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2004 Honda S2000 performance review: classic MOTOR

By Dean Evans, 20 May 2018 Reviews

2004 Honda S2000 performance review feature

Revised, but you’ll have to look (and drive) hard to notice

Spot the differences. You know the game: two panels of the same image contain tiny differences which make apparently identical frames subtly different. Spot all the changes and win a punch in the face, or something.

This review was originally published in MOTOR’s October 2004 issue

This is the 2004-spec Honda S2000, whose might-miss-them updates may be minor, but are nevertheless most necessary up against Nissan’s 350Z Roadster.

It’s relatively easy to pick the more blatant ones, at least, once they’re pointed out; like the restyled front bumper that moves the brake ducts inwards to lower and widen the snout visually, plus deeper-gouged side skirts and a contoured rear bumper with oval instead of round tailpipes.

Its tail-lights are new, too, now with an LED design. But the projector beam HID headlights are an easier spot, and modernise the little Honda roadster.

Likewise, the S2000’s wheels, with a new design and up an inch in diameter to 17s. The rubber has grown larger and lower profile with 215/45s up front, versus the previous 205/55s, and 245/40s replacing 225/50s in the rear. Grip, as you’d expect is marginally up, but ride quality is effectively as good, because the change in wheelware also brought about a retune of the suspension.

Underneath are revisions to the suspension geometry, rear sway bar, springs and shocks, all designed to make the twitchy convertible… er, less twitchy.

The presence of even more grip, plus a revised electronic power steering system, means there’s marginally sharper turn-in, and the 50:50 weight split gives it a natural tendency to hold a great balance, while its powerful but relatively torque-lacking engine always has a tough time overpowering its rear grip.

On the engine, there’s nothing new: it’s the same 176kW at 8300rpm, same 9000rpm redline, and the same 208Nm at a highly-strung 7500rpm. And while it’s the most powerful non-turbo 2.0-litre on sale in Oz, it’s also the most efficient engine, with a power-per-litre rating outclassing even Ferrari’s 360 Modena and BMW’s M3 CSL!

Sadly, the USA-spec 2.2-litre engine, with 179kW and 220Nm, remains a USA-spec.

Under brakes, the 2004 model S2000 is a touch better, with harder pad material, a lighter, more compact brake booster and a raised ABS threshold to exploit its wider rubber.

Where old is gold on classic MOTOR

But the interior is where some really smart updates have been made, the most obvious being to its centre console, with a sliding door covering a twin cup holder and a matching silver stereo cover. There’s also a slightly less cramped cabin feel, thanks to some massaging of the footwells, plus redesigned door trims.

In short, the 2004 S2000 is mild and styled with the kind of revisions that make the car that little step better. Game over.

2004 Honda S2000
Engine: 2.0-litre DOHC 16-valve four
Power: 176kW
Weight: 1259kg
Drive: rear-wheel
Price: $74,990

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