By on August 25, 2009

I was driving down the freeway in the left lane just the other day when a quick peek in the rearview mirror told me that another car was approaching me from behind. It was still a ways off, and its silver-gray color barely stood out from the unseasonably gray skies. As it drew nearer at a fairly rapid clip, I had to look again, and after a quick glance my initial identification was “2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.” It wasn’t until the car was within the two-second following envelope that I realized it was actually a Jaguar XF. Being the considerate driver I am, I pulled over and allowed the Jag to float past on a wave of blandonymity. But not every driver is as ethical with the lane etiquette as me, which is why the Germans came up with the term “Überholprestige.” Roughly translated it means, “the ability of a car to intimidate drivers into moving out of your way,” and the Jaguar XF rates about a 2 on the scale [ED. Out of what?]. In contrast, the Audi Q7 chases you down looking like the love child of a sperm whale and a bullet train. Seriously, the Q’s grill alone looks like most cars could pass comfortably through it and be pulled into the Q’s belly never to be heard from again. So which cars do you think demand respect? Which models part traffic before you like the Red Sea and which leave you stuck behind disrespectful peasants?

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

65 Comments on “Ask the Best and Brightest: Überholprestige?...”


  • avatar

    I suspect that nothing beats a Crown Vic in this regard. And, soon, a Dodge Charger.

  • avatar
    slateslate

    I always give more leeway to of any hurried full-sized truck/semi-tractor.

    big speeding truck + any car + crash = ugly picture.

  • avatar
    twotone

    A white or black Crown Vic with turn-down spots and a push-bumper. I pull over and let the nice officer go by. Also, every American driver needs to take lessons from the Germans — stay out of the damn left lane unless you are actually passing someone!

    Twotone

  • avatar
    lahru

    Volvo VNL670 worked well for me as long as the driver ahead was going no faster than 68 mph.

  • avatar
    texlovera

    @twotone: +1 on both points.

    Plus, I figure driving in the right lane is worth at least a couple of extra MPH’s grace from Smokey.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Kenworths and Freightliners in all three mirrors make me vacate the left lane pronto.

  • avatar
    jmo

    I figure driving in the right lane is worth at least a couple of extra MPH’s grace from Smokey.

    On of the few great things about the state of New Jersey – the enforce the law against driving in the left lane. In CA, MA or FL what lane your in and how fast people drive is only weakly related.

  • avatar
    James2

    In Hawaii all the left lane means is that there isn’t another lane in which to go slower everyone else.

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    In the late ’90s I briefly had a ’91 ex-police Chev Caprice. White whale with dark blue interior, fat tires and small hubcaps. It was perfect for parting the traffic sea and using “AUTHORIZED VEHICLES ONLY” turnarounds and assorted other chicanery. It kept trying to fall apart in increasingly-costly ways, though; I offloaded it. The Asian-American kid who bought it had grown up with nothing but small Japanese cars, and was delighted to own the Crapiece (as I’d come to call it), even though he had to give it money injections from time to time.

  • avatar
    seschub

    I usually get out of the way anyway, but I especially move when it’s a particularly cruddy car moving particularly fast. I figure the person is likely not to have insurance, or sufficient insurance, so best to steer clear completely. Also, if they have a lot of bumper stickers. It’s a well known fact that increased bumper sticker usage correlates directly to mental instability. While I can’t see it in my rear view mirror, I just try to avoid these folks as well.

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    @E. Niedermeyer:

    Good to see I’m not the only one. Usually these scan as “late model Buick” for me in the rearview.

  • avatar

    Dodge Rams, Hummers, and Escalades.

    Also any late model gray, teal, or gold Camrys or Corollas. Most people who drive them don’t know how to.

  • avatar
    Wunsch

    I think we may finally have an explanation for the big grill on Audis. My A3 isn’t big, but it definitely seems to get people to move out of the way in the left lane much more effectively than anything else I’ve driven.

  • avatar
    jamie1

    When we launched the original XK in South Africa in 2006, the locals had a habit of pulling off to the left any time they saw an XK in their mirrors – the locals were unbelievably polite in that respect.

    It helped that most of the media were traveling at considerable speed, but a rapid XK does have rear view mirror cachet!

  • avatar
    imag

    Impressive sports cars will usually move people. Even my 370Z gets more people to move over than my old MR2, or my wife’s RAV. My guess is that the more exotic-looking a sports car (lower and wider), the more people move.

    It has to be said that closing speed also matters for some drivers, even Americans. Coming up gently doesn’t always cause the move that roaring up does. I’m sure I’ll get Baruthed for saying that, but it’s true…

  • avatar
    texlovera

    As a general rule, I stay away from anyone driving a Caddy. Personal experience is the best evidence.

  • avatar
    Commando

    Crown Vics and 18 wheelers? I’m pulling over.
    German cars. I’m staying right where I am. Slower even…

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Whenever possible, I move to the right for just about anyone who is traveling at a higher rate of speed. (This rarely happens when I’m in the left lane, as I am often among the fastest of the pack; when I’m in the mood to putter along, I already stay to the right so that I don’t bother anyone.) The type of car trying to pass doesn’t matter, just so long as the speed variance is there, I’m the slower of the two, and it is safe to move to the right.

    There is an exception for tailgaters, though. Get too close, and I can develop a temporary condition that can make it extremely difficult to perform lane changes or to pass other traffic in a timely manner…

  • avatar
    RetardedSparks

    “the Audi Q7 chases you down looking like the love child of a Sperm Whale and a Bullet Train.”

    Nice!

    I try to move for anything going faster than I am – that’s the only right answer. However, when I see the front of any full-size American truck int he mirror it usually means a drunk a-hole with a gun wants to get by (soccer moms rarely do 90 in the fast lane in their Suburbans), and if you don’t move he’ll sit on your trunk with eye-height high beams on for as long as it takes. Not worth the trouble….

  • avatar
    RetardedSparks

    PCH101:

    For tailgaters, it also helps to try some left foot braking – get the brake lights on without slowing down. Drives ’em crazy.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    the black Caddy DTS i drive for work does in fact part the seas. People must think its either a mobster or a polititian, either way they move over, sometimes in a comical hurry. Rarely a flash of the high beems is necessary. Oddly the Escallade does not have the same effect, i dont understand that, cause it can run over most cars on the road.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    I usually mover over anyway, but there are af ew cars that demand more respect than others when they appear in my rear view mirror. In order of respect:

    1) Emergency vehicle with its lights on, I don’t want to get in the way of anybody trying to save another’s life.

    2) Cop car, even more so if its lights are on; I don’t like to piss off cops.

    3) Any large commercial truck up through a semi; it’s called self-preservation.

  • avatar
    imag

    Okay, I hate tailgaters. I use the left-foot brakelight and right-foot gas trick when I don’t have an option to move over for them and they are sticking on my butt.

    That said, I have to protest the idea of punishing other people in traffic. I say: let people go. Let them drive the way they want to drive. It is not your responsibility to police them, nor are you effectively telling them not to tailgate when you just sit in front of them.

    People try to “punish” other drivers all the time – for going faster than their personal desired speed or for going slower, or for driving differently than they think is appropriate. I’m not saying all drivers are right, but I am saying: why not just get out of the f-ing way? You endanger yourself and everyone else on the highway when you decide to play punisher on the road. What difference does it make to you if you just let people go around?

    If I’m passionate about this, it’s because of the original editorial situation brought up in the post – why don’t people move over to let people by? I am sure that the reason many people don’t move over is that they have decided to get self righteous about the person passing. They probably think that they are going the speed limit, and even though they are in the passing lane, their superior judgement about their speed allows them to punish others by making them sit. That type of punishment doesn’t affect behaviour, it just meanst that the punished car needs to go over to the right to affect a pass, which is more dangerous for everyone.

    So please, even if someone else is doing something you think is stupid and/or dangerous – either let them go or phone them in if it’s really serious. It’s not your business to correct them, and you’ll be happier if you don’t stress about how they’re driving.

    Rant over.

  • avatar
    mkII

    RetardedSparks:
    +1 for the dually trucks that ride between lanes, pedal-to-the-floor between stoplights, and tailgate anyone with effin high beams. Hate them with a passion.

    Once an aforementioned Ram 3500 tried to bully a new Charger after I moved out of his way, turns out the Charger was the latest addition to the police force which used to be solely Crown Vics… boy that Ram got pulled over faster than I could say karma.

  • avatar
    lawmonkey

    I let anything go by that is modded in any way – nothing will draw cops out of hidden spots like the souped up ‘stang that is going slightly faster than me in my perfectly respectable looking gray Civic

  • avatar
    Autobraz

    Dodge Ram

  • avatar
    petergottlieb

    I had a old crown vic police cruiser for a while. Yes, on the freeway, people would give me space, but on normal roads, people would drive exactly the speed limit in front of me for miles and miles, not willing to speed up and find out I was actually an unmarked car – annoying, but I couldn’t really blame them.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    +1 imag

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    When I lived in Germany I drove tractor-trailers, and so the only thing that intimidated me was painted green and white and had “Polizei” on the side. Driving my car however was another thing, pretty much everything that I saw in the rear view mirror of my Opel Rekord got the pass with the exception of 2CV’s and Bugs which couldn’t keep up.

    Stateside; if you’re talking solely about cars and not Trucks or SUV’s nothing really shows up as intimidating. And yeah, I own a white 2009 Charger, it does part the sea. :)

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    If you’re talking about any year, I owned a 1963 Chrysler Newport with a big engine and poor brakes, and a crease in the front bumper that had to be caused by a previous owner knocking a freight train off the tracks. Young girls in Toyotas hesistated to jump in front of me, and Mercedes and BMW drivers kept their distance on the freeway.

    If you’re talking newer cars, in my experience there’s nothing that can intimidate a senior driving a Marquis. Those old people in big cars won’t get out of the way for anybody.

  • avatar
    Kman

    Great niche topic.

    While the comments are all true and valid, they have strayed from the initial intent and question.

    Speaking strictly of design here, the front-end-design that epitomized Überholprestige has been BMW’s. Four piercing eyes with a serious frown, and two nostrils flaring at you. (Sidebar: everywhere else in the world *except* the USofA, BMW’s grills are referred to as nostrils, not kidneys.)

    Probably the peak of that design language was the E28 5-series, for example an all-black 1988 M5.

    Generally, the german sedans still do Überholprestige best. I agree with the Q7 (and great description!). I’d add the M-Benz GL550 (five-fifty) with its oversized grill and massive three-pointed star that looks like a propeller that will drill right through you.

    There’s one candidate that most people have prolly never seen, but if you have, you’ll agree that having the Lamborghini LM002 bearing down on you would cause a couple of drops of pee to slip out before you move out of the way.

  • avatar
    Kman

    [email protected]‘s:

    “… in my experience there’s nothing that can intimidate a senior driving a Marquis. Those old people in big cars won’t get out of the way for anybody.”

    Absolutely true! It’s bizarre.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I’m not saying all drivers are right, but I am saying: why not just get out of the f-ing way?

    If there was room in the right lane at the time, I would already be in it. I stay to the right whenever possible, and don’t hog the left lane.

    When I’m in the left lane, I’m usually in the top 10th percentile of speed. I’m already passing traffic, probably above the limit.

    So when I’m already moving as quickly as possible, yet someone decides to play highway bully even though I have no other lane that will accommodate my speed, I will not abide by that. It’s quite easy to signal a desire to pass without removing a reasonable braking distance, and someone thinks that a grille in my mirror is to way to signal that, I will not cooperate.

    Tailgating is dangerous. If you are being tailgated, the safe thing to do is to slow down, which effectively reduces the amount of braking distance needed, which mitigates the effects of tailgating. Speeding up only makes thing worse, because any need to lock up will increase the likelihood of a collision. Not sure that I’d bother with the left foot braking, but I’m not going to reward the bad behavior of the driver behind me, either.

  • avatar
    Buick61

    1958 Buick.

    http://tinyurl.com/nlyrle

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Nissan Armada does that for me.

    But then again, much depends on the vehicle you’re in. From the perspective of my Gen 1 xB, everything in the mirror looks big, even a Harley.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Tahoes, Silverados, Toyofool’s SUVs (FJ70, 4Runner, Fortuner…they’re quite aggresive down here), and SUVs in general, Ecosports are kind of jokes, so I don’t care much about them. Of course, heavy commercial trucks.

    The Toyofools will try to send you into the ditch if you don’t let them pass, or show them the red lights.

    I’ve seem the same behaviour also from Focus and other cars.

    This has happened twice to me. Once I “provoked” it, the 2nd one I didn’t do nothing.

    I usually get off the way if I’m slower and there’s space. There’s too much trucks traffic in the morning, and people won’t let you go back to left lane once in a hole.

    What I haven’t understood yet is why some people gets out of the way, and quick, when they see the Impulse getting fast behind them. Maybe is the burned to hell paint, who knows…

  • avatar
    wsn

    jmo :
    August 25th, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    On of the few great things about the state of New Jersey – the enforce the law against driving in the left lane.

    —————————————-

    On what term do they enforce the law? Like driving too slow? Or, blocking traffic?

    But chances are that the left lane occupant is already 20% faster than the speed limit. He is not blocking any legal-speed drivers. Is the police encouraging speeding then?

  • avatar
    tsofting

    Thanks for bringing up the term that I (ever so humbly) nominated for the best German car-related word some weeks ago! I remember Auto, Motor und Sport (which they incidentally spell without initial caps) had an article on this back in the seventies, where they even considered the Überholprestige of the Olds Cutlass Salon, you know the one the General made “international” by tacking on a row of flags from various nations on the front fender. True badge engineering if there ever was one!

    The Q7 is obviously a good candidate, in general I feel most Bimmers have enough Ü-prestige to clear the left lane (it works for me).

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    I always give way to speeding crap-box cars. If the owner takes so little pride in their automobile, would they really care about their brakes or tires?

  • avatar
    ajla

    The Lancer Evolution IX and X, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, the current generation Mercedes CL-class, any Dodge Viper, and (just for a bit of homerism) ’98-’02 Pontiac Trans Am WS6.

  • avatar

    It isn’t just the appearance, it can also be a gut reaction to the sound.
    The Bugattis had straight-cut gears that you could hear a quarter mile away and their Grand Prix motors sounded like tearing canvas (and it takes a *lot* to tear canvas. There’s the howl of all that lovely high RPM valve train in Ferraris and the like.
    It may be one thing to watch a car resolve in the rear mirror. It is entirely another (particularly when it comes as a surprise and/or grows with ferocious quickness) to hear the howl of real machinery coming at you like the Ride of the Nibelungen.

  • avatar
    jmo

    On what term do they enforce the law? Like driving too slow? Or, blocking traffic?

    I’m not sure I was only working down there for a few months. They have “Keep Right” “Left Lane for Passing Only” signs and as I understand it they have no problem pulling people over who aren’t speeding but are in the left lane when they don’t need to be.

  • avatar

    Since my industry has been decimated and I need money, I sometimes consider pulling in front of a Phantom or Maybach in the hope of getting rear-ended.

    On topic, I will pull over for any vehicle with HID headlamps, just to get their blinding blue glare of my mirrors.

  • avatar
    Porsche986

    Okay, I hate tailgaters. I use the left-foot brakelight and right-foot gas trick when I don’t have an option to move over for them and they are sticking on my butt.

    That said, I have to protest the idea of punishing other people in traffic. I say: let people go. Let them drive the way they want to drive. It is not your responsibility to police them, nor are you effectively telling them not to tailgate when you just sit in front of them.

    People try to “punish” other drivers all the time – for going faster than their personal desired speed or for going slower, or for driving differently than they think is appropriate. I’m not saying all drivers are right, but I am saying: why not just get out of the f-ing way? You endanger yourself and everyone else on the highway when you decide to play punisher on the road. What difference does it make to you if you just let people go around?

    If I’m passionate about this, it’s because of the original editorial situation brought up in the post – why don’t people move over to let people by? I am sure that the reason many people don’t move over is that they have decided to get self righteous about the person passing. They probably think that they are going the speed limit, and even though they are in the passing lane, their superior judgement about their speed allows them to punish others by making them sit. That type of punishment doesn’t affect behaviour, it just meanst that the punished car needs to go over to the right to affect a pass, which is more dangerous for everyone.

    So please, even if someone else is doing something you think is stupid and/or dangerous – either let them go or phone them in if it’s really serious. It’s not your business to correct them, and you’ll be happier if you don’t stress about how they’re driving.

    Rant over.

    This was so well said… thanks. I would think that it should have been it’s own post!

  • avatar
    Porsche986

    kman: Probably the peak of the design language was the E21 5-series, for example an all-black 1988 M5.

    This was actually an E28 body. The E21 was actually the 320i in the US.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    A grille from Chrysler on a Jag?

  • avatar
    Kman

    Porsche986: Trudat on the E28… I typed E21 with hesitation…

  • avatar

    I try to stay out of the left lane.

    On a few roads around me, there may not even be time to pull over.

    Sometimes, the safest thing you can do around an M3, crazy ricer, or Porsche at that point is stay put, be very predictable and let them weave around.

    When you’re doing 70 on one of the wide, few-on/off ramp, barren distance highway stretches out in ~the country, and some car approaches like you’re standing still, that closing speed alone is more intimidating than any mean Evo X, Alfa 159, or Charger face will ever be.

    .
    [just kidding]
    ( and if the car is a Porsche, you’re naturally assuming it’s Jack Baruth and wondering if your HK USP Expert with the match-grade barrel+compensator can get a few rounds on him and slow his ass down before he’s out of range. :P )
    [/just kidding]

  • avatar
    crush157

    A 1978 K5 Chevy Blazer all rusted to hell with 32″ tires.

    People moved when I had it….

    Now people don’t move no matter what car as they are oblivious to what’s behind them… Oh they are on their cell phones or zoned out.

  • avatar

    If I happen to be in the left lane, I move for everyone unless I’m at 67 mph passing the 58 mph-ers; then I’m back to 61 like everyone else.

    I most definitely move for ’68 Chargers. To quote a good friend, “those front ends look like they want to kill someone.”

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    Any Class 8 that comes up fast and fills all 3 mirrors will do.

    For the full trucker effect a 379 or W900 with 2′ exhaust stacks and enough lights to be seen from space works best.

    By semi standards the Volvo tractors have weak Überholprestige with their small LED clearance lights and small headlights.

    When it comes to discouraging folks from trying to pass you in the right lane a set of empty triples on a windy day can’t be beat.

  • avatar

    I’ve been saying this for some time now; the current lineup of Jaguar’s vehicles are a disgrace to the Jaguar style… because there is none.

    These cars are not unique, sexy or desirable when you look at one. They’re bland & un-inspiring with a deplorable interior. Sad to say.

  • avatar
    Mervich

    Several years back whilst cruising the Texas interstate system, I noted a vehicle far in the distance behind me. Upon second glance, mere moments later, I determined it to be a white Porsche 911 moving, seemingly, at the speed of light. I reckoned at his rate of approach, I best yield to his right of way (or left of way, as it were). Seconds later, I was staring at a very rapidly disappearing “whale tail”. I wish I could have seen the look on my face!

    Seriously, in many states, the cops pretty much ignore the right lane traffic and focus on the lefties…that’s where the more juicy meat is.

  • avatar
    variousoldcars

    To follow Kman’s perceptive response, I agree the mid-80’s BMWs certainly had the road presence Niedermeyer was asking after. The recent Chrysler 300 had that effect for me a few years ago, before every Dodge/Chrysler picked up the look. The previous Audi grille looked purposeful with that subtle S badge and the newer ones suggest the cow catcher on a steam engine. I move for trains. Overtaking Bentleys must have a destination more interesting than mine. I’d move if I ever saw a new Challenger coming up behind, but apparently they’re all in storage for future fortune.

    And yes, I can’t resist noting Kman is moving right for an e28 5-er rather than an e21, and the all-black 1988 M5’s would have been especially eye-catching as “all” US-spec e28 M5’s were black-over-tan. In Europe they had more colors to enjoy.

    Steven
    ’88 535is, ’87 535is, ’87 528e, ’85 535i, and a Triumph

  • avatar

    My favorite rear view mirror intimidator is the ’90s Caprice. I actually miss those things.

    On the other matter, one of my main uses of the rear view mirror is to make sure I’m not blocking someone who wants to go faster than me. but I also try to stay to the right as much as possible.

  • avatar
    Mervich

    The 2010 Jaguar XKR has a decidedly more ominous appearance. But I have to agree with the majority, it still doesn’t look like a Jag. I have to take issue with the comment about the new Jag interiors. Take a seat in one, any of them, especially the XF…BMW, Mercedes and the like are, at best, a distant second or less. No comparison.

  • avatar
    Mervich

    My bad…meant to type: The 2010 Jaguar XFR has a decidedly more ominous appearance.

  • avatar
    KeithBates

    People tend to move right when the only thing they can see in the
    rear view mirror is a ’78 Ford Bronco grill… If they want to get
    cute and hit the brakes, all I’ll feel is a slight bump as I roll
    over the top of them…

    SteveL

  • avatar
    Ronman

    For me it’s not much the car than the rate of approach.

    But the car also makes a difference… if I’m cruising at or slightly above the Limit, then he/she should find his way around. But if it’s a Semi barreling down on me, I would move, naturally.

    i do agree however that some cars are more intimidating than others, a black Chevy Suburban with mirror tinted windows and bare wheel rims. (just as the American Embassies use around the world, and they weigh as much as as a semi)

  • avatar
    mitchim

    imag
    +1
    Great post man. Gota follow with a story:

    I remember reading a post here a long while back which should be mentioned again

    “DRIVE LIKE A PYLON”

    I try to take up imag’s ideals but some people are nutts!

    Driving to work in 2 lane traffic. In the right lane with 2 or 3 cars in front and 2 or 3 cars in the left lane (NOT PERMITTING ME TO CHANGE LANES).
    In the mirror I see a streak of red Dodge coming up on me. I think no problem he HAS to slow down.
    NOPE! Waiting for impact I am thinking

    1) drive like a pylon? (DON’T MOVE)

    2) leap into the sholder or even ditch it?

    I did’ent move and kind of ducked at the same time (like this would help). He took the sholder like I was going backwards, screamed past a few other cars before he could get back on the road.

    Now I don’t usally worry too much about other people but this kind of driving warrents few things.
    A screaming birthing wife, pants on fire, ect…

    Keep your stick on the ice. Were are all in this together.

  • avatar
    Gunit

    I usually get out of the way of anyone wanting to go faster (if no one is holding me up), but I am guilty of reluctance to move for people who drive big intimidating pickups/suvs and get too close. Call it reverse psychology but I have no courtesy for people who go around trying to intimidate everyone into getting out of their way, they can suck it, slowly, behind me.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Gunit +1

    Living in Germany, I as a general rule only drive on the left lane when I am overtaking.

    What to do when I am passing a long row of vehicles at around 80mph, yet somebody behind me wants to pass me at an even higher speed? If the other guy has been waiting patiently and politely, I take the first reasonable opening on the right lane, even if it means I have to reduce my speed. If on the other hand the guy behind me is breathing down my neck, then I have no qualms with letting him wait a little longer. I might even slow down a bit, to increase my margin of safety in case things get ugly.

    Thus – überholprestige has no importance to me whatsoever. Politeness and respect do.

  • avatar
    noreserve

    Dodge Ram, Ford F-150, any full-size pickup or SUV, as I know that they are generally always about 30 or 50 feet worse than whatever I’m driving in the braking department.

  • avatar
    Morea

    In the spirit of the original question, I vote for the Dodge Viper with its wide cross-hair grill (guess who is in the cross hairs? you!) You can “feel” the pounding 10 cylinders behind you saying “move over fool!”

    Also, how about a pack of Harleys? (Although they usually do not come up very fast.) Gives you the feeling you have a swarm of pursuers.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    S series Benz always got my attention.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber