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.



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Saturday, October 22, 2011 7:42 AM
KD can you answer this for Vic:? Does "stratosheric levels" mean it handled better than "I've also had some seat time in other rides like the Evo 8, RX-8, E36 M3, G35, and Boxster."?
Saturday, October 22, 2011 1:01 PM
geez that pic with the clouds looks kinda high up
whats the elevation over this pass?
Saturday, October 22, 2011 5:50 PM
@DaGou, the Evo was mine. It had the same size tires, but weighed about 450lbs more, so not the same level of grip. I'm pretty sure all the other cars Vic drove were stock. The RX-8 has a ton of potential in the handling department; handles and weighs very similar to the S2k except it can comfortablely fit 265 wide tires. So it has a potential handling advantage if setup correctly, but the engine really lets it down. The G35 is too heavy. E36 can be awesome. The Boxster belongs to our friend Jerry and also has a ton of potential. I'd say a Boxster S is very close out of the box; the mid-engine layout along with very sticky tires makes for a great handling car.
Saturday, October 22, 2011 5:52 PM
@Lessendz, it was around 2400ft. Angeles Crest Highway north of LA goes up to 7k feet.
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Saturday, October 22, 2011 6:08 PM
I love the way S2000s sound, handle, sound, feel, sound, etc! If there is one project car I'd like to Guest Test Drive, it'd be Project Acura NSX ;) Sorry Khiem, I've driven most makes on the list, but never an NSX to date :(
Sunday, October 23, 2011 8:27 PM
Great writeup Vic! Hope to see more articles by you here. :)
Tuesday, October 25, 2011 10:08 PM
Der, I want to drive the NSX too!
Saturday, October 29, 2011 12:49 PM
I had the opportunity to take the S2000 for a drive, and I was very impressed. When I heard that Khiem had installed some KW Clubsports, I assumed the worst in terms of daily road manners. It actually has a smoother ride than the H&R Cup kit on my Jetta. The smoothness paves the way for confident cornering, as the car maintains its composure through uneven corners. My only complaint is that it's not quite suited to be driven by human beings over 6' tall. I couldn't manipulated the controls as effectively in order to get the most out of the handling capabilities of the setup.
Sunday, October 30, 2011 4:15 PM
In the article you really never said how much you lowered the car, what was the magic number?
Sunday, October 30, 2011 5:07 PM
Not that much.... About 1". Maybe 0.75". A little hard to say as the car was uneven stock. But we'll just say 0.75"-1.0" range. So not that much and that was a goal as it keeps the car closer to the range of suspension travel the engineers designed it for.
Monday, October 31, 2011 7:16 PM
I just picked up a copy of PASMAG and was flipping through it and found a great article on putting StopTech brakes on a car just like yours! Kidding aside it was great to see your work and your name out there, I felt like a personal friend was being published!
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