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Honda S2000 vs. Nissan 350Z

tnjrobi1tnjrobi1 Posts: 41
edited March 9 in Honda
My wife & I are looking for a toy. The top 2 choices are the Honda S2000 & the Nissan 350Z. We trust both brands to be dependable and both are around $32,000.

I know one is a convertable and one is a coupe, but it's about the fun not the details.

Please let me know what you think.


  • njexpressnjexpress Posts: 170
    While I am not too technical, I have gone thru' my share of ownership / test drive experiences of some fine automobiles in the US and I am sure that entitles me to consider myself a serious auto buff :D - Here are my 2 cents:
    I was waiting for the redesigned Mini S convertible for a while. When it became apparent that it was not going to be released until 2008, I seriously started cross shopping the Z and the S2K.
    They are both very good cars - But, the S2K is arguably the funnest car I have ever driven. I would not be exaggerating if I said that riding the S2K top down over dry pavement on a decent weather day is sheer, unadultrated automobile Nirvana. :) :) I would not say the same about the Z. The Z comes standard with some rich heritage (so does the S2000, although pople don't seem to realize or remember - After all, the S600 was the first car that Honda ever built when expanding into Car territory, unless I am totally mistaken - The civic came the following year), had a more powerful engine and I am sure does a better 0-60 sec time than the S2000, and is also available as a convertible variant. The S and Z can both be used as serious track cars and they are capabale of unleashing some serious power. The S and Z can both be used as serious track cars.
    But, to me, zero to 60 isn't everything in a roadster, unless the owner robs banks for a living and the standard commute is more like a standard getaway attempt... ;) Handling is everything, and in that department, the S2000 reaaallly shines... All the claims about the S handling like a motorcycle are so true, according to me anyway. AND, that was the biggest scale tipper... Me and the wifey test drove both the S2K and the Z, liked both, wavered for a while on the Orange Z but during subsequent drives, fell in love with the S2000 and decided to go with it- We ended up buying a 2002 S2000 in the end for the following reasons:
    1) FUN FACTOR!!!!!!!!!!! It kicked the tails out of the Z on that score!!! I realy fell for the zip zap zoom handling and there was virtually no understeer while coming into or getting out of curves in highways. Now, by that, I don't mean hair pin bends!!! Use your own discretion in the level of respect you would show those danged steep curves, whether you drive a Z or an S2K or a lawnmower, for that matter!!! Ahoy there, Dear Z owners - I am not attempting to ruffle any feathers - Just sharing my honest opinions, that's all.
    2) Although they both have near 50:50 weight distribution, I felt that the Z had a heavier tail, compared to the S. Maybe I was imagining it - If I was, then, It was definitely due to the handling (or lack there of, on the Z).
    3) I must say at this point that the Z is a heck of a lot more torquey than the S, which feels almost whiney, compared to the Z. But, I was not looking for torque this time - My daily driver is an M class and it has a peak torque band from 3000 RPM to 4500 RPM and that is more than all the torque I would ever need to experience on earth!
    4) Buying preowned made more financial sense since this was an addition to the existing fleet. When buying used, I felt more comfortable going with Honda reliability over Nissan's. I have had Hondas before and the only reason I sold them was because I was moving upmarket.
    5) Also, with the 2002s, the redline is 1000 RPM higher over the 2004 and beyond versions. This was an important deciding factor fod going in for a 2002, VS 2004, which could have been had for barely a few hundred dollars more than what I paid for the '02.
    6) The car I bought was in very good condition, RED!!, 24,400 miles and came with an optional hardtop which makes it an year round driver - well, almost...
    Hope this helps. Either ways, you are not going to go wrong.
  • dat2dat2 Posts: 242
    the model yr 2004 and later s2000 is supposedly much improved, better handling, better torque, and much less peaky. That is from the reviews I have never driven either generation. I do own a 2005 350z and can tell you it would be better for daily driving, but would be outhandled by the s2000 no doubt. In convertible form, I think the Z may be tough to beat. it is flat out beautiful! It is supposed to ride better than the coupe Z, but I have never driven one either.

    oh-- all Z owners desire the antenna from the s2000 for their Z. But, that really means nothing and is just odd.:)
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    We trust both brands to be dependable and both are around $32,000.

    I know one is a convertable and one is a coupe, but it's about the fun not the details.

    I owned a 2002 Honda S2000 for 2.5 years and 19,000 miles. I still own a 1995 Nissan Maxima SE w/ 155,000 miles. So, based upon my experience, I can agree with your statement that both "brands are dependable". But that's about where it ends, between these two.

    The S2000 is a world class sports car engineered from the ground up. Everything about it is unique to Honda. The super stiff RWD chassis, the 8,000 (formerly 9,000) RPM engine, the super crisp short throw 6-speed. It is mostly hand built in limited numbers at the same plant that used to produce the NSX. All of this shows in how the vehicle performs, as well as it's fit and finish.

    As soon as I drove the 350Z, I could feel the extra 600 lbs. The low rpm / higher torque engine is borrowed, major chassis components are borrowed, etc. etc. The 350Z is not a bad car, by any means. But it is a far cry from a ground up sports car. And that comes through in a much less "visceral" driving feel.

    Think of the S2000 as a "Ferrari-lite". Think of the 350Z as a "Corvette-lite". I know which one of these I would want to own in their full flavor.

    P.S. The "details" of the S2000's 6-second up and down convertible top is all about the fun! :)
  • blacktalonblacktalon Posts: 203
    I've taken both for test drives. If you're looking for a fun toy, I would definitely go for the S2000. Its handling is much more responsive and visceral. The Z has more torque and a more linear powerband, but I found the high-revving S2K engine more fun. Also despite being more nimble, the S2K also has a more comfortable suspension tuning than the Z.

    For a sporty daily driver or an only car, it would be a tougher choice, especially if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow. But that doesn't seem to be your situation. As a second or third car, the S2K is hard to beat.

    However, the S2K is a very small car, so you and your wife should take a test drive and see if it's comfortable for you. If so, then I would go for it.
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    Pretty entertaining video.

    But too bad Nissan paid the Skyline to block out the S2000 from passing the 350Z. That was more than a little annoying. The 350Z magically came in first place in spite of having slowest fastest lap times than either the S2000 or the M3 coupe. And those S2000 and M3 lap times were Skyline hindered. At least the video doesn't hide how the Z was completely outclassed by the S2000 in the corners.

    Guess when you pay for the test you can manipulate the outcomes. And even the conditions - a wet track? Why didn't they just run the M3 on its rims?
  • tnjrobi1tnjrobi1 Posts: 41
    I test drove both a 2006 Z and a 2002 S2000 (Honda won't let you test a new S2000.) (I really don't know why they think the S is so special, they will throw you the keys to a Z at any Nissan dealership.)

    Anyway the I drove both the Z auto and stick. The Z was a little cumbersome in a stick model. The Z auto was really smooth and very easy to drive. The S on the other hand has a very nice stick, but felt a little low on power.

    I know the newer S2000's have a little more low end power. Is there a major difference in around town driving (I mean can you really tell a difference?)
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    I owned a 2002 S2000 and have driven a 2005, The difference to me was noticable, but it didn't change the fact that the S2000 is still a lightweight, high RPM sports car. The new one is a bit quieter, with a little more low end torque. On the other hand, it's 17" wheels felt a little more jarring, with no noticable improvement in handling and the 8,000 rpm redline isn't quite as much fun as the old 9,000 rpm redline.

    On your comments about "why they think the S is so special", it's because it is - certainly compared to the 350Z. Honda makes (mostly hand builds) 5,000-6,000 a year and it's completely ground up engineering and design. The engine is unique and on par in terms of cutting edge performance with BMW's M engines, Porsche and other high output / high RPM engines. The fact that the Honda dealer wouldn't throw the keys to you is a relief. The S2000 engine needs to be broken in properly and I would never buy a car with any test drive miles on the odometer.

    The 350 Z isn't a bad car, but it has a tiny fraction of the engineering of the S2000. The engine is nothing special, simply a standard Nissan workhorse, powering everything from the Maxima to the Pathfinder. Other components of the car are constructed from Nissan's shared parts bin. As a result, this 2 seater sports car - in convertible form - weighs as much as my 1995 Maxima with a 600 pound water buffalo in the passenger seat. And it's handling and feel would hardly be labeled as "visceral". So, in my opinion, there is nothing "special" about the mass market, parts sharing 350Z - you might as well get a G35 coupe and at least have a back seat for all the extra tonnage over the S2000. That the 350Z was supposed to be a modern equivalent of the 240Z is a slap in the face of that car, which was far more of a sports car for its day.

    All, IMHO.
  • anythngbutgmanythngbutgm Posts: 4,173
    The VQ is a fine motor, lots of torque, plenty of horsepower. The Z has a very usable powerband while with the S2k you need to work for the power. But then again, that is half the fun of owning this car.

    The Z is a major porker of a car, more Mustang than S2000 IMO. The S has more Miata like reflexes, light and tossable. Both are great cars with different attitudes.
  • tnjrobi1tnjrobi1 Posts: 41
    I understand the S2000 has a very special engine, but how are you going to know if you like the car if they don't keep a tester on hand for test drives.

    (As far as being special the Z cost just as much as or more than the S2000.)
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    Some large dealers do/did keep a test car. Or at least had used cars that were fully broken in that could be tested. But, unfortunately, in the case of a limited production car, it can be hard to find one to test drive. I suggest shopping dealers for a used 2004+ with the 2.2 liter engine. Think of it as preparation for when you hit it big. There aren't Ferrari 430s or Porsche Turbos out there to test drive either, but that doesn't deter buyers.

    By the way, if the dealer had handed you the keys to a new one, and you responsibly kept the RPM's below 5,000 (as required during the 1,000 +/- mile break-in) it would be of limited value in giving you the real feel for a fully broken in car taken to the V-tech redline.

    On the "special" distinction, cost has little/nothing to do with it. There are fleets of generic SUV's and pick up trucks that cost as much or more than either the S2000 or 350Z. My point was that Honda went all out on the ground up design of the S2000. It's the only Honda made in Japan at the same plant that produces the NSX. It shares virtually no mechanical parts with any other Honda or Acura product. It was an engineering laboratory. I read several articles indicating that if Honda allocated 100% of the true engineering development costs of the S2000 to each sticker, the cars would have to sell for between $40,000 and $50,000 just to break even. Instead, they wrote off much of those costs as corporate marketing and development - along the lines of how they write off their Formula One racing expenses.

    Nissan clearly developed the 350Z as a profit center, with much higher production targets and combining chassis, engine and other major components with the G35, Maxima, Altima, etc. Again, this is not to say that the 350Z is a bad car. But the S2000 is unique and exceptional in what it does, for so little money. It really is a "gift" from the Honda racing team. Anyone that buys one for $30k +/- should take the time to write a thank you letter. Your next best option is a $60k Boxster S or $65k Cayman S.
  • blacktalonblacktalon Posts: 203
    Call all the Honda dealers in your area, and you should be able to find one to test drive. The tone of your voice should say, "I'm a very busy, very successful man, and I expect satisfaction," and not "Dude! This car rocks! I can't wait to drift it through an on-ramp!" :)

    A test drive is really the only way to get a good feel for what it's like to drive any car -- but especially a sports car.

    On paper, the S2000 and the 350Z seem pretty similar in terms of 0-60 and track times. If you were just looking at the numbers, you might think, "Well the S2K has an advantage in power-to-weight, but the Z has an advantage in torque-to-weight, so they're probably about the same."

    But the driving experience is completely different. You can tell more about a car from 5 minutes behind the wheel than 5 months reading magazine articles and comparing performance numbers.
  • njexpressnjexpress Posts: 170
    The odds are, you won't get one from a dealership! I have been turned down in more than one place and it really took a sales guy that knew me well as a serious car nut, to secure one (twice actually).
    Look up, etc.. in your area for an '04 - My apologies to the sellers who will be handing you free samplers - But then, Hey - other than a couple of enhancements you could certainly live without, the 04 thru '06 is nearly the same - well, except for the headrest mounted speakers on the '06, which can be dealer installed on the '04. Anywho, my point is, you might even end up liking an 04 and decide to buy outright - You never know - This car is so freaking visceral, it does stange things to an average car buff's psyche :)
    But basically, the 8% torque / HP increase, across the entire powerband are the same for 04 thru 06. 900 rpms lower on redline than 03 and before which I am sure you know - results in less noise. Very subjective thing and it totally depends on who wants this car - To me, those 900 less revs made it feel more car like and less Yamaha like!
    And yes, the 16's feel better on my posterior that is sick and tired from my ML's standard Dunlops, compared to the 17's. They are by no means soft, but definitely less stiffer.
    I need not go on and on about the virtues of the S over the Z - Pretty much every post above has covered almost everything there is to say, except the real experience of an driving an S and discovering Nirvana while glued to that racing seat behind the tiny steering wheel!! One last thing - Considering the Honda reliability, this car will certainly be a keeper, low miles or not and as it is, it has attained a certain cult status -Think of what it would be 20 years down the line when the Csaba Csere's of year 2026 drool over this car on TV and tell you what a marvel of auto engineering it was and still is!! Do you see yourself telling everyone all around you that you got one of those babies in your fleet???
    Good luck with your decision.
  • jkgreer2jkgreer2 Posts: 42
    In agreement with other posts, a test drive of the S2000 is highly suggested before buying S2000 or a competitor. The driving experience provided by the S2000 is hard to imitate, unless you own an old English roadster (low on power), or a much more expensive Porsche or other exotic sports car. If you want a 'sports car' that is not lightning responsive, does not always place a grin on your face, and has a partial backseat, then pick the Z or a similar car. If you seek an extremely entertaing Sports Car which is ready for track competition, then go with a S2000. Be ready for your wife/girlfriend to take it away from you so she can drive it as hers. Hopefully, she will let you ride along and drive some. Best regards, JKG.
  • biancarbiancar Posts: 913
    ...the Z does not have a partial backseat. And it puts plenty of grins on my face!

    It's been said that the S2000 drives like a motorcycle. If that appeals to you, then do it.

    The Z has wonderful acceleration and handling, so don't know what you mean about "not lightning responsive." Seems plenty responsive to me.
  • blacktalonblacktalon Posts: 203
    Yeah, the 350Z is not a bad car, just very different from the S2000.

    It's interesting that the S2000, 350Z, RX-8, and Mustang GT are all sports cars with similar prices, but they provide very different driving experiences.

    That's why test drives are so important...
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    "It's interesting that the S2000, 350Z, RX-8, and Mustang GT are all sports cars with similar prices, but they provide very different driving experiences.

    That's why test drives are so important..."

    Amen. In my opinion, the S2000 is a "Ferrari-lite" and the 350Z is a "Corvette/Mustang-lite". The fun of the S2000 starts at RPMs that would cause some of the other cars to explode.
  • tnjrobi1tnjrobi1 Posts: 41
    One thing I noticed when I test drove these two cars is the shifter difference. The Z's shifter felt kind of chunky and difficult to shift. But the S2000 shifter felt light and easy to manage.

    Does anyone else have an opinion on the shift quality of these two vehicles?

    Joe R.
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    "Does anyone else have an opinion on the shift quality of these two vehicles?"

    I think I can safely say that the S2000 gearbox is one of the very best in any car at any price, period. The ultra crisp very short throw 6-speed is as good as any I've driven, including my Porsche 911S (997). Don't get me wrong, the Porsche gearbox is also ultra crisp and engages with extreme precision, but even the Porsche "Sport Shifter" option has slightly longer throws than the flick of the wrist S2000.

    The only slight flaw is the Honda clutch, which is a bit soft for my preference. I also like the clutch to exhibit crisp, positive engagement with precise feedback. In that respect the Honda doesn't match the Porsche, but it's still better than the 350Z, Z4 and other competition in its general price range.

    In my opinion, how a sports car shifts is a big factor in how one would rate it on the "visceral" scale. Honda absolutely nailed this with the S2000.
  • srowesrowe Posts: 1
    I have test driven both 2006 models at two different dealers in the past 3 weeks. I actually like the shifting and the handling of the S2000 better than the Z but don't consider the Z clunky or difficult. Both cars were fun to drive and I both liked and disliked things about both cars.

    BTW - I am no longer in the market as of yesterday - a 2005 350Z roadster is in my garage. The S2000 was a bit tight for my frame size.

This discussion has been closed.