There is an old saying that goes, “Any car can be cheap, reliable, and fast. But you can only have two of these characteristics at once, not all three.” So we decided to toss out the word “cheap” and go with the latter of the two, because when someone wants to go off the beaten path and buy a unique car, it usually means a healthy bankroll needs to be in place before anything else.
If money is not going to be a significant factor in this cheat sheet, what is? Well, we are not including “tuner cars” in this sheet, so every car here either comes directly from a dealership via special order or is built to a driver’s specs via an options menu on a company’s website. There shall be no dropping off of Ferraris at custom tuning shops so that they may become 1,000-horsepower monsters.
Instead, we want to showcase seven very different vehicles that are a cut or two above their closest competitors. May it be upgraded handling, insane amounts of power, customizable off-road prowess, extravagant interior amenities, or truckloads of carbon fiber, these cars offer more than just a driving experience — they offer a lifestyle choice.
If money is merely a luxury instead of a necessity and petrol-powered purchases seem like a great way to set oneself apart from the pack, then look no further these sublime examples of modern motoring. After all, driving isn’t always about the journey: it is about the car itself. And arriving in style while making a bold statement about one’s purchasing prowess is sometimes the only way to go.
1. Ariel Nomad
We start off with the Ariel Nomad, which is more of a disgruntled dune buggy than a car. Equipped with an outboard, long-travel suspension, double wishbones, high rotation bushings, and an aluminum steering rack, Ariel calls the Nomad “half competition, half road car.” This rugged off-roader has tons of molded polyethylene (the stuff road cones are made from) on the outside and is available with carbon fiber covers in a range of colors for the front and rear of the vehicle.
For reliability and torque, Ariel went with the bullet-proof 2.4-liter iVTEC four-cylinder engine found in performance Hondas, and for mud-hugging, a wide array of custom wheel and tire combinations are available. Unique dampers, brakes, and competition parts abound, as well as floodlights, carriers, nudge bars, and winches. Starting at just over $45,000, this mean mud-slinger is made to order and is guaranteed to deliver the fun when tarmac begins to look a little mundane.
2. Noble M600
The Noble M600 is a hand-built British supercar and is primarily made out of stainless steel and carbon fiber; it’s powered by a twin-turbocharged Volvo V8 that can be adjusted from 450 to 650 horsepower at the turn of a knob. The Oerlikon Graziano transaxle six-speed manual gearbox has a redline of 7,000, and the car is known for going from zero to 60 in around three seconds flat. Prior to the dismantling of the now-defunct Top Gear U.K., the Stig took the M600 around the Top Gear track on a cold day and it did a 1:17.7, besting both the Pagani Zonda F Roadster and the sinister Bugatti Veyron. So to say that this car is fast is an understatement.
But it isn’t just quick, because the M600 also has an amazing interior that features wool carpets, carbon fiber everywhere, Alcantara wrapping, hand-laid leather, and a forward mounted trunk bound in calf skin. The car goes for around $450,000 in the United States, and having a left-hand drive model costs considerably more to manufacture, so expect to pay a lot more than this when ordering.
3. Rolls-Royce Serenity
Sometimes owning a Rolls-Royce Phantom just isn’t enough, and you need to make an ultra-luxury car even more opulent by coating it with a long list of interior luxuries from across the Orient and renaming it the Serenity. This upper-crust car is made from a lot of unique offerings, including un-spun silk thread sourced from Suzhou, China, which is hand-dyed by the Chinese craftspeople who have been creating beautiful silks for centuries.
This Asian-themed heavy-hitter stunned onlookers with its mother of pearl/ruby-encrusted clock and hand-laid bamboo interior at this year’s Geneva International Motor Show, and gave many a billionaire the urge to splurge as it offered them a taste of what real luxury looks like. Hell, even the car’s flower motif is hand-painted by a guy named Mark Court, who applied paint to the car with a brush made from squirrel-hair.
The seats in the front of the car are wrapped in arctic white leather to mirror the the luggage compartment (which is also lined in arctic white leather in order to match the trunk’s arctic white carpet), and the Serenity’s mother of pearl paint job is reported to be the most expensive one-off paint ever developed by Rolls-Royce. Apparently to get the shine right, paint had to be added in three stages and then hand-polished for 12 hours. Meanwhile, back inside, smoked cherrywood adorns door, dash, and console, while laser-cut mother of pearl is hand-applied, petal by petal, into the wood.
This theme is continued in the driver’s compartment of the car, with mother of pearl applied to the face of the Serenity’s clock and the driver’s instrument dials. This mother of pearl face has been etched with a series of circles reminiscent of Japanese rock gardens and is inlaid with hand-applied rubies to match the hand-painted flowers found in the silk lining. For anyone wanting these options in a Serenity, expect to spend more than $1.5 million.
4. Donkervoort D8 GTO
The Donkervoort D8 GTO is one of the fastest street-legal cars in the world, threatening supercars everywhere with its lightweight design and 380-horsepower Audi-sourced engine. For over 36 years, Donkervoort has been the only Dutch company to develop and build sports cars, and the D8 GTO is just the latest in a long line of performance machines to roll out of its factory. The upholstery of the D8 GTO is completely custom-made to a customer’s taste, and hundreds of colors, types of leather, and stitching and patterns are available for installation.
But no one buys a Donkervoort for its interior — we’ll leave that to the previously mentioned Rolls-Royce. The D8 GTO is designed around being lightweight, so the entire chassis only weighs 119 pounds! A combination of the tubular steel frames and carbon fiber provides superior weight-to-stiffness ratio, and there is even a new version called the D8 GTO “Bare Naked Carbon Edition.” As the name implies, this version is outfitted with carbon fiber everywhere and can be found down to the smallest components like the ignition cylinder housing, belt-and-roll bar trim, and the headlight housing. Just know that this small car costs big money, and once we outfitted one with all the features we “needed,” the car cost well over $200,000.
5. Mini John Cooper Works Paceman
This may come as a surprise, but the Paceman by Mini is actually a pretty cool cut above the rest of the BMW-owned fleet. Each of the Paceman’s four seats is quite over-sized, and the front six-way adjustable sport seats have larger side bolsters for extra support around sharp turns while each rear chair has armrests, much like captain’s chairs in a van. The car also has a very rigid body, so it handles like it is on rails.
The wheels have been moved as far apart as possible to maximize cockpit space and give the car increased handling capabilities. While a performance-tuned suspension kit and Dynamic Stability Control bring superior handling to this all-wheel-drive micro machine, a 208-horsepower, twin-scroll turbocharged engine reduces the stunning exterior to what Mini calls a “high-performance blur.” Pricing starts at $35,600 and Mini offers more than 10 million unique configurations for the car, so it may take some time to get the perfect one picked out.
6. Dartz Black Shark
To sum up the Black Shark by Dartz, one must only utter one word: bonkers. With its hand-made AMG V12 bi-turbo engine putting down over 1,500 horsepower, this armored coach is the final word in luxury, safety, off-road prowess, and pure evil. This Soviet military-inspired monster reportedly costs millions of dollars and is named after a military helicopter.
The car has a ton of security to go with all that power, and we are not just talking about a few added airbags. The Black Shark has retractable door handles and anti-papparazzi shock-devices, a kevlar-titanium body to prevent the use of magnetic mines, a rotating bulletproof grill, and armoring that tops out at grade B7 by using patented Soviet technology.
Straight out of a Bond flick, the Black Shark offers a fingerprint and retina scanner for additional safety, as well as to protect the precious metals found in the cabin, such as gold, platinum, and silver. Most of the car’s interior edges are encrusted with diamonds, and soft-touch surfaces can be hand-crafted out of any combination of stingray, alligator, ostrich, crocodile, and python, while the shark-skin floor mats are merely a must.
The truck also comes equipped with a DARTZ V2+ app for smartphones that allows instant remote access to 24/7 monitoring, on-board HD cameras, a vehicle sweep with a fire/toxic gas detector and a mine/bomb scan, and crowd-repelling laser lights.
7. Mugen Fit
Many people don’t know this, but there is a Honda Performance Development (HPD) division that specializes in race-spec equipment, and this sub-division of the H-badge provides everything from sport spring options for Accords to full-blown race engines for the multimillion-dollar SCG-003.
But for anyone wanting all-out classiness and some serious power, Honda also relies upon a remotely owned division that is even more secretive than the HPD one, and this company specializes not just in performance upgrades, but aesthetics as well. The company is called Mugen, and to be completely honest, it kicks ass.
Originally founded back in 1973 by Hirotoshi Honda, the son of Honda Motor Company founder Soichiro Honda, Mugen (which means “unlimited” in Japanese) started off by building race engines and manufacturing high-grade aero parts. Flash forward a few decades, and as new Hondas roll out, Mugen always gets first stab at developing fresh parts for them, with the new Fit receiving a slew of upgrades from Mugen.
Outside of a free-flowing exhaust and a better intake, a fully equipped 2015 Mugen Fit receives numerous carbon fiber aerodynamic upgrades, better brakes, racing seats, unique fog lights, engine and interior dress-up goods, custom Mugen forged wheels, sport suspension, and racing gauge pods. Prices have not yet been announced for America, so we recommend contacting Honda directly for details later this year.