A Field Guide to Yuppie Cars
What kind of bougie, boxy '80s sedan are you?
The year is 1985, and you’ve finally attained the next rung on whatever corporate ladder you’ve been dutifully climbing for the last few years. Or perhaps daddy pays the bills and you’re looking to celebrate that art-history degree from Rutgers. Or maybe, just maybe, those bus-stop bench ads have actually worked, and you’ve clawed your way to the top of the local real-estate ladder.
Whatever the answer, it doesn’t matter, because congratulations, you’ve made it! In the go-go ‘80s, that means it’s time to blow a big chunk of change on a country-club head-turner or driveway ornament designed to let the neighbors know you’ve arrived.
The market hasn’t crashed yet, so the sky’s the limit. What you end up choosing as your automotive uniform will peg your newfound socioeconomic status in ways you might not even be aware of, so before signing that lease, make sure to check out our field guide to yuppie cars, which has been digitally transmitted back through time over the CompuServe network to your Commodore 64.
What’s that, you say? Yes, we agree that this is probably not the best use of our temporal displacement technology, but you might as well read it so all those quarks and photons weren’t accelerated past the speed of light in vain.
Welcome to the Club: E30 BMW 3 Series
How soon is too soon to pick up your first BMW 3 Series? Technically, the firm should have handed you the keys to one as soon as you were hired. Available in coupe, convertible and sedan forms, this square-body, multi-role luxury machine is ideal for first-year stockbrokers, sun-loving divorcées on the prowl and practical-minded movie producers who still need a backseat to schlep the family to the beach on Malibu weekends.
The best part about the entry-level BMW 3 Series — aside from the bright blue badge’s instant brand recognition — is that it’s legitimately fun to drive, especially when found in zippy 325is trim. That silky smooth 164 horsepower straight six and well-balanced chassis will make you forget all about the fact that you’re not quite at a level where you can park a true sports car alongside your daily commuter.
You’ve Got a Family Now: W124 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
You don’t have to give up on conspicuous consumption simply because you’ve been fruitful in both the boardroom and the bedroom. Early-onset domesticity means you get to accessorize your automotive flock to better serve your growing brood, thanks to the E-Class’s handy wagon model (with the option of an available third row in the way-way back).
The W124 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is also offered in a striking pillarless coupe that provides a stately counterpoint to the more lurid two-door offerings out there. Why not both, now that you’re mere inches away from making partner?
Your Dental Practice/Plastic Surgery Clinic Is Now The Most Successful in the Tri-County Area: Porsche 911 SC/Carrera
As long as humans have faces, those cheeks will need lifting, and as long as humans have teeth, those teeth will need cleaning. The various failings of anatomical entropy, combined with a vigorous economy of student loans and unbridled avarice, ensure that Porsche will continue to sell tens of thousands examples of the 911 SC and 911 Carrera.
Either version of this rear-engine, air-cooled sports car instantly broadcasts the message that not only do you know how to party, but you probably also have access to a wide range of top-shelf pharmaceuticals through semi-legal channels — and that maybe, just maybe, you’re actually a Hollywood director rather than a purveyor of blowfish toxins. Regardless, your beach-house crash pad is open for business from Friday at 5 p.m. all the way to Monday at 5 a.m., when it’s time to parking your Porsche in its reserved spot at the strip mall in the Valley.
You’re a Master of the Universe: W126 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Nations tremble at your wrath, corporations fall over themselves to have you on their respective boards, and so what if you can’t remember your kids’ names? You’ve ascended to the Wall Street throne of virtually unlimited purchasing power, which means you damn well better look like it while rolling down the street.
Enter the W126 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the preferred choice of both titans of industry and soon-to-be-deposed foreign dictators. While old money might call for a Bentley or Rolls, new money has no such ties to ancient British heraldry and instead calls for a Teutonic chariot piloted by an ex-mil chauffeur who has no qualms about crushing any peasants who may block your path. Make yours a 560 SEL and never look back.
You’re the Spouse/Progeny/Secret Lover of a Master of the Universe: R107 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
If your yuppiehood derives from Master of the Universe adjacency, there’s no need to feel any shame. Wealth-by-association may be illusory from the inside, but to everyone else it’s indistinguishable from the real thing, which means you deserve to flaunt it.
Enter the 380 SL. Mercedes-Benz’s R107-generation roadster is the perfect encapsulation of your status as a kept yuppie: mid-range power from a six-cylinder engine that’s just enough grunt to put a smile on your face, but not quite the level of thrust required to escape the gravitational pull of your benefactor. It’s an impresser and an explainer, all wrapped in a stylish convertible package that fits nicely in the driveway, right behind the S-Class.
You’re a Free-Thinking History Professor: Saab 900
If you dare to be different and step outside the Germanic heritage of the traditional yuppie brand constellation, you’ve really no choice other than to head north. Scandinavia’s take on look-at-me luxury begins and ends with Saab, and in particular, the 900.
Whether found in sporty coupe form or the open-top convertible, the oddly shaped 900 cuts a distinct figure as you chart a course from your afternoon class at NYU to the Upstate home where you prefer to wind down after a long three-day stint of molding young minds in the city. You’ve got the money for a Benz, says the Saab, but you decided to walk a different path. Or, you might not actually have the money for a Benz — especially after having just put a new roof on your 18th-century farmhouse — but the rest of the world will never figure that out.