A Well-Balanced Sports Machine with that Familiar Mugen Touch
To Honda Enthusiasts Worldwide, The Name Mugen Stands For Racing And Tuning Excellence. More than 30 years ago, the company started tinkering with Honda's dirt bikes, converting them from excellent off-road machines into high-horsepower monsters.
Mugen soon found its way into cars and motorsports, ultimately competing on the grandest stage of all: Formula One. Mugen-powered cars have taken the checkered flag in F1, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and many other world-famous races. The company also specializes in tuning Honda road cars, making its engineering expertise available to Honda enthusiasts worldwide.
Unfortunately, the last few years have not been kind. Embroiled in a public financial scandal, Mugen lost much of its mojo and was on the brink of shutting down. Now there's a new company, M-TEC, with the right to use the Mugen name, which is based in the same site and employs the same workforce. And its latest creation is the Mugen S2000.
Despite all the legal wranglings, the basic tuning philosophy of improving Honda cars in every way to achieve their highest potential has remained. Therefore, you'll rarely find any Mugen-tuned car with ungodly amounts of power or unsightly body kits. What you get is a well-balanced, subtly aggressive sports car that's rewarding to drive and will keep pace with rides costing thousands more. This new S2000 is no different.
Since last fall, JDM Honda S2000s have been powered by the 2.2-liter F22C engine. Mugen engineers didn't tamper too much with the 242bhp engine itself. They just tuned it slightly and bolted on a new exhaust manifold that's about nine pounds lighter, with much less flow restriction. The new design is claimed to result in a boost of around 5-horsepower. Coupled to this is a new sports exhaust that gives a mean-yet-melodic growl, especially under load.
Opening the hood reveals a huge carbon fiber air intake that improves breathing and adds to the F22C's unique sound. You can hear the difference as soon as you punch the 'Engine Start' button. The in-line four wails its spine-tingling song, begging you to throw the shifter into first gear and floor the accelerator (Mugen wisely left the S2000's wonderful gearbox alone). Once the rear tires gain traction, the car demonstrates low- and mid-range punch that's frustratingly absent in the standard version, snapping your head back during first-to-second and second-to-third gear shifts.
While the Mugen S2000 is an absolute delight to drive, it isn't much to look at. A new lightweight carbon-fiber vented hood makes it immediately distinguishable from the stock car, but it does little to improve the styling. Some might even say it looks worse. At least the rear wing is attractive.
A custom Mugen hardtop and front bumper are also available, giving the car a racier appearance (sadly, they were not fitted to our test car). We did like the gun-metal colored GP 17-inch aluminum wheels and the two-tone bucket seats which are surprisingly comfortable and very supportive.
The Mugen S2000 is a testament to the company's high level of engineering. After a day of driving, it's safe to say Mugen is back on the sports car tuning map. Long may the legend continue.