The Honda S2000 has come in for a complete revision for its re-introduction to the SA market - it was dropped when Honda SA took over the local operation from Daimler-Benz three years ago - with both cosmetic and mechanical changes which make it more modern, and more importantly, easier to drive, especially at high speed.
I drove the car on some of the Cape's twistiest roads at its launch yesterday (Wednesday), and I found it to be the most fun on wheels so far this year, with useable power enhanced by its ability to rev to 9 000 r/min, plus a power boost at 6 200 r/min that turns it from a quick and torquey sports car into a raving racer.
Drive the car below 6 000 r/min, and you'll find it to be a quick, but benign, sports car that is happy to toodle along in sixth gear at 70 or 80 km/h, the wind gently rustling your hair.
Drop down a gear or two, however - the gearchange is so slick that you won't mind doing that - hit the throttle hard, and as the needle goes past that magic 6 200 mark you feel a giant shove in the back and the wind threatens to tear your hair out by the roots.
At the same time the engine note rises to an F1-type yowl that makes you want to stay in the lower gears and keep the revs up, just to hear that gorgeous sound.
Corners rush towards you at indecent speed, and when you get there you discover the other great truism about this car - it corners without any hint of tyre squeal, without the tiniest bit of understeer, in such a balanced and effortless way that you wish you had gone in 10 km/h faster.
Even on hairpins there's only the slightest chirp from the front tyres before the car whips around the bend and, on the exit, gives a little waggle of its cute tail before picking up and hurtling towards the next bend.
One of the reasons for this is the very stiff chassis, ensuring the wheels aren't thrown off-balance by body flex. And the other is that there's a limited slip differential to ensure all the power is put onto the road, without any electronic traction controls to limit engine output.
Compared to its logical opposition, the BMW Z4 2.5i and the Audi TT 1.8T, the Honda is much more nimble, much more neutral, quite a lot faster, and costs a lot less!
With 300 mm ventilated discs at the front and 282mm solid discs at the back braking is very precise, and I never managed to unsettle the chassis under braking, even when I left it very late.
There's another plus point, and that's fuel economy.
The S2000 is powered by one of the most sophisticated engines around - indeed, it has won a lot of awards - and not only does it thrust out a lot of power (177 kW to be exact), but it also does it frugally, with overall economy of 9.9 litres/100 km, good going for a car that hits 100 km/h from rest in 6.2 seconds, and goes on to a top speed of 240 km/h.
It's a 2-litre DOHC VTEC four-cylinder unit, producing 208 Nm of torque at 7 500 r/min, but with most of this available in a flat torque plateau from 3 000 to 5 500 r/min, and its light weight and compact dimensions add to the car's overall balance.
Its benign behaviour in normal driving conditions makes the S2000 a car you'll happily lend to your wife for her monthly shopping (and the boot is big enough to take a decent load), while at weekends you can let your hair down and go off to explore its limits.
Talking of letting your hair down, the soft top has full electronic operation (with manual clips on the windscreen surround) that opens and closes in just six seconds. A cover is provided for the hood when it's down, and a hardtop is available for an extra R13 000.
One of the changes Honda has made is to the 6-speed manual gearbox, which now has beefed-up carbon fibre synchros and a stronger casing, plus changes to the front and rear suspension settings to make the car less extreme at the limit.
In addition the electrical power steering has been adjusted to provide greater precision, feel and response. Finishing off the technical stuff is the most up-to-date version of the ABS braking system.
The S2000 also does well in the styling stakes, with an arrow-shaped front end and curvaceous flanks that has the look of a REAL sports car.
The car still has its streamlined polycarbonate sweeping headlamp covers, but with new innards comprising a "triple beam" headlamp assembly. Projector style HID (high intensity discharge) low beam headlamps are now flanked by a traditional reflector design high beam and separate indicators and parking lights.
The same goes for the back of the car, where new triple lens taillights, which make use of LED technology for greater brightness and responsiveness, sit beneath a clear lens.
The indicators have reflective surrounds, and outside of this is a combined LED brake light/ LED tail light unit. Finally, there is an LED side marker set in a reflective housing.
A revised bumper provides a more powerful presence to the overall appearance of the Honda S2000's rear view. Its lower edge now reaches down to, and is flush with, new twin chromed and oval-shaped exhaust tailpipes.
Part of the enhanced ride and handling package are new alloy wheels with a twin 5-spoke pattern, increased from 16 inch to 17 inch for a more aggressive appearance, and riding on wider Bridgestone Potenza tyres.
The former car's 205/55R16 tyres are replaced by 215/45 R17 ones at the front and 225/50R 16 by 245/40R17 at the rear. A corresponding change in tread pattern, from S-02 to RE050, gives a better balance between wet and dry performance.
A spacesaver spare is provided.
Inside the stylish cockpit there's now more elbow room thanks to re-sculpted door panels at both elbow and shoulder level, and elbow room is increased by up to 20mm. At the same time a deeper door pocket can accommodate more items.
New detailing includes a seamless leather trim for the gear knob, a leather gear shift surround, and the application of aluminium trim to the headrests, audio panel and centre console.
There's a new storage tray for small items as well as two cup holders (rather than one), covered by a one-touch sliding lid. Finally a new 'H' mark is applied to the steering wheel boss.
The digital instrument display is now more legible, with the distance between the segments of the revcounter reduced. A digital clock has also been added. It's an LED (light emitting diode) display, which makes it legible in all light conditions, even in bright sunlight.
The new red and black interior trim is complemented by an extended choice of body colours.
Luxury features include aircon, electric mirrors and windows, sound system, and remote door locking.
The new Honda S2000 will only be available from selected Honda Auto dealerships at a very competitive R359 000, and comes standard with a 3 year/100 000km warranty and a 1-year roadside assistance programme.
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Service intervals include an oil change every 10 000km with a full service every 20 000 km. In addition a 3 year/ 60 000km maintenance plan is standard with the vehicle. Servicing can be done at any Honda dealer as the S2000 does not require any additional service tools.
The S2000 will be available exclusively from Honda Auto Bloemfontein; Honda Auto Cape Town CBD; Honda Auto East Rand Mall; Honda Auto Gateway; Honda Auto Menlyn; Honda Auto Port Elizabeth; Honda Auto Sandton and Honda Auto West Rand.