I can’t confirm this, but I have it on good authority that there's an unwritten rule among European car manufacturers that goes something like this: If you want an ultra-expensive, exotic, high-performance car to be super hot, to be mysterious, and to sell, give it a name that no one can pronounce or understand.
And so it shall be. As the following list confirms, Italian and German auto manufacturers do it better than anyone in the world. Japanese and Korean manufacturers have adopted the practice and, in typical Kaizen style, are trying hard to improve on a really ambiguous practice.
American car makers are bringing up the rear and seem reluctant to push the envelope in the name race because of the success they’ve had with easy-to-pronounce names like “Corvette,” “Trans-Am,” “Camaro,” Thunderbird,” “Super Bird,” “Cobra,” and now “Tesla.” Perhaps, that’s why American auto enthusiasts have an even harder time pronouncing multi-syllabled imported car names than our European cousins – we’ve been weaned on a steady diet of easy-on-the tongue soundbite names.
When you see some of the names coming from Western Europe, you have to wonder if there’s more here than meets the eye. Do Lamborghini, Maserati, Ferrari, and Porsche collectively conspire to develop and bestow hard-to-pronounce monikers in a secret European Automotive Skunk Works? Do they each have their own Departments of “Misanthropic Designations?” Or are there mysterious little car gurus sitting behind the curtains at each company and who are paid by the syllable?
We may never know for sure, but in the relentless pursuit of truth, justice, and the American way of pronouncing cars, we set out to identify 15 sexy cars no one on this side of the Atlantic can pronounce. (That was the easy part.) As a further public service, we provide full phonetic pronunciations that, if used properly, will put you in a conversational class with Tony Stark when talking sexy cars.
15 Lamborghini Gallardo: Which Team Does He Play For?
The Lamborghini Gallardo hasn’t been produced since 2013, but it's still a tongue twister under the best of circumstances. Let’s be clear -- the Gallardo isn't a European soccer star or the latest satellite from the European Space Agency. It’s a $200,000 sports car with a fire-breathing V12 engine. For those who’ve seen it in action, the Gallardo best resembles a blur as it screams by, often prompting many Homer Simpson-like responses in its wake (“Gal-ar-DUH!). In second place is “Gal-ar-doh.” But please note, in Spanish, "Gallardo" means brave, dashing, elegant and striking, and the double “l’s” sound like “y’s.” So, the correct pronunciation is “Guy-yar-doh.
14 Maserati Ghibli: Gee???
Named for an African desert wind, the original Maserati Ghibli dates back to the 1960s when it first appeared as a two-door coupe. The current model is a sporty, four-door saloon. With its sexy lines, 345 hp, twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6, and rear-wheel drive (or optional 404 hp and optional all-wheel drive), the Ghibli oozes sex appeal and speed. Still, as many reviews note, the name is nearly impossible to get right first time. The common pronunciation is “Gib-lee.” The correct pronunciation is “Jee-blee.”
13 Porsche Cayman: Hey Man, Get the Name Right!
What more can you say about this mid-engine entry that hasn’t already been said? US News & World Report sums it up nicely: “The 2018 Porsche 718 Cayman stays true to its heritage by delivering brand-renowned handling and spine-tingling acceleration - two qualities that help it place near the top of our luxury sports car rankings.” So, let’s try getting the name right - it’s not “Kai-man” as many prefer. It’s “Kay-man.” And while we’re at it, don’t forget Porsche is “POHR-shuh.”
12 Porsche Cayenne: Shake and Bake
If an American car company had named its newest and sexiest SUV for five after a spice, how would you react? Would you really rather drive a Buick “Basil,” a Lincoln “Mediterranean Oregano,” or a Ford “Thyme”? None of the above, but then again this is Porsche. Having two stablemates so close together on the alphabet with hard to pronounce names has done nothing to deter sales of this popular luxury mid-size SUV. So, let’s not sneeze about the name anymore and just get it right. It’s not “Kai-yen,” as it's commonly mistaken for. The correct pronunciation is “Kay-en.” Now that we’ve settled that one, please pass the salt.
11 VW Phaeton
A number of great cars, both domestic and European, have proudly worn the Phaeton badge over the years. The designation is usually reserved for very special, high-end luxury models. That was the thinking behind the VW Phaeton, which was produced from 2003-2016 (but only sold in the US through 2006) and conceived to compete head-to-head with other prestigious German brands. Not a bad run by any stretch, but the Phaeton is considered one VW’s biggest failures in the UK. While that’s not exactly the next coming of the Ford Edsel, it was certainly a black eye for VW in the high end of the luxury market at a time when the company could least afford it. Phaeton has its origins in Greek mythology, which means, aside from the Greeks, it’s been mispronounced for generations around the world ever since. So that history doesn’t continue to repeat itself, let’s correct the record. It’s not pronounced “Fay-ton.” It’s “Fay-eh-ton.”
10 Lamborghini Huracan: I’m a Hurricane Alice, a Hurr-i-cane!
Attention, Honeymooner’s fans! The Lamborghini Huracan couldn’t be more different from the word and famous 1950s TV episode where Ralph Kramden immortalizes the name of his bowling team to generations of US viewers. The Huracan is lightning fast, sexy, and exotic. With a sticker price starting at just under $200,000, it’s plenty expensive, too (but not as expensive as you can get with a Lamborghini). One thing's for sure: it's definitely not a hurricane, Alice! If you buy one, chances are, that’s what everyone will call it. Now, you can correct your neighbors. Tell them the correct pronunciation is “Huh-ruh-can.”
9 Maserati Quattroporte: Not Quadrotriticale
Not to be outdone in the multiple Italian tongue-twisters department, Maserati gives us the Quattroporte, Italian for "four-door," AND the Ghibli (see #19 above). Quattroporte shouldn't be confused with Quadrotriticale, a genetically engineered hybrid of wheat and rye, that served as the basis for “The Trouble with Tribbles,” a classic Star Trek episode in 1967. No one outside of the cast could pronounce "Quadrotriticale" then. And here’s a news flash: anything remotely close to it suffers from the same fate now. Many call it “Qua-tro-port,” but if you want to get it right with some Italian flair, it’s really “Qua-tro-port-tay!” Don’t bother with the English translation. The car might be insulted.
8 Pagani Huayra: No Cheerleading Needed
The Huarya looks like something from the next century, but the name evokes memories of football cheers from the roaring '20s (rah, rah, sis, boom bah!). This Italian engineered sports car doesn’t need any cheerleading to go faster. It’s got an exceptional resume. The Huayra was named "The Hypercar of the Year 2012" by Top Gear magazine and got a glowing review when tested by Richard Hammond on Top Gear. The Huayra was previously the fastest road car to go around the Top Gear Test Track, setting a time of 1:13.8, beating the previous record of 1:15.1 set by the Ariel Atom V8 in January 2011. In June 2016, the Huayra was beaten by the record-setting McLaren 675LT. The most common pronunciation is “Hey-rah” but if you want to get it right and impress your friends, it’s “Wai-rah.”
7 Rolls-Royce Camargue: Cama-What?
Produced from 1975-1986, the Camargue is a 2-door luxury sedan that served as the flagship of Roll’s fleet and was dubbed the most expensive production car in the world. In addition to its stately looks, it was the first post-war production Rolls-Royce not designed in-house. The Camargue shared a platform with the Rolls-Royce Comiche and Silver Shadow. Rolls pictured it as something more than it's considered today. Drivecult.com describes the Camargue like this: “The Camargue was first conceived in the late Sixties as a potential replacement for the two-door version of the Silver Shadow, the Corniche, and the first reason it should be cool is that for this car, Rolls- Royce elected to contract out the design work to the dons of Italian car design, Pininfarina.” But history hasn’t been so kind. It's also considered an expensive flop and is consistently accompanied by mixed and, at times, frenetic reviews. It’s pronounced “Car-marg” with a hard “G” at the end, not “Car-mar-gue” or “Car-mar-glue.” And certainly not, “Car-ma-geddon.”
6 Suzuki KizashiL Deliciously, Non-Delectable Name
Except for its hard to pronounce name, many consider the mid-sized Suzuki Kizashi simply stunning. Carsmoto2018.com calls the 2018/19 Platinum Edition “a stunning car of the highest class.” Looks and performance wise, it’s hard to argue with that assessment. Cars.com takes it one step further: “The Kizashi has the classic midsize looks: An aggressive front end that looks like a linebacker with black grease under his eyes, a well-proportioned profile with a sweeping roofline and slightly higher back end (that looks as if it's going to jump), and then the piece de resistance, the Kizashi's backside, which includes an arching deck lid and two big oddly shaped exhaust tips.” So, if you want a brute in your garage, it should have an in-your-face name that’s correctly pronounced “Key-zash-ee,” not “Kashi.” But if pressed, it could probably eat your lunch.
5 Bentley Bentayga: Peak of the Pronunciation List
With a top speed of 187 mph, the Bentley Bentayga is billed as the fastest SUV in the world, capable of doing 0-60 in 3.6 seconds and with 600 hp under the hood. Options include 22-inch wheels, rear-entertainment tablets, and a 1920-watt, 20-speaker audio system. Car and Driver calls it “an exquisitely detailed, nearly three-ton luxury barge that accelerates almost like a Chevrolet Corvette Z06.” Rumor has it The Bentayga name refers to a mountain peak in Gran Canaria called "Roque Bentayga," and it was originally named by the Most Interesting Man in the World (because he can!). If you happen to be in the neighborhood, you can impress the locals with your worldly pronunciation skills - tell them it’s a “Bent-lee Ben-tay-gah.”
4 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde: Say It Three Times Fast
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde. Go ahead, say it three times fast. I dare you. It’s definitely a mouthful for a car that's inspired a lot of great praise. Autoweek.com writes: “The exterior looks great to my eye, the car goes like stink, and the sticker is lower than I thought. What’s not to like? This is another car I’ve been waiting to drive for a long time, and saying I was skeptical is an enormous understatement. Given Fiat/Alfa’s legendary reputation for spotty build quality and reliability, I just couldn’t take the car seriously. I was wrong. This car is excellent.” The word "Quadrifoglio" refers to Alfa Romeo’s popular Cloverleaf emblem, which was introduced to the body work of all Alfa race cars, as of 1923, as a good luck charm to those racing. But say no more - just say it right the first time: “Al-fa Rom-a-oh Jul-e-ett-a kwod-dri-foglio Ver-day.”
3 Ferrari LaFerrari: Double LaPleasure
No, you’re not seeing double (but if you were, it would be $14 million worth of double), and Ferrari isn’t that hard to pronounce. But Ferrari LaFerari is a double take waiting to happen, and it’s why this stunning hybrid sports car is on the list. LaFerrari literally means “TheFerrari” in Italian or the “definitive” Ferrari. Of that we have little doubt. A year ago, a La Ferrari sold at auction for $7 million, making it, according to published reports, “the most valuable 21st century automobile ever sold at auction.” This one doesn’t require an elocution coach. Just a reminder: if you can say it la once, you can do it la twice.
2 Bugatti Veyron: Lighter Than Air
Billed as the world’s fastest production car, the Bugatti Veyron is capable of reaching 253 mph. The Veyron, as a BBC Top Gear review articulates, is about pushing the envelope. That might be an understatement. Bugatti may have reinvented the envelope with a 1,001-hp 16-cylinder engine, four turbo chargers, and 10 (count ‘em!) radiators. That’s enough to get a charge out of Iron’s Man Tony Stark, and maybe then some. As with other Italian exotics, the name is part of the mystique. The uninitiated often pronounce it “Vay-ron” but it should be “Vair-on,” in your huskiest-sounding voice to add drama.
1 Lamborghini Murcielago: Exercising the Bull
The Murcielago has quite a heritage. Produced between 2001 and 2010, it succeeded the Lamborghini Diablo (or "devil" in English) as the flagship of the automaker’s supercar lineup. Not to be outdone in the hard-to-pronounce naming derby, Lamborghini followed up the devil with “Murcielago,” which is Spanish for “bat” and the name of a famous Navarra fighting bull. It seems the founder of the company, Ferruccio Lamborghini, had a passion for bullfighting. (That’s no bull!) At a starting MSRP of $354,000, the Murcielago is some bull on the road. In 2009, Lamborghini released a limited-run update of the Murciélago Roadster that could achieve a top speed of 330 km/h (210 mph) and do 0-62 mph in 3.4 seconds. So before you go batty, how do you correctly pronounce the name? It’s not “Mercy-a-lago,” it’s “Mur-ceea-lago.” And yes, Lamborghini has thought of everything except easier-to-pronounce names.