Sport Cars

The rise of roof boxes: functionality meets style in the automotive world

The roof box, also known as a cargo carrier, has experienced a triumph in recent years. Once reserved for SUV-driving vacationers, it has become an integral part of the equipment of many automobile enthusiasts. I have never seen so many boxes mounted on super sedans, sports cars and even exotics. The roof box manufacturers must be satisfied with their new customer base. But every time I see one on the roof of a special car, I wonder… Is it just a cosmetic accessory or is there an actual need for it? What the hell do you even have in there?

No doubt some drivers have installed a roof box just for the coolness factor and have no real use for the thing. Similar to the guy who outfits his Toyota 4Runner complete with gas cans and a roof rack-mounted shovel so he never ventures off-road. However, I have to admit that there is something strangely appealing about the contrast between a commodity like a roof box and a sports/exotic car. The first time I observed this fascinating mix was almost a decade ago, when Jon Olsson, professional freeskier and social media personality, attached one to his snow camouflage-colored 800 horsepower Lamborghini Huracan. He has also used roof boxes on his Gallardo, Audi R8 and his RS6. But for Mr Olsson, his roof boxes not only look stylish, they are also functional, meaning he can easily transport his equipment into the mountains.

Despite my ironic comment about what is stored in these boxes, in many cases they do have a purpose. Whether you’re transporting sports equipment or simply need extra storage space while traveling, the roof box is a welcome addition. What interests me is the types of vehicles they are now found on. I believe that a change in mentality among many car enthusiasts has contributed to the current popularity of roof boxes. More and more owners are getting out and enjoying their specialty cars in all environments and weather conditions. Don’t get me wrong, there are still owners who clean their cars with a diaper and only drive them on the best of days. However, many people are now taking the opposite approach and driving their cars as often as possible and proudly racking up the kilometers.

Does anyone remember Porsche’s media campaign around ten years ago with the slogan “Porsche Everyday”? Several Porsche models were presented in a television advertisement and suggested that they could be used in all sorts of situations in everyday life. No, I don’t mean the Cayenne, Macan or Panamera. The commercial showed a yellow Porsche 911 Turbo picking up the kids from school, complete with the cheeky caption “SCHOOL BUS.” The same ad also suggested that a Cayman could be used similarly to a pickup truck. It shows it parked in a hardware store while a man loads materials into the front trunk. This clever marketing strategy aimed to convince potential buyers that what was once considered an impractical second or third car could actually be the only car you actually need and that you can enjoy these incredible machines on a daily basis.

Many people (example: me) have tried to convince their significant other that a new sports car could do everything their neighbor’s Subaru Outback can do. But in reality, storage space isn’t high on the priority list of those who design our favorite cars. If you intend to transport something essential, this will probably be a challenge in your dream car, especially if it is an Italian two-seater or equivalent model.

This is where the roof box can provide the much-needed benefit. They are available in a variety of sizes and configurations. Boxes marketed as “Alpine” models indicate that they are primarily designed to carry skis and/or snowboards. They usually have a lower profile and the most elegant design (they look amazing, by the way). Alpine models are not as practical as the “general purpose” boxes, which are usually taller and wider. There are several well-known and trusted manufacturers (Thule, Yakima, INNO) and many lesser-known brands on the market. The boxes cost between several hundred euros and 1,630 euros for the high-end Thule Vector M box, which has a streamlined design and is equipped with a felt-lined base and LED interior lighting.

For those who demand the best in technology and materials and want to put them in the best possible position to outdo their roof box friends, ASPHALTKIND is best suited. ASPHALTKIND is a German manufacturer that has developed a range of roof boxes that are just as beautiful as the cars they were designed for. Nils Freyberg, founder and managing director of ASPHALTKIND, says his goal was to develop the perfect roof box. Their boxes are made from either carbon fiber or harvested fiber, a newer CO2-reduced, naturally derived material (think brown carbon fiber). Nils states that the boxes are extremely light and stable and also have electric locking systems. ASPHALTKIND boxes start at 8490 euros and can be found at

Some OEM manufacturers such as Audi and Porsche also offer their own branded boxes and roof transport systems (roof racks). Porsche recently introduced a high-performance roof box that has been tested at speeds of up to 200 km/h. The OEM roof racks (that the boxes attach to) are often a safe choice if they are available for your specific vehicle. They are designed to fit the roofline of the car, as opposed to a generic rack that fits a range of different vehicles. For example, using a generic roof rack system on a car like the Porsche 911 with a sloping roof often results in the box being mounted significantly higher at the front than at the rear. This affects aerodynamics, increases wind noise and is unsightly. Non-OEM racks will work for some vehicles/scenarios, but this must be taken into account when configuring a roof cargo system.

Like everything in the automotive world, roof boxes are customized. While researching this story, I came across several users on social media who had lowered the rails on their roof racks so that the roof box would sit closer to the top of the vehicle. Just as lowering a car gives it a more purposeful and appealing appearance, lowering the roof box can also contribute to the overall aesthetic. Another notable modification is adding a roof box to a car that was never intended to carry a roof box. Roni Collin, a well-known Finnish car enthusiast and social media creator, has developed a quick-release mounting system to attach his Thule XT Motion roof box to his Porsche 992 GT3 RS. According to Roni, installing a rack on the new GT3 RS is a challenge as a traditional rack cannot be used due to the light, thin roof. His suction carrier mounts the box further back to create space. Roni intends to make a small batch of these mounts for purchase. He can be found on Instagram @ronicollin.

Roof boxes are a real game-changer, allowing drivers to use their cars in ways that weren’t common a decade ago. I could definitely imagine a longer vacation, traveling around the country with everything I need safely stored in the box while climbing the mountain passes. A situation that combines the best of both worlds.

Next year we will be replacing our family Toyota Highlander, which has served us well but is now showing its age. I think a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S with a roof box would be a fantastic replacement. I will definitely have the box assembled before I show my wife our new sports car SUV. I think I’ll get a utility box for the extra interior space in case I need to sleep in it for a few days once she gets used to the idea. Now that I think about it, maybe I should cross-shop rooftop tents too.

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