Friday, 9 October 2009

Honda's dead-end sportsters

I noticed that during the summer there was coverage of the Honda S2000’s demise after 10 years of production.

I tried one at the Chobham test track a year or so ago; if any car ever came within a sliver of greatness this was it; lovely low scuttle, sublime great change and that paradigm of an engine red-lined at 9000rpm.

But at the same time you couldn’t help noticing the dated interior design, with mid 90’s UJM switchgear, a non-adjustable steering wheel and marginal cockpit room.

I found myself wondering why Honda hadn’t developed the car from launch, beyond a little fiddling with the suspension settings and a long-stroke motor for the ‘Merkins.

But this isn’t unusual for Honda, their history is littered with sportsters that were allowed to wither on the vine bereft of investment, before being quietly escorted from the premises without so much as a ‘Thanks for the memories”.

Looking at the sportsters, there’s clearly little in the way of product strategy, or even a consensus underpinining the nature of the sporty side of the range – odd in a company very like Ferrari or Porsche, created by a charismatic enthusiast for all things fast and fun.

You’ve got front engined sportsers with and without hard tops, front wheel drive two seaters, middies with either 600cc or 3000cc, coupes and roadsters, all sorely lacking a place in any long term view.

Its not as if Honda don’t know how to do it; the motorcycle division’s Fireblade has now run in 7 generations for 17 years, each one true to the light/manoeuvrable philosophy, yet each an improvement on the predecessor.

The Civic is another example; now in its 8th iteration in 35 years.

There was some mutterings about a ‘new’ NSX last year, but the concept hawked around the shows turned out to be a front engined behemoth, powered by a V10 engine, as far way from the jewel like original as it was possible to get.

Such a lost opportunity.


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