Another week, another motoring review in which I read the suggestion that you, dear car owner, might be inclined to drop the keys to your new car onto a pub table, so you can impress people with the badge.
You know how it is: you walk in to a bar to meet your friends, who are already seated at a table, so you stroll over and casually toss the keys to your new premium car in front of them. It prompts them all to look up in quiet awe at this Adonis, this most ambitious of men, this Hercules among plebs, who stands before them and is gracious enough to walk among them.
“I’m going to the bar,” you say, intoning that you’ll leave the keys where they fell – mid-table, like a floral centrepiece – for them to discuss in hushed tones while you buy a pint of shandy and a packet of Monster Munch (which you regard as the king of snacks). And so you depart.
Quiet descends across the table. Someone nervously fingers the keys, makes sure you’re out of earshot, and opines: “Jesus, Mark’s such a bellend. Who invited him, anyway?”
See, I don’t know anybody who does the key thing. You don’t know anybody who does the key thing. Literally nobody knows anybody who does the key thing because literally nobody does the key thing, because it would make them the second most irritating person in the world. It is just another motoring writer’s lazy cliché (and, boy, do we have a few), here used to imply that the car being written about has a desirable image.
I’m not going to name the latest culprit, but it should be noted that, in the same way there is never a key-drop, there is no such thing as a traffic light grand prix, and not every Volvo estate is bought by an antique dealer. The latter was the case 30 years ago and remains the case today.
But what if there was such a thing as a key-drop? Assuming doing something like that didn’t mark you out as an insufferable tool and assuming the only way to let friends know which car you drove was by revealing its maker’s badge, which key fob would you most like to be seen carrying and dropping? Which car marque would you most like to be associated with?
It’s quite a probing question, because implied ownership of anything from a manufacturer’s entire range could be bestowed upon you. Say you drive a Honda: well, that ‘H’ rattling onto the table could mean you drive anything from a Jazz to an NSX. A Mercedes-Benz could be a B-Class or a G-Class.
If you had to pin a metaphorical badge to your chest, then, you’d have to endorse a range as a whole. You’re not just deciding who makes the best cars in the world, but also the least worst.
So who is it? Somebody premium? Audi? Mercedes? BMW? I doubt it. I’d quite like an M6 Gran Coupé but don’t want people thinking I drive a 2 Series Active Tourer. Land Rover? Too wellyish. Porsche? Potential automatic 911 Cabriolet inference. Ferrari? Good god, no. Volvo? Ooh, perhaps. Yes, Volvo. Nothing to get excited about, but there’s nothing to be embarrassed about, either.
Volvo owners, then: the only people who could drop their keys on the pub table without embarrassment, yet are the last people who are likely to. Which is why nobody, ever, does.