The “Expensive Car” Affect

By Miranda Lightstone-Styker

I’ve had the good fortune to drive some pretty impressive cars over the years. From BMWs right up to the SLR, I’ve been behind the wheel of quite a few expensive and even exotic rides. And I’ve come to notice a trend when I’m behind the wheel; and it’s something I refer to as the “Expensive Car” Affect.

I first noticed this strange effect when I had my first real “exotic” ride. It was a 2007 Jaguar XKR in a bright cherry red. I had it in July — perfect weather for hot rides — and I was driving it in the heart of downtown Montreal. The streets were packed with traffic and pedestrians and everyone was looking. Now, granted you get your fair share of evil “I hate you for being able to afford that car” looks, but at the same time, I got more approval from the general public than I ever have before. One guy even stopped right in front of the car and gave me a huge grin and two thumbs up. I was so glad he approved.

On another occasion I was driving my guilty pleasure the Lexus IS-F. While not flashy in any way (it was even silver) it’s still, without a doubt, a super car in every sense of the word — and everyone knows it. I was on a mission to find DIY supplies for my wedding invitations and headed into an underground parking garage at a downtown mall. I’d been in this garage hundreds of times before. I knew the drill; the gate would lift and I would drive in and find myself a spot and park and pay when I left. As I pulled up to the gate and it lifted a parking attendant ran full-throttle towards the Lexus flapping a paper in his hand. I stopped, rolled down the window and wondered what I’d done wrong. When he caught his breath he said to me:
“Would you like to park in your spot ma’am?”

Um, excuse me? I calmly explained to him that I did not own or have a spot in said garage and he looked confused, gave the car a once-over and asked me again if I was sure I didn’t want my spot. I politely declined, but thinking back on it after I may have actually gotten away with free parking thanks to the Lexus had I accepted.

More recently I had the sheer pleasure of driving a 2010 Porsche 911 Turbo. Supremely designed from nose to tail, the 911 Turbo was a dream to drive. I admit I nearly shed a tear when I returned the car and the key — it was a sad day.

One night, my husband and I headed downtown in the 911 Turbo to attend a charity event at a local bar. It was a lingerie themed night hosted at a bar. I agreed to drive (why wouldn’t I with a car like that?) so my husband drank enough for both of us. When we left that night we encountered an alcohol check near our house nearly 30 minutes outside the city. The cop stopped the Porsche and asked me to roll down the window.

Now, here’s the scenario: I tend to look much younger than I am; I’m wearing a corset as a top; my husband is rather drunk beside me; and the Porsche has Ontario plates. Here’s how it all played out:

“Madame, have you had anything to drink tonight?”
“No sir.”
“Are you going to Traffic [local club in the area].”
“No, we’re going home from downtown.”
“You live here?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Merci, have a good night.”

Now, consider the scenario for a moment and think if you were a cop, would you not have been curious?

I call that the “Expensive Car” Affect at its best.

There’s no doubt that as the price of your car rises so too does your status on the road. People automatically make assumptions about you, your life, your personality, and your paycheck when you pull up with a certain crest on your car’s hood.

I’ll admit, responses to the luxury cars I drive aren’t always positive. I’ve had as many sneers and dirty looks as I have thumbs up. I wish I could explain to those how secretly hate me for driving a Z4 that I don’t actually own the car and just went to university to do what I do because it’s my job. But, there often isn’t enough time at a red light to catch their attention and make them listen to my explanation.

So, next time you see a blonde with glasses in a Jag, BMW, Porsche or Bentley, try smiling at her instead of scowling at her — she might only be borrowing the ride for a week and is enjoying it as much as you would.

Drive on,
– M.

Read all of Miranda’s excellent posts on her blog at: Driving Ms. Miranda

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One thought on “The “Expensive Car” Affect

  1. Dan Sherman says:

    Entertaining post, Miranda! But I think it’s deeper than the “expensive car” effect. Each luxury brand attracts a certain crowd, which creates a stereotype around its drivers. People hate you and your Z4 because you’re it’s a Bimmer, and a flashy one at that. To quote Jeremy Clarkson: “All BMW drivers are c*cks.”

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