The S2000 was introduced in 1999 for the 2000 model year and was given the chassis designation of AP1. It featured a front mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout with power being delivered by a 1,997 cc (122 cu in) F20C inline 4-cylinder DOHC-VTEC engine producing from 240 hp (179 kW) to 250 PS (184 kW), and from 153 lbf·ft (207 N·m) to 22.2 kg·m (218 N·m) of torque depending on the target market. The engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission and Torsen limited slip differential. The S2000 achieved what Honda claimed as the "top level performance in the world" for a 2-liter naturally aspirated engine.
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2004 AP2 and 2000 AP1 model S2000s from above—the AP1 has OEM front lip, side strakes, and rear spoiler.
Features include independent double wishbone suspension, electrically assisted steering and integrated roll hoops. 16 in (41 cm) wheels with Bridgestone Potenza S-02 tires were standard equipment. The compact and lightweight engine, mounted entirely behind the front axle, allows the S2000 to obtain a 50:50 front/rear weight distribution and lower rotational inertia. An electrically powered vinyl top with internal cloth lining was standard. Honda made available an aluminum hardtop for additional cost.
The 2001 model was largely unchanged, but Honda upgraded the radio and added a digital clock to the dashboard display on most, but not all 2001 models. For the 2002 model year, suspension settings were revised and the plastic rear window was replaced by a glass unit incorporating an electric defroster. Other updates included slightly revised tail lamps, an upgraded radio, and a revised engine control unit.
The AP1 was manufactured up to 2003 at Honda's Takanezawa plant, alongside the Honda NSX and Honda Insight hybrid. In 2004 production moved to the Suzuka plant.