Menacing. There’s nothing wrong with owning a menacing car, I suppose. If you’re Batman.
It is, however, a curious word – menacing – to describe a luxury car. Bentley has just used it to characterise the appearance of the Mulsanne Speed – the fastest variant of its long, opulent luxury car that sits atop a proper-posh range.
It’s a curious choice because, as if a car that says “I’m a gazillionaire property magnate or oil baron” wasn’t enough, now it says “I’m a gazillionaire property magnate or oil baron in a bad mood”. I’m not sure I’d want to say that about myself – which is, perhaps, why I’m not a gazillionaire property magnate.
But it makes me wonder: what does your car say about you? Or, more pertinently, what do you want it to say about you?
I dimly remember a TV programme from a long time ago. Three cars were presented to a panel of women and a question posed: which of these cars’ drivers do you think you’d find most attractive?
One car was a crusty old British classic. An MG, perhaps. Another a sports car you’d describe as ‘flashy’ (although I forget which). The third option was a Jeep.
There was firm consensus: the MG owner will spend every weekend getting oily and the sports car driver will be a preener. The Jeep driver is the swoon-worthy roughty-toughty kinda bloke equipped to deal with all of life’s ills, whether that be a zombie apocalypse or a mild economic downturn.
And despite all the welcome advances of feminism and equality in the (probably several) decades since this programme aired, there may still be something in that. I will not pretend that vanity plays no part in me preferring to be seen in a Land Rover Defender than an Audi A4. And I still maintain that the rise in popularity of the hipstery beard is linked to the credit crunch. “Yes, I may lose my job at a creative agency. darling, but see my Leif Erikson growth. If the Hoxton flat is repossessed, I will build us a shelter and wrestle deer.”
Thinking back to that Bentley, I wonder, too, if British cars today say more about their drivers than cars from most other nations. Whether ‘our’ cars have more, for want of a better word, personality – due, perhaps, to the fact that we no longer make ‘ordinary’ cars, except those built here by overseas manufacturers. A Honda Civic, even one built in Swindon, says not a great deal about its driver.
A Land Rover, though? Absolutely it does. A Caterham or an Ariel or a Radical or Rolls-Royce? No question. And I think that’s something to be proud of – even if the message is: “I’m an oligarch who’s on my way round to put up your rent by 300%.”