Top 10 Coolest Boutique Car Companies

Craig Cole
by Craig Cole

There are automakers and then there are automakers. There are the Chevrolets and Toyotas of the world that offer huge model ranges and sell thousands upon thousands of vehicles each year and then there are specialty boutique brands.

These companies may deliver just a handful of vehicles annually. Typically high-end or performance-focused, they tempt drivers with outrageous acceleration, sultry styling and the promise of exclusivity. Are you hip enough to handle all of that? Here are the top 10 coolest boutique automakers.

Let’s start with one that’s somewhat mainstream. Don’t get us wrong, Lotus cars hardly sell like the Honda Civic but they’re still better known than say, Mansory or Dartz. This English sports car builder has been delivering adrenaline for more than half a century.

Though often tumultuous, the brand’s history has helped shape its modern lineup. Cars like the Elise, Exige and Evora titillate enthusiasts with their single-minded focus on driving pleasure. Any car nut, or snob for that matter, would be proud to own a Lotus.

Despite a relatively wide range of offerings the company’s global sales are still miniscule, which clearly makes them a boutique brand.

Noble is also a British boutique brand and their hand-built M600 delivers a supercar driving experience. This low-slung two-door is powered by a 4.4-liter Yamaha V8 that’s bolstered by twin turbochargers. As a result it puts out a staggering 650 brake horsepower and 604 lb-ft of torque. Satisfying purists, the engine is bolted to a proper six-speed manual transmission.

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All of those mechanical goodies are mounted in a tubular spaceframe with a stainless steel tub. Minimizing excess mass, the body is constructed of lightweight carbon-fiber composite.

Sweden’s automotive industry is known for a few things. One: safety. Volvo was a pioneer in this area from the beginning, pushing to make cars better for passengers when the unthinkable happens. Two: bankruptcy. Saab used to be a quirky alternative to other premium offerings from firms like Audi or Acura but arguably GM drove this brand into a ditch and then it unceremoniously faded away. Three: strangeness. Swedish cars were often very different from competing vehicles, with interesting design elements and unusual features.

Bucking these trends is Koenigsegg. It was founded in 1994 by a man that wanted his own supercar company. Since then the brand has introduced a number of outstanding vehicles and shattered numerous records along the way, and they’ve done it with style. Offerings like the One:1 promise “megacar” performance. It comes with a carbon-fiber chassis, turbocharged 5.0-liter V8 engine and the ability to accelerate from zero to 400 km/h (nearly 250 MPH) in roughly 20 seconds. It’s crazy in the best way possible.

Like Koenigsegg, Pagani builds some totally crazy cars. This exotic Italian brand knows how to wow patrons with performance and over-the-top style.

The Huayra, for instance, features a twin-turbo V12 sourced from Mercedes-Benz AMG. Displacing 6.0 liters it puts out 730 hp and about 738 lb-ft of torque. But perhaps best of all this enormous performance is wrapped in a sexy body with gullwing doors.

And then there’s the Zonda line, which encompasses numerous models from the C12 to the Tricolore to the Revolucion. Like the Huayra these cars feature AMG power and heart-stopping performance.

Wiesmann is a German firm that builds curvaceous, classically styled sports cars. Unlike vehicles from Koenigsegg or Pagani their machines are more fluid looking and feminine in appearance.

But don’t let their graceful curves fool you, they know how to run. For instance the Roadster MF5 features a twin-turbocharged V8 engine. It’s powerful enough to provide a zero to 62 mile an hour time of just 3.9 seconds. Talk about wind in your hair!

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High-performance cross-drilled brakes, a double-wishbone suspension arrangement and much more are grafted to an aluminum monocoque structure for light weight and structural rigidity. The firm also makes several hard-top models. To date Wiesmann has built more than 1,500 handcrafted and totally awesome vehicles.

So far we’ve covered a number of significant boutique manufacturers, but they’ve all been Euro-centric, hailing from the UK, Italy or Germany. Where does America factor into all of this? Well fear not my fellow patriots; SSC is here to save the day.

Founded in 1999 in Washington State this company builds cars that are every bit as appealing as the ones mentioned above. For instance the brand’s Ultimate Aero can hit 60 miles an hour in a blistering 2.78 seconds and eclipse the quarter mile in less than 10. Top speed is estimated at 273 miles an hour.

A billet aluminum-block V8 provides the thrust, 1,287 ponies and 1,112 lb-ft of torque to be precise. Further enhancing performance the car weighs just 2,750 pounds and is constructed of a carbon fiber, composites and good old steel. And if you can believe it, SSC’s Tuatara promises to be even more powerful and faster!

Without question Morgan is one of the coolest boutique brands out there. This British company has been around for more than 100 years and they still build performance cars with wooden structures. Timber, in the 21st century! If you can believe it, the Aero Supersports features a structure partially comprised of ash wood.

Much like Wiesmann products, Morgan cars tend to have curvaceous, classical styling, which sets them apart from the crowd. But aside from this the company is also famous for building three-wheeled vehicles; they’re sort of a cross between a motorcycle and a tiny car. They’re super light, extremely engaging and totally cool. This is reason enough to love Morgan.

Bringing a bit of Dutch flair to this list is Spyker.

Founded in 1880 by a pair of brotherly blacksmiths, the company got in business maintaining and constructing horse-drawn carriages. In 1898 they made their first car; then a few years later they built the “Golden State Coach” for Dutch royalty. Eventually the company got involved in motorsports and competed in the 15,000 kilometer Peking to Paris race, finishing in second place. During the First World War they built aircraft and engines; after the conflict they went back to cars. Then in 1925 they shut down… but not for good.

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Spyker was reintroduced in the year 2000, taking a bow with their oh-so-cool C8 Spyder model. Today, the C8 Aileron is a car to lust after. Bespoke craftsmanship, unique design features and a 4.2-liter Audi V8 seal the deal, though with heritage like this it’s hard to not want one.

Do you want to feel the road? Like every single crack in the asphalt, pebble on the street and ripple in the concrete? Get a KTM X-Bow; they’re like open-wheel racecars you can enjoy every day.

These wild looking cars are every bit as fast as they appear. Take the X-Bow GT model for instance. It’s powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 281 hp and 309 lb-ft of torque. It’s matched to a six-speed manual transmission that sends all that to the rear wheels. Now that’s not crazy power but consider this; the car weighs less than 1,900 pounds. Nuff’ said.

What’s not to love about a road-going vehicle with more than 1,000 hp? Other than the fuel bill and exorbitant maintenance costs it’s pure automotive nirvana. Bugatti is the boutique brand that brought us the Veyron, an ultracar with a quad-turbocharged 16-cylinder engine and a top speed in excess of 250 miles an hour. Yeah, it’s safe to say this company is cool, heck, it’s arguably the crown jewel of the Volkswagen Group and because of products like this (and many others over the past century) it was practically guaranteed a spot on this Top 10 list.

Discuss this story on our luxury-lifestyle forum.

Craig Cole
Craig Cole

Born and raised in metro Detroit, Craig was steeped in mechanics from childhood. He feels as much at home with a wrench or welding gun in his hand as he does behind the wheel or in front of a camera. Putting his Bachelor's Degree in Journalism to good use, he's always pumping out videos, reviews, and features for AutoGuide.com. When the workday is over, he can be found out driving his fully restored 1936 Ford V8 sedan. Craig has covered the automotive industry full time for more than 10 years and is a member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).

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  • Smartacus Smartacus on Jun 21, 2014

    Why Bugatti and Wiesmann (bankrupt) and not Ariel and Caterham ?

    • Smartacus Smartacus on Jun 21, 2014

      i'm not saying i don't absolutely like Wiesmann. In fact; i saw this one with Saudi Arabian plates at the Daytona Beach Checkpoint of the Gumball 3000 just a couple of weeks ago:

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