Limping with the Bulls

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This weekend, I spent a not inconsiderable amount of time blocking a busy street near a popular southern California beach. Worse, I was in a metallic orange Lamborghini, the gearbox and engine of which were having a disagreement resulting in massive and noisy rpm spikes and zero forward motion. To add visibility to humiliation, the only way to get my arm outside to wave people by was to open the iconic scissor door. This may have been the single most conspicuous fifteen minutes of my life.

It proved to be a grounding experience in more ways than one. There is unquestionably a sentiment among the S2000 community that our cars are deeply special; that they carry a cachet beyond simply being (or having been) the best sub-$50,000 sports car on the market. A weekend spent in the driver’s seat of a supercar exposes this for the fallacy it is; the S2000 is a thoroughly enjoyable, totally ordinary car.

The Murcielago is not, by any objective standard, a particularly good car. The footwell is angled toward the center of the car, making instant location of major controls a headache. The interior quality is poor, and the handbrake cannot be disengaged with the door closed. The suspension crashes over bumps, at times resulting in an alarming structural creaking. The engine has a surprisingly narrow powerband, and the gearbox tends to make up its own mind about whether and when you receive a requested downshift.

It is also the single most magical car I’ve ever driven. Just lifting the ridiculous door made my inner twelve-year-old giggle maniacally. The seats are Italian-supercar perfection, reclining you impossibly far while still placing the wheel at the wrist-resting racing ideal. No motor on earth can compete with the Bizzarrini-designed V12 for sheer range of spine-tingling noises produced as you chase redline, and the boom and gargle when you lift off is a beautiful anachronism in an era of EPA regulation and $4 gas.

Equally anachronistic is the steering. It’s heavy, almost unassisted; the tiny 320mm wheel feels precise and gritty with feedback. I love it, especially by comparison to the fingertip lightness endemic to the current crop of effortlessly easy krautrockets and computer-controlled Ferraris. In short, on a perfect SoCal afternoon, I wanted to keep driving it forever.

Until it broke down, that is. At which point I wanted to be far, far away from the hundreds of amused, peeved, or otherwise attentive people staring at me.

As wonderful as the Lamborghini is, there are very few people who would be willing to put up with one as an everyday vehicle. I’d like to think I’m one of the minority who would; its passion and old-school charm are things I wish every vehicle possessed. For the majority of automotive enthusiasts, though, it’s too conspicuous, too unreliable, requires too much effort.

This, then, is the beauty of the S2000. It’s a tremendously enjoyable car that not only can be used every day, but requires no compromises to do so. Nothing detracts from the experience; it’s an exceptional amount of reliable, thoroughly engineered, clearly purposed fun at a reasonable price, and that’s what makes it so special.

Images courtesy of Cook24v, jwardell and ScandinavianFlick

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