NEWS: The Ex-Wall Streeter's Guide to Recession Rides

By - December 11, 2008
You and your investment banker colleagues made piles of money creating indecipherable financial instruments, got your friends at the ratings agencies to give them their stamp of approval, and just like that, all the risk magically disappeared and, not incidentally, your firm reaped huge fees selling the stuff to every financial institution in town. Now, sadly, the scheme has all come hideously undone. You no longer work on the Street; instead, you're out on the street. And, worse, your car lease is up. What to do? Of course, you're not destitute - you couldn't possibly have spent all the money you've raked in over the past few years - but you need to curb expenses. And yet, you want to keep up appearances. Allow us to help . . .
Instead of: a 2009 Ferrari F430, consider: an 2009 Audi R8
0812 01 Z+2009 Audi R8+side View
Oh, there's nothing like a Ferrari in terms of achieving the sports-car pinnacle. Nothing can touch its snob appeal. But the Audi R8 offers a strikingly similar mechanical package, highlighted by a mid-mounted V-8 engine, with a plexiglass engine cover to drive the point home for jealous observers. Trust us when we say that the beautiful bodywork is every bit as exotic and head turning as the F430's. And the interior, in characteristic, overachieving Audi style, is just as beautifully crafted as anything to come out of Maranello. The R8's manual gearshift even moves through a Ferrari-style metal gate; or there's the option of a paddle-shifted automated manual that allows you to indulge your Michael Schumacher fantasies.
F430: $191,775

R8: $114,200

Savings: $77,575 (plus a few hundred more on Ferrari jackets and related sportswear)
Instead of: an 2009 Aston Martin DBS, consider: a 2009 Jaguar XK-R
0812 07 Z+2009 Jaguar XK R+front View
Its sheer exclusivity and lack of name recognition among the hoi polloi make owning an Aston Martin something special. There's also the whole James Bond connection, the fabulous twelve-cylinder grand turismo driving experience, the snob factor in going British rather than the more common German, and the seductively beautiful bodywork. Well, if you're willing to trade twelve cylinders for eight and lose the 007 affectation, you'll find that the Jaguar XK slips nicely into the Aston's dinner jacket. The XK-R's supercharged, 420-hp V-8 doesn't sound quite as seductive as the Aston's V-12, but rest assured it can nonetheless get you into sudden legal trouble on the Merritt Parkway almost as fast. At any speed, you'll find that the Jag's sculpted sheetmetal has about the same impact as the Aston's on bystanders, since the styling of the two cars is in truth strikingly similar. And of course, you still have the Brit thing, so this car still goes perfectly with those custommade suits you picked up on Jermyn Street last year.
DBS: $269,000

XK-R: $88,475

Savings: $180,525
Instead of: a 2009 Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic wagon, consider: a 2009 Mercedes-Benz R350 4Matic
0812 05 Z+2009 Mercedes Benz R350 4Matic+front Three Quarter View
There is no doubt that the Mercedes-Benz E-class wagon is the reigning queen of America's toniest suburbs, a fact of which your lovely wife is keenly aware. There are practical reasons to own it as well, such as its seating for seven (in a pinch) and its all-wheel drive - just the thing for when the snow starts to fly this time of year. But if you're willing to give up the E-class wagon's classic proportions, the R-class provides essentially the same virtues at a relatively bargain price - perhaps even more of a bargain than the sticker suggests, as your Mercedes-Benz retailer likely will be more willing to negotiate on an R-class. Thanks to the prominent three-pointed star on the grille, though, only those who've had their noses deep in the dealer ads in the back of the Sunday paper will ever know that you're economizing. It's not like the R-class is some downsized thing; and its size is every bit as imposing as the E350's. Seating is for six, rather than seven, but the third row is much more usable, and everyone gets to face forward. All-wheel drive is available here as well, so it's just as capable come the first Nor'easter.
E350 4Matic wagon: $58,125

R350 4Matic: $48,525

Savings: $9600
Instead of: a 2009 Hummer H2, consider: a 2009 Jeep Commander
0812 04 Z+2009 Jeep Commander+front Three Quarter View
Big, bad, and blocky, the Hummer H2 appeals to the same primal male sensibilities that have spurred the purchases of big, blocky, stainless steel gas grills and sixty-inch plasma TVs. Adding to the fun, an H2 is also a rolling riposte to Toyota Prius-driving scolds who frown upon your expansive lifestyle. But if an H2 suddenly seems too pricey (and an H3 is too small), consider Jeep. This is another brand that fairly oozes machismo, and like Hummer, it was born of a military heritage. The Jeep Commander is nearly as big as an H2 and just about as blocky; it can be piloted with the same 'tude. The Jeep may be a few hundred pounds lighter, but it's still an imposing machine, and rest assured that its upright styling and available Hemi V-8 (a must) make no concessions to wimpy concerns like fuel economy or global warming. The Commander's off-road ability is genuine, and it will tow or haul as well as the Hummer. Dress it up right, with dark-colored wheels, auxiliary driving lights, chrome brush guards, and a serious roof rack, and you'll never miss the Hummer.
H2 Luxury pkg.: $71,440

Commander Overland 4x4: $46,490

Savings: $24,950
Instead of: a 2009 Porsche 911, consider: a 2009 Porsche Cayman
0812 02 Z+2009 Porsche Cayman+front Three Quarter View
The Porsche 911 has been a totem of Wall Street success for the better part of three decades, so it's not easy to make a substitution here. As the ads used to say, "Porsche: There is no substitute." In acknowledgement of that fact, we're staying within the Porsche family. Happily, the Cayman suffers none of the it's-not-a-real-Porsche stigma that has afflicted the brand's sub-911 entries in the past. Just like a 911, it's powered by a sweet-sounding flat six, located behind you. With a bit more power for '09 - 265 hp in the standard car, 320 hp in the Cayman S - the Cayman trails the corresponding 911 in the 0-to-60-mph sprint by less than a second (a half-second or less, in the case of the S). Either Cayman can be paired with the same seven-speed PDK paddle-shift automated manual transmission available in the 911. The Cayman engine's mid-ship location helps give the Cayman impeccable handling that delights the sports car purist. This is not a Porsche anyone will have to make excuses for.
911: $75,600

Cayman: $50,300

Savings: $25,300
Instead of: a 2009 Maserati Quattroporte, consider: a 2009 Jaguar XF
0812 06 Z+2009 Jaguar XF+profile View
"Maserati" is just about the sexiest-sounding name in the auto business, but "Jaguar" is not far behind - provided you stick with the two-syllable, American, pronunciation (jag-whar) and forego the too-pretentious, three-syllable, home-country variation (jag-u-ar). The Maserati Quattroporte also offers the seductive purr of a Ferrari-tuned V-8, gorgeous leather inside, and languid styling that may be the most shapely to grace a four-door sedan. Jaguar's XF, however, is pretty low, sleek, and head-turning in its own right - this is no boxy German sedan. The XF interior is miles ahead of previous Jags'; order the contrasting seat piping and one of the more exotic wood veneers to give it even more visual punch. And while the XF's Ford-derived V-8 may not sing like an Italian tenor, the Jaguar gives away nothing in the chassis department, moving with true grace and fluidity.
Quattroporte: $124,150

XF: $49,974

Savings: $74,176
Instead of: a 2009 Bentley Arnage, consider: a 2009 Chrysler 300C
0812 03 Z+2009 Chrysler 300C+front Three Quarter View
Okay, this one is a little jarring. Bentley is pretty much at the top of the luxury-sedan food chain, whereas Chrysler, well, isn't, so the first thing you'll need to do is quit the automotive name-dropping. (For practice: Instead of saying, "We took the Bentley," say, "We drove here.") But look beyond the badge, and you can see that the 300C travels in the same tire tracks as the aged British grandee. Both are large, comfortable, front-engine, rear-wheel-drive sedans. Both use big-displacement, high-torque V-8s and five-speed automatic transmissions (the 300C's designed by Mercedes-Benz, as a matter of fact). And the Chrysler's styling makes clear - from the four round headlights up front to the upright, chrome-heavy grille to the long hood and classic proportions - that the 300C's designers were keen admirers of the Bentley. If you're still worried that the 300C is too common, you can turn up the wattage on its appearance by having your local custom body shop install a few special, aftermarket items (there are plenty available for this car). Finally, we could point out that the Chrysler will just as capably take you back and forth between Greenwich and lower Manhattan, or wherever it is you're going these days.
Arnage R: $232,085

300C: $37,585

Savings: $194,500

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