Daily Slideshow: Let's Solve the AP1 vs. AP2 Debate for Good
The original S2000 was nothing if not uncompromising. With the AP2 version a few years later, Honda hoped to address some of the recurring complaints about their classic roadster. Whether the changes made were an actual improvement depends on who you ask.
The S2K: A Decade of Two Eras.
The S2000 has almost been out of production for longer than the time it was run through production. People still love the car, of course, and fans have never run out of things about it to talk about. It's pretty telling that discussions can still pop up these days weighing the pros and cons of the S2k's AP1 and AP2 eras. A debate like this would never last so long unless it was about more than technical layouts and specs. The facelifted redesigns made a significant impact on the intense character that distinguished this model in the first place.
Some owners will tell you of the original S2000's uncompromising nature and intimidating performance standard; others still will speak of the facelifted AP2's improved feel and driveability. The opinions brought into this debate seldom ever contradict. Instead, it goes to show what traits an owner values most from a car.
1999: A Modern Classic is Born.
Fanatically precise, the roadster was cruel to drivers who ever underestimated it. There's no doubt the original S2000 was a formidable beast of engineering, uncompromising to its sporting ends at the cost of everything from comfort to accessibility. It was the rare sort of mass-market sports car that tried to be something more or less than luxury. It was a machine built purely for performance, with no frills attached. There's really never been a sports car in a relatively affordable price range that tried to be so much for so few.
People loved the S2000 for that. Beyond the legendary handling and specs, the uncompromising nature of the S2000 gave it a sense of authenticity you almost never get from modern sports cars.
... Too Much Precision Can Be Unruly, Though.
Of course... That's not all there is to it. Being so uncompromising, there was an inevitable gaggle of disgruntled owners with axes to grind. There are notorious stories about early S2000 owners driving their cars into ditches on account of its exceptionally sharp handling, and that's not even getting into the near-total lack of amenities drivers take for granted in any other car. Suffice to say, if a car seems like it should be sold with a warning label, it may be time to rethink certain aspects.
A Successor to Still the Waters.
Being "inaccessible" may not be considered a good thing in itself, but it's part of what made those first S2k model years so revered. The original 2000 S2k didn't even come with a dashboard clock. These deprivations were all to ride home on the car's identity as a racer. It's unfortunate too that the law tends to be pretty sticky on speed limits because most owners would never get to see the AP1's full potential.
The AP2 was hailed as a significant upgrade by Honda. By street vehicle standards, they were right too. With some much-desired moderation graced to the gear, suspension, and legendary redline, the AP2 was the sort of S2000 that came back down to Earth for the sake of practicality and real-life. The audio system was still infamously bad enough to bear the brunt of jokes from other car owners right to the end though, and despite slightly larger cupholders for the AP2 era, the comfort levels would still pale compared to most anything else on the market.
It All Falls Upon Your Personal Driving Style.
If we're speaking on some purely practical level, there's more reason to look at the AP2 as the potential victor here... but who has ever approached a sports car for practicality's sake? The AP1 is the one that stands out for the fact that it dared to be like nothing else. As for its successor, the AP2 earns its points over the original mostly in becoming more like most other cars.
As one astute S2000 owner puts it: "AP2 is the better car. AP1 is the better S2000."
Most of Your Friends Wouldn't Tell the Difference.
Don't get us wrong here. The S2000's got ample sway among car normies. While the Mazda Miata might be seen as "close enough" by those unaware of the utter blasphemy of saying so, the S2000's obsessively tight performance is far-reaching enough that it should receive knowing nods on a pretty regular basis.
But what of the differences within the S2000 itself? From the outside looking in, S2k owners debating the virtues of one over the other must look like a group of poets raising voices over the placement of a comma.
In the unlikely instance, you're ever needed to assure someone of the difference between AP1/2, you might tell them to observe the modified rear. If both models have been left as stock, you might depend on the wheels of the AP2 being visibly thicker as well. Then again, it's the way these cars feel when you're actually driving one that drew lines in the sand.
At Day's End, We Just Wish We Could Debate About an AP3.
It wasn't fair that the S2000 was cut short. Internal debate is beside the point; there should be an AP3 here for us to argue about. Alas, it doesn't look like it's in the cards. With Honda's recent announcement that the S2000 will not be brought back, it's very easy to see the comparatively "moderate" AP2 with reverent nostalgia. The story's not done for S2000 though. They're respected now more than ever, and plenty of freshly modded concepts, like this futuristic gem from Tamon Design, prove that the S2000 has a place in the future and beyond.