Aug 172012
 

Some cars are lauded for their ability to produce raw power, while others are lauded for exceptional fuel economy or styling. I am taking a slightly different approach for praising this week’s Car of the Week by taking a look at specific output, which is a calculation of an engine’s power generation efficiency. I, along with others, calculate and compare this by looking at the horsepower to displacement ratio (in terms of HP/L). This week’s Car of the Week is not the absolute best in specific output, but it is best I found in the “under $100,000″ category. With this being said, we give you this week’s Car of the Week:

2000 Honda S2000

Why?

Well I guess I already started this discussion, so let’s jump into some details. The first generation Honda S2000 sported a “small” 2.0-liter engine —  so small you would think it is out of a Honda Civic. However, this engine surprised us with plenty of horsepower and a redline around 9000 rpm. If you have the room to rev, this engine delivers: its power peaked at 240 hp, giving it a specific output of 120 HP/L.

Now, we have to look at some other power packed cars to get a flavor for just how efficient this engine really is. I looked at every manufacturer selling cars in the USA, from A to V. What I found surprised me a bit. Some of the fastest, most powerful cars were also the most inefficient. Take a look at this list. I only found one car that beats the Honda S2000 in terms of specific output. (All specific output calculations given as HP/L)

  • 2010 Dodge Viper SRT-10 — 71
  • 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe — 90
  • 2005 Acura NSX 6-speed — 91
  • 2011 Ferrari 612 Scaglietti — 93
  • 2010 Bentley Continental GT Speed — 100
  • 2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 — 103
  • 2012 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3 — 114
  • 2011 Porsche 911 GT3 — 114
  • 2000 Honda S2000 — 120
  • 2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS — 172

Let’s talk about this list for a minute. I’ve put some pretty super cars on this list just to show how exceptional the Honda S2000 is, not only in its time but also when compared against today’s models. The S2000 was way ahead of its time in terms of specific output. Only the Porsche 911 GT2 model line (introduced in 2002) does better. Most surprising to me is just how inefficient the Dodge Viper is in generating its power. Now, of course if you’re simply looking for raw power and the ability to burn up some tires, the Viper does the job just fine.

The S2000, though, is in a class by itself.

About the Car

The 2000 Honda S2000 was offered in only one trim level with the one engine and transmission choice. The car was equipped with a 2.0 L I4 generating 240 hp @ 8300 rpm, which was mated to a 6-speed manual in a rear wheel drive configuration. That’s right, Honda actually made a second production RWD vehicle. All of it put together made for perfect 50/50 weight distribution.

The S2000 was Honda’s successful launch into the two seater roadster market, going against the likes of the BMW Z3 (69 HP/L), Mazda MX-5 Miata (78 HP/L), Porsche Boxster S (78 HP/L) and Mercedes-Benz SLK 280 (80 HP/L) being offered same year. With the S2000 falling right in the middle of the price range, it gave buyers a lot to think about in terms of what they were getting for their money. If only it was marketed using this argument…

I found only one model line that beats the S2000 in the specific output category. It took a turbocharger to achieve that feat. Now I challenge you…can you find another model line that matches up to the efficiency of the S2000?

Other Resources

Wikipedia: Honda S2000 (To be taken with a grain of salt, of course)
S2000 Owners Club of America
S2KI Owners Community
Edmunds.com road test of the 2000 Honda S2000 

Chuck can be followed on Twitter @ChuckWhatTheF where he tweets about cars and other things “dudebros” are talking about.

Some photos in this article are freely sourced from Google. If you take issue with the usage of any image, please contact us and we will remove it.

 

May 112012
 

Hmm. It would seem I missed this segment last week. My apologies for that, but sometimes life just gets in the way. In any case, Car of the Week is back. I spent a considerable amount of time going to college graduations this past week, so I decided that this edition should feature a car that I was a fan of during my own college days. One of my favorites from those early days of the new millennium was…

2002 Mazda Protege ES

Why?

As I said in my review of the Mazda2, I drove the ES model Protege in 2002 in order to find out if Mazda was really serious about their “Zoom-zoom” marketing strategy. The answer, I found, was a resounding yes. It handled great, had decent pep, and gave you all sorts of stuff standard that the Civic only offered as options — alloy wheels, fog lamps, trunk spoiler, etc. It was a lot of car for the money and, fair or not, it became the benchmark by which I continue to judge every Mazda I drive.

The ES of this model year featured a 2.0-liter inline-4 that produced 130 horsepower. It could be had in auto or stick, but the one I drove was equipped with a 5-speed manual, naturally. The ES also got bigger wheels, stickier tire, stiffer suspension and a plethora of audio goodies.

With a decade between now and then I still look back fondly on that test drive. By today’s standards the Protege is a little under powered for a vehicle at the top of its model range, but by any other yardstick it is still a competent car — economy, handling, cost, etc. Though not quite as legendary as the Civic or Corolla, the Protege has exhibited decent longevity as well and high-mileage examples can still be found running strong.

Over the course of that decade, Mazda has built upon the standard it set with cars like this, giving us a number of offspring like the 3, 6 and aforementioned 2, all of which represent great value to go with the high level of entertainment. I don’t know that this Protege was the actual starting point, but for me at least, it represents the point where Mazda started to perfect the balance between value and fun.

About the Car

Mazda’s 323 was a mainstay of the ’80s and its evolutionary sibling, the Protege, became a similar force in the ’90s. The first car to wear the Protege badge hit U.S. shores for the 1990 model year and the name ran until 2003, when it was replaced by the 3. In that time it went through three body styles (1990-1993, 1994-1998 and 1999-2003).

As I said above, the Protege was always known for providing an excellent balance of fun, value and economy. By the end of its life, though, Mazda had imbued some seriously sporting aspirations, culminating in the turbocharged Mazdaspeed edition. The addition of a turbo bumped the power to 170 and the suspension was further tweaked to match. Though it was short-lived (just a year), it was a remarkable indicator of just how far the Protege had come since its inception.

Other Resources

Club Protege (enthusiast community for the Protege)
Mazda3Club.com (enthusiast community for the Mazda3 and Protege lines)
Wikipedia: The Mazda Familia line (including the Protege) (to be taken with a grain of salt, of course)
Road & Track review of the ’01 Protege ES

Some photos in this article were freely sourced from Google. If you take issue with usage of any image, please contact me and I will remove it.

Apr 272012
 

There have been a number of changes in my life over the last several months, but none were bigger than my most recent career decision. I was offered (and accepted) a position at a local BMW dealer. My role there is still somewhat in flux, but overall I am thrilled with the move. Learning to work with BMWs, though, has presented a number of challenges for someone who has spent the majority of his automotive life focused on Honda/Acura and Volvo. I wanted this weeks’ COTW to reflect that, so I picked the first BMW that came to my mind:

2000 BMW 323i sedan

Why?

This probably doesn’t seem like the likeliest BMW model to discuss on a site like this. The 323 was the bottom of the E46 3-series line in the U.S. market when it was introduced, taking the place of the defunct 318.  The 323i sedan had smallish 15-inch wheels, leather and power seats were options and, though it was powered by a straight-6, it wasn’t long on power (168 horses). It seems like an odd choice for Car of the Week. So why did I choose it?

Well, put simply I almost bought one and I needed to do a bunch of research to make an informed decision. The car in question was a white 2000 model with fabric, non-power seats. It was clean, but needed work that, if it were done at the dealer, would have cost the owner between $2500 and $3000. None of it represented a major issue, though, and since he was already in a selling mood, I decided to make him a lowball offer. If he took it I could easily take care of the work myself for way less and flip the car for a profit.

Turns out he wasn’t so keen on my offer and, in hindsight, my wallet is probably happier as well. In any case, though, I learned that the 323 was a really sturdy car and, for a BMW at least, not terribly expensive to own. If another one comes to my attention I will have to give it serious consideration.

About the Car

With the elimination of the 318 from BMW’s 3-series line, the 323i became the entry level sedan for the U.S. market. While its 2.5 liter straight-6 engine was an upgrade from the 318′s inline-4, it still only made 168 horsepower. It was a reliable motor, however, and many examples are still ticking with over 150,000 miles on the clock.

In terms of cost-of-ownership, the 323i was the best value of the 3-series line as well. Leather, power seats, powerful stereos and the like were all options, keeping the initial purchase price was comparatively low. Some wear items were also less expensive as well. The wheels, for instance, were 15-inch alloys, meaning tire options are plentiful and inexpensive.

In 2001, after only a couple of years, BMW replaced the 323 with the 325, which sported a more powerful engine and the option to add the company’s new XDrive all wheel drive system. Since the cars with the more powerful motors are more desirable, the 323i can frequently be found for very wallet-friendly prices these days.

Other Resources

E46 Fanatics (enthusiast community for this generation 3 Series)
Wikipedia: BMW 3 Series (to be taken with a grain of salt, of course)
Cars.com Expert Review

Some photos in this article were freely sourced from Google. If you take issue with usage of any image, please contact me and I will remove it.