For years, avid roadster fans have lamented the untimely retirement of the S2000, a car that critics and consumers alike raved over all the way up until its abrupt demise in 2009. Featuring a dual-overhead cam F-series powerplant that redlined at 9,000 RPM, the convertible commonly referred to as the “S2K” put smiles on faces not just with its engine, but with a six-speed manual gearbox that had been mated to a slick rear-wheel drive limited slip differential, double wishbone suspension, and damn near perfect weight distribution. It was a vehicle that reminded us that the NSX, Prelude Si, and Integra Type-R weren’t the only ones slapping asses at the time, which made us lament the S2000’s retirement all the more, for all three of its companions and the S2000 are extinct at this point.
But the U.K.-based publication Autocar says that a Honda insider has leaked that a third generation of the famed roadster is under development. While both sources and validity remain undisclosed at this time, it’s on good authority that Honda engineers did recently attend an S2000 owners event in the British Isles in order to better understand what the most devout enthusiasts would desire if the badge were resurrected. While quite a few classic S2K touches are necessary mainstays, others will likely remain shelved in favor of more developed, modern upgrades — a move that is to be expected considering the brand’s recent gravitation toward turbocharged powertrains.
On the retention side of the things, the next generation S2000 will likely “stay true to the original’s principles” by featuring a front-mount engine that is positioned right behind the forward axle for better weight distribution, and a rear-wheel drive, short throw manual lay-out for more spirited driving. Designed to be a “faster alternative to the MX-5,” Honda may be training its cross-hairs on both Mazda and Fiat with this one, both of whom have roadsters at the ready in smaller form.
While nothing is set in stone, Autocar’s sources say that there are “a number of powerplants under consideration” for its forthcoming reincarnation of the legendary roadster. Basic trim levels will likely be powered by a modified version of the 1.5-liter turbocharged motor you saw getting installed in Civics at the Honda plant in Indiana when we toured it this past autumn, and while this engine only produces around 150 horsepower now, with a little coaxing it will likely hit upwards of 180 ponies if all goes well during testing. But allow us to reiterate — this isn’t a formal confirmation, though it is fun to speculate.
At that point, the Civic Type-R will likely already be throwing its weight around in America with its turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, so it wouldn’t be entirely unreasonable to assume that many of the CTR’s components could be modified to fit the third-gen S2K. Toss in a stiffer chassis that features bigger sway bars and tower braces both front and rear, a beastly big brake kit, adjustable dampers, a tricked-out limited-slip differential, and voila — you’ve got a Type-R S2000 that likes to eat Abarth-badged 124 roadsters for breakfast.
But not everything is as easy as it seems — it rarely is. Honda has kind of dug a hole for itself recently by adopting a “global architecture for front-wheel-drive cars,” which is great for safety and savings, but is damn near impossible to overcome if you want rear-wheel drive fun. I can’t think of a single suitable platform on the market today that Honda’s engineers could use as a springboard, an issue that some say will likely cause the automaker to “pitch the car as a more expensive rival to the MX-5 in a bid to maintain workable margins.” This may sound like an issue at first, but let’s not forget that both previous generations of the S2000 never were labeled as inexpensive, and by aligning this next version with Acura price points, Honda could potentially attack BMW’s forthcoming Z4 and Audi’s TT Roadster with its luxury badge instead.