The S2000 does offer about double the usable trunk space to the TT and its top raises or lowers in about half the time of the Audi's.
All in all the TT is a fine car. Smooth, powerful, quiet and offers a comfortable ride for relaxed touring, profiling and general use. It is not a die-hard sports car, but is fun to drive none-the-less. The S2000 on the other hand is a car that was created for the single purpose of socially irresponsible driving, a dream car for the true enthusiast. After getting out of the S2000 every other car feels heavy, cumbersome, imprecise, untrustworthy and just plain less fun. It is the one car I desire for myself more than any other.
This article has been adapted and reprinted courtesy of automotive-review.com.
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