Image: Rolls-Royce phantom
Rolls-Royce
The Rolls-Royce Phantom’s extreme opulence and exclusivity helped it make the fourth spot on our list.
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updated 5/14/2008 12:58:11 PM ET 2008-05-14T16:58:11

If you see a canary-colored Lamborghini Gallardo cruising down the street, nine times out of 10 a man will be at the wheel.

The same goes for other attention-getting sports cars, chauffeur-worthy sedans and burly sport utility vehicles that make up our list of the Top 10 Vehicles Driven by Men.

When it comes to cars, men want to be seen — and heard. Specifically, they want to be seen in a vehicle that others can’t have, says Milton Pedraza of the Manhattan-based Luxury Institute.

That’s why rare cars like the Dodge Viper, of which only 435 were sold in the United States in 2007, are driven mostly by men. This two-seat sports car ranks fifth on our list, with 89.97 percent male primary drivers, according to CNW Marketing Research of Bandon, Ore., which conducts thousands of surveys each ear on car-related topics.

The “powerful, predatory look” of cars like the Viper attracts male buyers, Pedraza says. “Men have a greater need to show off their power.” The Viper can be a mechanism for that, not only with its flashy looks but also with its brawly engine sound.

Dodge’s own data shows that up to 95 percent of Vipers are owned by men, who use it mostly as a weekend vehicle. “Vipers tend to be driven on the track more than any other sports car model,” says Kathy Graham, a spokesperson with Dodge’s parent company, Chrysler. In general, relatively few women participate in driving activities on racetracks, she says.

Men’s desire to showcase power and aggression with the vehicles they drive stems from an “animal nature,” says Imre Molnar, dean of the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. Men decorate and embellish themselves with their automobiles as if it’s “mating season,” he says.

That helps explain why many vehicles — and especially those on our list — have masculine styling cues, which Molnar says include big wheels pushed to the corners of the vehicle, flush or protruding wheel faces, a high “shoulder line” (at the bottom of the side windows), and taut lines that look like tensed muscles.

Vehicles that sit higher at the back tend to look like a predator “ready to pounce,” Molnar says. High haunches have become the norm on nearly every sedan.

Statistics show that most women prefer vehicles with understated styling and an opulent, comfortable interior.

Rather than cars, women use jewelry, high-end fashion and expensive handbags to create a distinctive look, says Luxury Institute’s Pedraza. When it comes to creating an image of wealth and influence, men have fewer choices in attire and accessories — that's where the cars come in.

“Men don’t wear a $100,000 necklace with their $100,000 car,” Pedraza says. He points out that music-industry mogul Simon Cowell, a judge on the television show “American Idol,” dresses conservatively but drives a Bugatti Vevron, which has a starting price of $1.5 million.

You “can’t beat the accessory value of a Veyron,” Pedraza says.

Other high-priced “accessories” on wheels include the Maybach 57 and 62 and Rolls-Royce Phantom, which are the most ostentatious and exclusive luxury limos available.

The $340,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom has the fourth-highest percentage of male primary drivers, 90 percent, and the $335,000 Maybach tops our list with 95 percent male primary drivers.

"The Maybach brand is only five years on the U.S. market and the high percentage [of male drivers] likely represents top automobile enthusiasts who purchased the initial production,” says Rob Allan, product manager for Maybach, which is owned by Mercedes-Benz. Only 156 Maybachs were sold in the United States last year.

“Over time, as with [Mercedes’ high-performance division] AMG, the percentage of female owners should rise,” Allan says. “Maybach marketing — primarily events-based experiential marketing — is targeted equally to qualified male and female prospects."

Men are more likely to consider used vehicles if they can’t buy the flashy vehicle they want new, says Alexander Edwards of the California-based consulting firm Strategic Vision. Women are more prone to settle for an affordable new car rather than their dream model, he says.

Imposing SUVs with boxy styling and large grilles have a “big and powerful” look that experts say resonates with men.

Three such examples on our list are the Cadillac Escalade ESV, which takes the eighth spot with 85.13 percent male primary drivers; the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, in sixth place with 88.84 percent; and the second-ranked Mercedes-Benz GL-Class with 90.47 percent. All are exceptionally large, flashy and domineering.

Cadillac designed the Escalade with both men and women in mind, and the brand advertises to both, says Joanne Krell, a spokesperson with General Motors, Cadillac’s parent company. The Escalade is actually popular with women, Krell says, and the numbers might not represent the full picture in this case.

But one of the main reasons Cadillac suspects the Escalade appeals to men is that it’s “usually the No. 1 choice of professional athletes … and that gives it a definite cool factor,” Krell says. The Escalade is also one of the few vehicles where especially big and tall men can get comfortable, she says.

Men are generally more willing than women to sacrifice a smooth ride for sharp handling or to overlook an impractical cargo arrangement for an engine more pep, experts say.

“The key difference between men and women luxury buyers is that more men really love to drive,” says Strategic Vision’s Edwards. “And it is more often one of their favorite things to do.”

In a new-vehicle experience study, Strategic Vision found that 31 percent of men said driving is one of their favorite things to do, while only 18 percent of women said the same.

Four spots in our ranking are held by vehicles made for the sole purpose of looking good and going fast and, as such, are among the most impractical models available. Molnar calls them “testosterone show-off devices.”

Collectively, Lamborghinis occupy the third spot on the list with 90.32 primary male primary drivers. For boutique automakers with extremely low production numbers, CNW does not break out specific models.

Lamborghinis are notoriously loud, in-your-face, cramped inside, and hard to get in and out of — all qualities that run directly opposite of most women’s tastes.

Aston Martins and Ferraris are equally impractical and geared toward driving enthusiasts seeking high-speed thrills. Aston Martin sports cars have 81.25 percent male primary drivers and rank 10th on the list. Ferraris have 85.82 percent and rank seventh.

About our ranking
Our list (see “slide show” link above) highlights the top 10 vehicles with the highest percentage of male primary drivers based on information from CNW Marketing Research, which includes the company’s own survey data, vehicle registrations and insurance industry statistics. The list does not account for yearly vehicle sales volumes.

© 2007 ForbesAutos.com

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