This is certainly a question that has boggled the minds of autogeeks for ages. While both sports car and a roadster sound synonymous, there are several differences between the two. The major difference being, ‘Every Roadster is Potentially a Sports Car but not Every Sports Car is a Roadster’. Yes, we know this sounds complicated but that’s the best one line explanation that exists. For the readers who want to dive in the details, we have compiled a short list of attributes and features that help distinguish between the two and smash all myths and perceptions.
When we said that not every Sports Car is a Roadster, we meant the difference in the number of seats they have. Roadsters are usually designed with keeping a 2 seat layout that includes the driver and the shotgun seat. This is done in order to keep their engine performance higher by shedding excess weight. The Sports Car can be either a roadster and can have the 2 seat layout, but several sports cars are also made in coupe models with 2+2 seating in the front and rear. This makes sports coupes a great choice for small (filthy rich) families due to the additional seating space.
There is a major difference between the engine output of sports cars and roadsters. Both the vehicles were synonymous before faster cars with larger engines started appearing, creating a major divide. Roadsters are generally street legal high performance vehicles, that are built to provide enhanced driving pleasure rather than speed. Roadsters such as the Mazda MX 5 are generally faster than most of the passenger cars on the street. But it can never outrun a sports car such as a Ferrari 458’s and its V8 powertrain. Hence, if you want to cruise around looking like a king in your city, Roadsters should be your pick. But if you have the need for speed and high-octane adrenaline, only a Sports Car can quench your thirst for velocity.
Talking about practicality in Roadsters and Sports Cars, well there is none. Both vehicles types are known for their premium price tags and poor fuel economy making them quite inaccessible for a majority of buyers. Roadsters however, do offer some viability as they are easier to drive on a daily basis as compared to Sports Cars and their comparatively smaller engines can also provide some mileage. Their body dimensions are often based on production vehicles (e.g. Mercedes SLK Class) that make them quite maneuverable in traffic. Sports cars on the other hand are usually built for racing competitions and can be totally impractical in city driving. You certainly cannot dream of going shopping amidst the dreaded Manila traffic, while driving in a Lamborghini Huracan.
After we have discussed the finer details that are different in sports cars and roadsters, let us talk about their looks. A roadster is a high performance, open-top/convertible car with a 2 seat layout. Every roadster you see will be a convertible and will have two seats. But when we say sports cars, it is a much wider term that often includes high performance roadster models that have been approved for use in professional motorsports (e.g 1961 Chenowth Racing Special). Therefore, sports cars can be available in both hardtop and convertible models.
As both vehicles are related to each other, it often becomes extremely difficult for the average motorist to distinguish one from the other. A hardcore vehicle enthusiast would certainly know the above facts. But since we’re not all Henry Ford or Soichiro Honda here, the above list is the simplest way how one could differentiate between a sports car and a roadster.