Roadsters are an oddity in the market.
In 2021, if you want a muscle car there are only maybe
four options in the market — and you need about the same money to get into any of them. Hot hatchbacks? Three. Off-road SUVs? Three, maybe four. Two-door sport compacts? Two. Rally-inspired sports sedans? One.
This is all to say, there isn’t much focus put on enthusiast or sports cars by most manufacturers — who make the vast majority of their money on pickup trucks and crossover SUVs. Most “sporty” vehicles now come under the pretense of a sedan or SUV or even a pickup as a result.
However, the most driver-focused sports cars? The two-seater, no-roof, summer-only roadsters? Those have not only endured within the market but are so plentiful to choose from that there’s an option to fit just about any budget you’re working with.
Of course, if you have the means to spend over $200,000 your options are even more plentiful. Ferraris, Lamborghinis, McLarens and even more exotic and niche nameplates present almost endless options.
But thanks to the enduring appeal of the roadster, an open-roof two-seat driving experience is not exclusively available to the super wealthy. And of course, there is one thing no Ferrari or Lamborghini or McLaren roadster currently offers — something that strikes at the heart of the driving experience and the overall appeal of a roadster; a manual transmission.
The Mazda MX-5 is to roadsters what Nirvana was to rock music — a simple, back-to-basics approach that emphasized emotion over gimmicks or glamour, and essentially saved the whole genre in the process. Thankfully, the MX-5 recipe hasn’t changed much since the 1990s. Light weight, superior chassis tuning and rear-wheel drive still define the joys of the MX-5 experience.
In 2021, the MX-5 is offered with a 2.0-litre Skyactiv four-cylinder engine, producing 181 horsepower and mated to a 6-speed manual transmission.
Audi TT Roadster
With the absence of a Nissan Z roadster for 2021, there is a substantial gap in the market between the MX-5 and the Audi TT Roadster.
More disappointing is that the convertible TT is only available with the 228-horsepower turbo-four. You’ll need to go for the hardtop to enjoy more powerful engine choices. On the plus side, Nappa leather and a Bang & Olufsen sound system are now standard inclusions.
BMW Z4 Roadster
Otherwise known as the “soft top Supra”. Of course, it’s hard to see how that’s a bad thing. While the steering and chassis may not be as finely tuned as the Supra, the cars’ real party piece, the B58 twin-scroll turbocharged six-cylinder engine, producing 382-horsepower is an available option.
Unfortunately, just like the Supra, no manual option is available on the Z4. Luckily the 8-speed automatic is pretty good at rocketing you to 100 km/h in under 4.5 seconds.
Porsche 718 Boxster
Outside of the MX-5, perhaps no other roadster has caught as much unfair flack as the Porsche Boxster, now known as the 718 Boxster.
Call it a “poor man’s Porsche” if you want to, but the 911 is not a true roadster like 718, and you’d have to have the whitest of collars and most upturned of noses to notice much of a difference in terms of interior quality.
Like its hardtop Cayman brother, you can spec the Boxster all the way up to the very spicy 394-horsepower GTS version and of course it’s still available with a 6-speed manual transmission as standard.
Jaguar F-Type Convertible
The only thing that’s really changed about the F-Type since its debut is that it’s now only available with V8 options. Good.
You can also have an all-wheel drive version if you want, but… come on. Owning an AWD F-Type is like owning a shotgun that uses teddy bears as ammunition. Rear-wheel drive is what you want.
The best thing about owning an F-Type is that you’ll never get bored of it. When you finally get tired of just staring at it, you get to actually drive it. And that means experiencing the F-Type’s supercharged 5.0-liter V-8, which makes between 444 and 575 horsepower depending on how you’ve spec’ed it.
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible
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2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible[/caption]
You can’t buy one of these. At least, not from a dealership and not any time soon. The new C8 Stingray Convertible is completely sold out. Which means if you do try to get your hands on one today, you’ll probably need to pay double the MSRP.
Sounds tempting for the 495-horsepower, mid-engine, open-top, hottest ‘Vette ever.
But you’re going to feel pretty silly having spent that kind of cash when the new Z06 variant comes along. If you want one, best to order yours right from the GM and wait your turn.
Porsche 718 Spyder
As mentioned, the 911 is not a true roadster. However, the 718 Boxster is only available with a maximum of 394 horsepower… So, what do you do if you want 911 performance, but absolutely no rear seats?
Porsche’s answer is the 718 Spyder — which is really just a 718 GT4 without a roof. That means you get the same 414-horsepower, 4.4 seconds to 100 km/h performance as the GT4, with about a million more miles of headroom.
Audi R8 Spyder
$181,000 sounds like a lot of money. And it is.
But don’t look at the R8 as a luxe Corvette or even 911. Look at it as a bargain Lamborghini Huracan. Because that’s exactly what it is. Both the R8 and Huracan share the same chassis and same engine. However, the R8 V10 Plus is actually more powerful than the Lamborghini, making 610 hp from the very same 5.2-litre V10.
Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster
You will not make a lot of friends owning an AMG GT Roadster.
You will look like a cross between a Bond villain and a successful plastic surgeon.
However, you will not care when you bury your foot into the throttle and hear the bellow of the twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 (which this year has received a 54 horsepower increase in power) clear as day thanks to the open roof.
Also, the interior, with the exception of the bulbus infotainment screen, could easily be called one of the most beautiful and striking interiors currently available on any car.