I got beaten up. It was my fault. I asked for the whipping. This is how it happened: Honda called to wish me Happy Honda Days in keeping with its holiday season marketing message. I thought that was neat and returned the good wishes.
We chatted a bit, inquired about one another's health. Honda was happy to hear that my transplanted kidney was still working. I happily learned that Honda was still making money.
Honda asked me if I would like to take a spin in its 2008 S2000 CR roadster.
"S" signifies Honda's super-lightweight chassis, which is especially designed for aggressive track driving. "CR" stands for "Club Racer." But none of that meant anything to me at the time of the call. I've loved the S2000 since its introduction in 1999. I just wanted to drive it again.
Love does interesting things to memory. It erases salient details of what is remembered, such as why you fell in love in the first place. I loved the S2000 because it was light, tight, and it handled right. Forgotten was that I also loved it because I mostly drove it on racetracks and similar venues of smooth, traffic-free asphalt and concrete where its suspension and low-aspect-ratio tires played nicely with those optimum road surfaces.
But I was jolted back to reality by a brutally bumpy drive down Constitution Avenue in the District, heading west over the egregiously rippled Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge into the Northern Virginia suburbs.
The motorized butt-pummeling continued on much of Interstate 66 going west. I sought several side roads in Northern Virginia in pursuit of relief. It was a delusional effort. I concluded that there were no streets or highways in the District or Northern Virginia worthy of the S2000 CR's finely tuned suspension. In those parts of the real world, the drive was a bumpy ode to frustration.
Neither Honda nor the short-wheelbase, rear-wheel-drive S2000 CR, with its mid-rear-placed engine, can be blamed for my unhappy experience in the car. Honda had made it clear: The S2000 CR is designed for people who have both the time and money to drive it where it should be driven -- on a race track free of bumps, potholes, ridges and ripples. It is not meant to be used as a daily driver over urban-suburban thoroughfares.
That design ethos is embedded in the S2000 CR's advertising pitch: "Heavy is bad. Light is good." Light cars -- in this case, one with a factory weight of 2,885 pounds (including the weight of air conditioner and premium sound systems in the tested "CR w/AC, Audio") generally have a better power-to-weight ratio than heavier models. Light cars, as a result, tend to move faster than bigger automobiles.
Stick a high-output, 237-horsepower, four-cylinder engine in a car as light as the S2000 CR and it zooms! Its speed potential is increased by other elements of design and engineering, such as the S2000 CR's sleek, ground-hugging profile accented by aerodynamic touches such as the car's rear air spoiler, engineered to reduce vehicle lift and improve stability at high speeds.
But most of the roadster's engineering -- four-wheel independent suspension with double wishbone setups front and rear; rear limited-slip differential; quick-shifting, six-speed manual transmission -- goes for naught on common, urban and suburban roads, too many of which appear designed to keep auto-repair shops in business.
So, okay, I get it. Here's hoping that prospective buyers of the Honda S2000, including the track-oriented CR and the track-ready base S2000, a favorite of gearheads and street racers who tinker with their cars to make them go faster than the manufacturer intended, get it too: Unless you have the time, money and the place to play with this car in the proper manner, don't buy it. Invest your Walter Mitty fantasies in something else.
The "CR" in the two-seat tested S2000's name is not a marketing spoof. It's serious. Club racing is serious. The people involved in that usually weekend sport are willing to sacrifice a lot -- comfort, money, time and effort -- to beat their rivals across the finish line. If you aren't into that, stay out of this car. Either that, or prepare for a different kind of beating.