The Honda S2000 and TVR Chimaera both serve up a similar proposition – the chance to wheelspin away from the lights with 240 horses racing towards the wheels and a hurricane in your hair – but through very different engineering approaches. So which offers the most modern classic fun?
The S2000 – introduced in 1998 to mark Honda’s 50th anniversary – just gets better with age. What appears to be a relatively conventional roadster shape is dominated by an aggressive snout, some wonderfully tight proportions and a waistline that gently rises towards its pumped up rear end.
But it just can’t compete with the Chimaera’s eyeball-grabbing looks that border on the unhinged. Apparently TVR’s stylists were going for something a bit more conventional after the Griffith’s swooping curves – hence the MGB-esque proportions – but then the boss’s dog decided to take a chomp out of the clay styling model, leading to the weirdly shaped light recesses. Oh, and they managed to make a Ford Fiesta’s rear light cluster look sexy.
This is where things get interesting. Both summon the same amount of oomph – the Chimaera 400 is good for 240bhp, just two more than the Honda. Yet while TVR took an already muscular Rover V8 and gently toyed with it, Honda managed to squeeze its 238bhp out of two-litres and four cylinders. Without turbocharging. The resulting engine is an instrument of joy, using its clever VTEC engine to scream out the high notes between 6000rpm and 9000rpm, time and time again – and despite this won a string of customer satisfaction surveys for its bombproof reliability. If you love low-down torque and a meaty exhaust then go for the TVR, but for engineering it’s got to be the Honda.
The TVR is the cruiser of the two, drifting along lazily on its vast reserves of torque when you’re not up to much and serving up a baritone burble from its V8 to keep the pedestrians entertained. Yet even the entry-level 400 – for years the friendliest TVRs got, aimed at being a tiny bit more civilised than the Griffith and Cerbera – feels like its got a detonator rather than an accelerator, because poking your right foot into its thick carpets is like poking a grouchy lion with a stick. Play sensibly and it’s not as scary as some armchair critics would have you believe, but take things too far and there’s no traction control or ABS to fight your corner.
Treat the Honda gently and it’ll be as exciting as a mid-range Civic – but that’s the whole point, because the flipside of the S2000’s VTEC system is that at sensible revs it’s friendly and unintimidating. You need to work the revs to get the most out of it – but once you do that it shrieks with delight and comes out to play. Call it a draw, because both are brilliant – but in very different ways.
SO CAN I BUY ONE?
Definitely – but expect to throw something in the region of £15k into the hat to get hold of a good example of either. There are plenty of TVR Chimaera 400s on CCFS at the moment for the £13-14k mark, although for anyone up for a bargain we found this one for less than £10k.
The S2000’s even better value – we’ve seen ones online for as little as £5k, but to make sure your S2000’s has the unshakeable reliability Honda intended we’d definitely advise spending a little more for one with a full service history and other signs of being cherished.
The TVR and Honda are both going to be welcome at classic shows for decades to come, they’re a riot to drive – and they’re both great value now if you’re looking for a ragtop with the grunt to match the good looks.
The TVR’s more fun more of the time and it looks sensational – but it’s hard to argue with the Honda’s engineering and the astonishing value they represent at the moment. As much as we love the Chimaera, as a top buy we’d take the Honda.