The nimble two-seat roadster used to be a purely British endeavor. That is, until the rest of the world caught on to how fantastic cars with terrier-like enthusiasm and infinite headroom can be. Despite fuel crises and impracticality, the trend is growing: sending power from a lively engine bolted up front to a set of rear wheels tucked neatly behind a driver who can choose, on the fly, whether or not he wants a roof. Now everyone from Germany to Japan has started focusing on this performance-oriented architecture.
Britain still lays claim to one of the best with the F-Type, which has been applauded since it broke cover. But the F-Type still remains out of reach for the everyman. Japan’s best stab at the roadster is undoubtedly the MX-5, and the new one is shaping up to be spectacular — a working-class hero that can keep up with the best of them on a short and twisty track. Both are classics in their own right; yet they find themselves at opposite ends of the price spectrum.
2015 Jaguar F-Type V8 S
The F-Type is the newest member in a long line of iconic two-seater Jags and the successor to the legendary E-Type, a car that Enzo Ferrari deemed the most beautiful car in the world. (And he wasn’t one to often applaud the competition.) Since the F-Type’s introduction, it’s converted rubber into smoke, hairpins into hole-shot practice and drivers into fanboys. The V8 S’s 495-hp 5.0-liter V8 is one of the sweetest sounding engines ever; even though the tin-top R boasts more horsepower, the rag-top V8 S leaves even less between you and the engine’s operatic performance. Especially when you’re climbing the revs to reach 60 mph in less than four seconds. When gifted with a clear sky and an even clearer road, the only place you’ll want to be is the F-Type’s driver seat, wrapped in a collection of beautifully sculpted aluminum worthy of an E- Type successor, and with an entire atmosphere worth of headroom. You’ll also have to be gifted with near $100k to buy it. But there are much better ways to get your open top-top kicks without selling one of your kidneys. (Tempting as that may be.)
2016 Mazda MX-5
For 25 years the MX-5 has shown bigger, more powerful cars the way home on the track. The mini Mazda was never tall on power; its defining attributes lay with its lighter weight and low center of gravity, keys to any nimble road racer. Since the 2016 MX-5 will likely hover around 150 hp, its most important feature is actually a weight loss of 200 pounds over its predecessor (which goes for about $25k). Mazda’s collaboration with Alfa Romeo translates into a design that would easily be mistaken as the brainchild of Bertone or Pininfarina. Hold off on getting an MX-5 until spring when the 2016 model hits the road, and you’ll have one of the best-handling and best-looking roadsters to hit the tarmac — probably for about a quarter of the price of the F-Type. Here’s to another 25 years.