The Ten Best 2014 Roadsters
After the incredibly harsh winter of 2013, the prospect of sunny days is looking very enticing indeed. Of course, when you have cars on the brain the way we do, long days filled with sunshine practically beg for a delightfully fast, agile, and exceptionally good looking two seater.
And, truthfully, you really don’t have to be much of a hedonist to appreciate the appeal. Who among us can resist the idea of rushing along a meandering road with beautiful countryside flowing past on either side—regardless of your ride?
It’s even better in a wonderfully responsive car—out on the open road—with the wind rushing through your hair (or around your head if you’re bald, we don’t discriminate). If your imagination is a bit constipated when it comes to dreaming up a suitable mount, we hereby offer these ten to get your juices flowing.
If you feel we left something out; and you now have the impression we’re a bunch of fire-breathing idiots; hey, that’s what the comments section is for.
Feel free to chime in so we can ridicule your choices too.
The Ten Best 2014 Roadsters: Audi R8 Spyder
Audi’s mid-engine supercar became an instant favorite the moment it was unleashed upon the streets back in 2006. Blessed with great looks, superior comfort, and a wonderfully down to earth driving experience, piloting an R8 is like meeting a supermodel you’ve lusted after for years and finding out you have practically everything in common.
Seriously, it’s like that.
Offered with a choice of either a 430-horsepower, 4.2-liter V8 capable of generating 317 ft-lbs of torque, or a 5.2-liter V10 generating 525 horsepower and 391 ft-lbs of torque; the Audi R8 Spyder has more than adequate performance to go along with it’s sleekly sophisticated good looks. If neither of those powerplants will do it for you, Audi also offers the R8 V10 Plus. With a zero to 60 of just under 3.5 seconds, the R8 V10 Plus boasts 550 horsepower and 398 ft-lbs of torque.
The all wheel drive powertrain can be fitted with the buyer’s choice of a six-speed manual transmission, or a seven-speed double clutch automated manual gearbox.
With all of those choices on offer, the Audi R8 Spyder of your dreams has to be somewhere in there.
Pricing starts at $128,400.
The Ten Best 2014 Roadsters: BMW Z4
The only two-seat convertible in BMW’s current lineup, you’d expect the Z4 to be an exceptionally good driving machine, and it doesn’t disappoint. Further, it’s one of only three cars on this list offering the security and convenience of a folding hardtop. This makes it both a delightful roadster for gloriously sunny days, and a closed coupe for when Ol’ Sol is isn’t cooperating the way you wish it would.
BMW offers the Z4 with a choice of two engines; the Z4 sDrive28i is equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine employing variable valve timing and direct fuel injection to produce 240 horsepower and 260 ft-lbs of torque. The Z4 sDrive35i gets a 300-horsepower turbocharged inline six, capable of producing 300 ft-lbs of torque. If neither of those sets your adrenal gland into operation, take a look at the Z4 sDrive35is. For this one, BMW coaxes another 35 horsepower and 32 ft-lbs of torque out of the turbo six for a total of 335 horses and 332 ft/lbs.
But wait, it gets even better, give the sDrive35is full throttle and you’ll force it into overboost, which makes it produce 369 ft-lbs of torque. The 28 and the standard 35 get a choice of either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automated manual. If you go with the 35is, you’ll get the seven-speed.
This little two-seater will plaster a smile all over your face.
Pricing starts at $48,950.
The Ten Best 2014 Roadsters: Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible
Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, and horsepower for horsepower, 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray really is the best deal going in a two-seat, V8-powered sports car. A world class sports car, capable of holding its own with anything out there, this is also the Corvette we’ve all known GM was capable of delivering for quite some time.
Gorgeously sculpted, beautifully outfitted, and wickedly fast, this is the best Corvette ever made—bar none. More refined than any ever before it, yet giving up absolutely none of the outstanding roadholding, brutal acceleration, or head turning style we’ve come to expect from America’s only sports car, the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is— all on its own—reason enough to thank the president for stepping in and saving General Motors.
Power flows to the rear wheels courtesy of a 6.2-liter V8 capable of churning out 455 horsepower and 460 ft-lbs of torque. Go with the optional dual-mode exhaust system and you’ll enjoy 460 horsepower and 465 ft-lbs of torque. The seven-speed manual transmission automatically matches revs on both upshifts and downshifts. A six-speed automatic with paddle shifters is available as well.
Kitted out with all of the latest engine efficiency technologies—direct fuel injection, variable valve timing, and cylinder deactivation—this Corvette makes extraordinary power, and yet delivers an EPA-estimated 21 miles per gallon overall.
Pricing starts at an amazing $56,000.
The Ten Best 2014 Roadsters: Jaguar F-Type Roadster
One of the most desirable new cars of 2014, the Jaguar F-Type is outrageously fast, handles beautifully, features a gorgeously upholstered interior treatment, and is singularly beautiful besides.
The first small roadster in Jaguar’s recent history, and the first true two-seat roadster the marque has offered since the legendary Jaguar E-Type, the F-Type left the Jaguar factory destined to become a classic automobile. What’s more, as good as it looks in pictures, it looks even better in person. This is a car at which you’ll sit out in your garage and stare in silent awe.
Seriously, it’s that good-looking.
Power comes from a choice of three engines, well technically two—as you’ll see in a moment. The base model is powered by a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 with 340 horsepower and 332 ft-lbs of torque. Perfectly adequate for delivering a thrilling driving experience, it’s just the beginning. Jaguar also offers a more than adequate 380-horsepower version of that same engine, with 339 ft-lbs of torque.
Of course there are some among us for whom even more than adequate simply is not enough. If you’re numbered among those people, you’ll want to look into the 5.0-liter supercharged V8. Delivering an absolutely scalding 495 horsepower and 460 ft-lbs of torque, that one will definitely git your party funkin’ right. An eight-speed automatic transmission routes power to the rear wheels regardless of the engine choice.
Pricing starts at $69,000.
The Ten Best 2014 Roadsters: Mazda MX-5 Miata
Speaking of instant classics, the Mazda MX-5 Miata holds the distinction of being the best-selling two-seat sports car ever built. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the Miata has been a sensation ever since it was introduced back in 1989.
Without question, the little Mazda is living proof it’s just as much fun to drive a slow car fast as it is to drive a fast car faster. Offered with a choice of a soft-top convertible roof or a folding folding hardtop, the Miata is as versatile as it is desirable.
Power for the delightful little roadster comes from a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine delivering 167 horsepower and 140 ft-lbs of torque. The rear drive roadster can be fitted with the buyer’s choice of a six-speed manual, or a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters mounted behind the steering wheel.
Be apprised though, if you go with the automatic you’ll give up nine horsepower. (Go ahead, do the math. We’ll wait…got it yet? OK, now we’ll continue). A consistent entry on everybody’s list of 10 best cars ever since its introduction, it really is hard to go wrong with a Miata.
Fun to drive, good looking, and nicely equipped, you’ll never be sorry you made the choice.
Pricing starts at $23,720.
The Ten Best 2014 Roadsters: Mercedes-Benz SL550
While the contemporary SL is far from one of the most beautiful ever offered, it does everything else so well, it rated inclusion on this list just the same—although it barely edged out its less expensive SLK stablemate. Setting the SL apart from every other car on this list is the way it delivers a perfectly well-rounded set of attributes.
The SL is just as luxurious as it is fast, just as agile as it is comfortable, and despite its controversial styling, makes just as impressive a statement as it delivers cutting edge comfort, convenience, and safety technologies. Take something as simple as the windshield wiper blades for example.
The SL’s incorporate laser-cut passages to facilitate the distribution of wiper fluid directly in front of them, rather than spraying the fluid wholesale onto the windscreen. This optimizes their cleaning ability, and ensures the Mercedes’ occupants don’t get sprayed with wiper fluid when the top is retracted. Speaking of the top, the translucent folding hardtop can be darkened at the touch of a button to reduce the amount of sunlight admitted into the cabin.
Power comes from a twin-turbocharged 4.6-liter V8, producing 429 horsepower and 516 ft-lbs of torque (yeah, you read that right, five hundred sixteen). A seven-speed automatic transmission with a paddle operated manual shift function routes power to the rear wheels.
Pricing starts at $106,700.
The Ten Best 2014 Roadsters: Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT Roadster
As raucous as the SL550 is civilized, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT Roadster is essentially what happens when you turn one of the most talented engineering teams in the world loose and let them build what they’d want to drive for themselves. Possessing one of the wildest engine notes we’ve ever heard from a Mercedes-Benz model, the SLS AMG sounds like the result of crossing a NASCAR V8 with a Formula 1 V10.
You get the guttural bellow of the NASCAR engine with the high-revving sophistication of the Formula 1 powerplant. It’s a sound you’ll never forget, nor will anyone you ever drive past at full throttle. The handcrafted engine makes 583 horsepower and 479 ft-lbs of torque. A carbon polymer driveshaft links the engine to a rear-mounted seven-speed sequential manual gearbox. Acceleration to 60 for the rear-drive aluminum space framed roadster is quoted at 3.6 seconds.
Keep in mind though, this is a product of Mercedes-Benz, the company with the dictum no one aspect of its cars should outweigh any other. This means as powerful and fast as the SLS AMG GT Roadster is, it is commensurately agile, and luxurious. If you could have only one of the cars on this list before all of the Earth’s gasoline gets converted into hydrocarbons and released into the atmosphere, nobody would think ill of you if this were your choice.
Pricing starts at $208,000.
The Ten Best 2014 Roadsters: Nissan 370Z Roadster
Another remarkable bargain for the money, the Nissan 370Z Roadster offers good looks, strong performance, and arguably lower operating costs than many of the other models on this list. Yeah, we said it; cost does matter sometimes—even when we’re talking about perfectly impractical two-seat sports cars with convertible tops.
No, we haven’t forgotten this is assumed to be a list of cars you’re supposed to be able to fantasize about. So we ask; what’s better than a really attractive date you can actually afford to take somewhere nice?
Before you think we’re apologizing for including the Nissan, consider this; the Z offers a great deal of agility thanks to its front mid-engine/rear drive powertrain layout. The interior treatment is one of the nicest you’ll find in a car in this price category. Fold in a selection of the latest tech features and the Z starts to look pretty good in any company.
Power comes from a 332 horsepower V6 delivering 270 ft-lbs of torque. Transmission duties are handled by a choice of either a seven-speed automatic, or a six-speed manual with a rev-matching feature capable of making every driver sound like an expert.
Pricing starts at $41,470.
The Ten Best 2014 Roadsters: Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet
This is probably one of the few automotive situations in which you will ever find a Porsche bringing up the rear. The last two cars on our list hail from arguably the greatest sports car manufacturer in the history of automobiles. And, that manufacturers’ signature model is the Porsche 911.
Easily one of the most coveted sports cars ever known, the 911 is one of those cars about which is said every driving enthusiast should own at least one of before they get too old to drive quickly.
Here’s the truly amazing part, anyone who has ever studied physics would tell you the 911 should never handle as well as it does. With the engine hanging off the back of the car, cornering hard should be an exercise one engages in only after having said an appropriate number of Hail Marys and setting their personal affairs in order.
While Porsche’s engineering team moved the engine slightly forward for this iteration of the venerable model, it’s still positioned where no other manufacturer dares place a powerplant in a sports car. That it works so well is truly a testament to the power of its engineering.
It is also only one of the many and varied reasons driving a 911 fast is so satisfying.
Pricing starts at $96,200.
The Ten Best 2014 Roadsters: Porsche Boxster
OK, here’s the God’s honest truth; if Porsche’s engineering team were to ever endow a Boxster with the same amount of power routinely lavished upon the 911, the Boxster would run off and leave its storied sibling without so much as a second thought. The Boxster’s chassis set up is that good.
Beyond the handling though, the way the Boxster feels when it is moving is absolutely magical. It’s like the Porsche glides over the pavement. Yes, you feel impact inputs from surface irregularities, but they don’t upset the equilibrium of the car. The Boxster simply absorbs them, informs you of their existence, and continues unperturbed along your chosen path.
Power for the base Boxster model comes from a mid-mounted 2.7-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine capable of producing 265 horsepower and 206 ft-lbs of torque. The Boxster S uses a 315-horsepower 3.4-liter flat six, which makes 266 ft-lbs of torque. The action of the six-speed manual gearbox feels polished and well lubricated, yet the gates are crisply defined. Porsche also offers a faster-shifting seven-speed automated manual gearbox for the rear-drive roadster.
Racing along a twisting mountain road in a Porsche Boxster is an experience more akin to riding a magic carpet than driving a car. It tracks like a slot car and it’s so smooth, you’re tempted to get out and look to see if the car is really touching the ground.
Pricing starts at $51,400.