We arbitrarily pick 20 cool cars from today and yesterday
Regardless of whether you’re talking about cars or cucumbers, ‘cool’ is a difficult concept to define. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that to try to describe ‘cool’ is in fact deeply uncool in itself.
It’s also fair to say that if it has to be explained why something is cool, it immediately ceases to be so. Cool is, after all, self assured and needs no justification; it defies convention and doesn’t care what you or anyone else thinks. Cool just is, man; cool abides.
But you didn’t come here for an ontological treatise on the nature of cool: you came here because you’re after a list of cool cars, and that’s exactly what we have here for you, with 10 cool cars you can buy today if you have the means, and 10 cool cars from times gone by.
This rundown of 20 cars is, because of the nebulous nature of cool, a completely subjective, unscientific list that anyone could dissect and take issue with, and that’s just fine: because cool don’t care.
Here are 10 of the coolest cars on sale today
- Abarth 695
- Alpine A110
- Audi e-tron GT
- Cupra Formentor
- Dacia Duster
- Hyundai i30 N
- Jaguar I-Pace
- Range Rover Velar
- Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake
- Volvo V90
1. Abarth 695
The Abarth 695 is, in an objective sense, somewhat compromised. It’s uncomfortable and pretty noisy on long journeys, costs a fair bit given how old a mechanical design it is, has a too-high driving position and won’t suit everyone due to its extrovert nature.
Yet despite this, it manages to be cool in an ‘I don’t care’ sort of way. It sounds fantastic thanks to its quad-exhaust system, goes like a rocketship, making up to 180hp from its 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, and looks about purposeful and aggressive is it’s possible for a small car to look.
2. Alpine A110
One of the best-handling cars of the last 20 years, not that many people will know what the A110 is, and that’s sort of the point.
Small, light, mid-engined and a strict two-seater, the A110 is brisk, provides vast amounts of feedback and was designed to be enjoyable to drive, above all else. Sure, you could have gone for a Porsche 718 Cayman instead, but the Alpine is cooler by a long shot.
3. Audi e-tron GT
The mechanically related Porsche Taycan might have a slight handling edge and a posher badge that the e-tron GT, but the Audi looks sleek and effortlessly cool, whereas the Taycan’s front lights manage to look both over-engineered and unfinished (we did say this was a subjective list).
Looks aside, the e-tron GT handles very nicely indeed, is plush and posh inside, and has more than enough power for most, with the hot RS model turning up the wick even further for those seeking electric thrills.
4. Cupra Formentor
Not every cool car is cool just because of how it looks, but the Formentor’s styling certainly plays a big role in its inclusion in this list.
Being a Curpa means there’s a certain rarity to this car, with others likely to wonder what the cool, bronze logo denotes, and a range of intriguing paint colours adding to the car’s subtly menacing stance. Opt for the 310hp petrol engine and you’ll have a serious performance machine, too.
5. Dacia Duster
No, we haven’t made a mistake, and yes, the Duster is a quixotic choice – but it’s also a cool car, while the current second-generation model sorted out some of the ergonomic foibles that were present in the original car.
Affordable, practical, capable and handsomely styled, the Duster looks best in metallic bronze (which Dacia calls ‘Arizona’), and it’s the choice of an automotive connoisseur who knows a good thing when he or she sees it, and couldn’t care less about presumed prestige.
6. Hyundai i30 N
A more exciting hot hatch than the easy-to-recommend but almost too-competent VW Golf GTI, the i30 N should be ordered in ‘Performance Blue’ paint, and thoroughly enjoyed.
Sure, the ride is a little firm, but this is a proper driver’s car with thrilling performance from its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, while you can pat yourself on the back for choosing a great-handling car that’s both indulgent, and has a five-year unlimited-mileage warranty.
7. Jaguar I-Pace
It’s easy to forget how significant a car the I-Pace was when it launched in 2018, as this was the first EV from a premium manufacturer that could meaningfully bring the fight to Tesla, significantly before rivals from the established German manufacturers arrived.
But the I-Pace is cool for reasons other than friendly industry competition, being fantastic to drive and having a decent battery range, while it looks as fresh today as it did five years ago.
8. Range Rover Velar
There’s an argument to be made that the full-fat Range Rover should be on this list, but that’s too obvious a choice, and while the latest Rangie looks clean and cool, it’s sheer size means it’s nowhere near as sleek as the Velar.
The Velar was also the Land Rover product that ushered in the minimalist design cues that define the brand today, with its pop-out door handles and bluff front end setting the tone its big brother arguably follows. Even the name is cool, with ‘Velar’ effortlessly tripping off the tongue.
9. Volvo V90
Less obvious than a BMW 5 Series Touring, more modest than a Mercedes E-Class Estate and just simply cooler than an Audi A6 Avant, the Volvo V90 wagon is achingly cool, from the timeless exterior design to the simple, elegant interior.
Sure, it’s not the last word in driver involvement, but given how quiet and relaxing it is to drive, and how comfortable its seats are, chances are if you arrive somewhere in a V90 you’ll emerge more unruffled than you would in most rivals, and that’s cool.
10. Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake
Okay, so the name’s a bit of a mouthful, but shooting brakes (estate cars with sloping roofs) are almost always cool, and the Arteon is a handsome example of this handsome class of car.
Sure, the well-built interior isn’t quite as aesthetically pleasing as the exterior, and the eye-catching Turmeric Yellow paint of the standard Arteon is no longer offered, but specify Kings Red metallic and the 190hp 2.0-litre petrol engine (there’s also a seriously rapid 320hp R model), and you’ll have yourself a cool, swift estate car.
10 of the coolest cars from history
Right, so those are the coolest cars you can buy right now, but with over a century of automobile design behind us, it’s fair to say history has rich pickings for those after a decent dose of cool.
As with the above list, these blasts from the past are selected on a wholly subjective basis, and have been chosen with significant personal preference and prejudice. You will find no Porsches, Ferraris or Lamborghinis in this rundown because of this, and also because enough online lists of cool cars already exist detailing some of the more iconic cars from these manufacturers.
1. Renault Avantime
Outside of motoring enthusiasts few are likely to know what an Avantime is, while inside an Avantime you will find captain’s chairs and a ‘global open’ button that opens all four windows and the panoramic sunroof at the same time, making this pillarless coupe-cum-people-carrier an open-air luxury cruiser
Parts are hard to come by, interior switches can become sticky and the Avantime is so rare that finding a decent one can be difficult. But just look at it: this is undoubtedly a cool car that ploughs its own furrow.
2. Mercedes C126 SEC
These cars are painfully cool, hailing from a time when Mercedes build quality was the epitome of high-end automobile manufacturing.
Even more painfully, the SEC used to cost buttons on the second-hand market, but a growing recognition of just how special these large coupes are has pushed prices up. The 560 AMG model, meanwhile, commands serious money – if you can find one.
3. Honda NSX
Any car with an association with Ayrton Senna immediately gets some cool rubbed off on it, and the fact the legendary F1 driver helped develop the NSX in the latter stages of its design only adds to its kudos.
The NSX would be cool even without Senna’s involvement, though, being a truly usable supercar decades before the Audi R8, and a car whose chassis was the benchmark against which the McLaren F1 was set. Oh, and before we even begin to talk about the looks, did we mention that the naturally aspirated V6 engine redlines at 8,300rm?
4. Lotus Esprit
Perhaps build quality wasn’t always what it could be, but just look at it: this is one of the most neatly styled cars ever made, and it’s also one with an exceptional reputation for handling, and that remained on sale for almost 30 years.
Later V8 models had up to 350hp, but the Esprit was such a light car (the S1 barely tipped over 900kg) that a 2.2-litre Turbo will have all the performance you could ask for, while bringing less complication.
5. Cord 810
Few cars were as ahead of their time as the Cord 810 of 1936. The first car to feature hidden headlights (which were actually aircraft landing lights), as well as innovations like intermittent windscreen wipers and radio as standard. The Cord 810 was also pioneering for being front-wheel drive, while also featuring sleek horizontal air inlets rather than a conventional radiator grille.
A tendency for the transmission to slip out of second gear together with an astronomical price ensured the 810 sold in limited numbers, but one look at that daring ‘coffin nose’ front end, still fresh almost a century on, is enough to justify its inclusion here.
6. Buick Riviera Mk 3
We include the third-generation Riviera firstly because of its striking ‘boat tail’ rear, and partly because it is so evocative of the glorious excesses of 1970s American car design.
With a uniquely curved rear windscreen and a vast 7.5-litre V8 engine that produced all of around 250hp, this 5.5-metre land yacht is a testament to a bygone era.
7. Facel Vega Facel II
Nobody will know what it is, but that air of mystery isn’t the only thing that makes the Facel II cool (we’ll admit the name is a bit awkward, though). Built in tiny numbers by a company that went bankrupt not long after it started making cars, just 26 right-hand-drive Facel IIs were made. This French luxury GT car was billed as the fastest four-seater coupe in the world in 1962 thanks to the 6.3 and 6.7-litre Chrysler V8s that powered it.
Good luck finding a Facel II today, and even better luck affording one (think £200k+), but any car that Pablo Picasso, Christian Dior and Ava Gardner deemed beautiful enough to own gets a mark of coolness in our books (sidenote: Albert Camus died in a Facel Vega FVS).
8. Citroen SM
If you’ve ever seen an SM – which was developed at a time when Citroen owned Maserati, and thus had a V6 engine from the Italian marque – on the road, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was merely visiting Earth on its way to a distant planet, such are the spaceship qualities its design manifests.
A superb high-speed grand tourer with hugely absorbent and comfortable hydro-pneumatic suspension, the SM was unlike anything that had come before, and its style has never been repeated.
9. Alpine GTA
Another French curio, the rear-engined GTA was one of the most aerodynamic cars ever made when it launched in 1984, and its fared in headlights not only look cool, but also bring to mind Mad Max’s Pursuit Special MFP Interceptor.
Mechanical parts are relatively easy to come by, but as a low-volume model from some time ago bodywork and trim pieces can be like hens’ teeth, and the car itself is hardly commonplace – though that arguably makes it cooler.
10. Talbot-Lago T150 ‘Teardrop’
It is pure coincidence that we round off this list with a fifth French car (we did warn you this rundown was esoteric – if you’re after logic and reason, may we suggest a sudoku?), and the only uncool thing about the Teardrop is that it is so rare and desirable that when one does come up for sale, it will inevitably command an eight-figure price.
But one glance at this 1937 coupe is enough to understand why it’s on this list. And while the fact this moving work of art has an engine seems like a mere detail, there’s a 4.0-litre six-cylinder under the swooping bodywork, together with a pre-selector gearbox, which was arguably the predecessor of today’s dual-clutch transmissions.
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