I went to the new car show here in Montreal last night. I thought I’d share my impressions. Mind you, these impressions are not connected with how the cars drive, just a designer looking at styling, interface, touch and feel of new cars.
I have to say, the most impressive car I saw was the 2012 Ford Focus. This car just raises the bar in every way. The finish is at luxury car levels. Little details like the way the window frames are finished with plastic on the interior. The materials are as high grade as anything from Volkswagen.
In the Focus, and also the Explorer and Edge, was an incredible looking center stack. I have no idea how the Ford Touch stuff works, but it makes for a great looking interior. It reminds me a lot of what Apple did with the iPod controls. A lot of controls without a lot of buttons. Whether Ford’s system is easy to use will have to see…
Buick & Cadillac also stood out. For me, these two have passed the Japanese and Germans, because the cars just feel special. Especially the CTS and Regal. The fit and finish is superb, but sitting inside these cars feels like a new experience. The interiors are just so unique. I sat in a couple Mercedes, BMWs and Audis and they all feel like polished versions of 10 year old concepts. Caddy and Buick feel fresh.
The Saab 9-5 styling is incredible. It looks good in photos and incredible in person. The tail lights are an awesome detail and the proportions are just spot on for a car this size. Unfortunately, the cars were locked. Probably for good reason. A look through the window and it seemed like the interior was low-rent for car’s at this price.
The Chrysler 300 is another car that impresses in person. This is what the 300 should have always been. I know some people thought the update was a little boring, but it’s the details that make the design sing now. It used to look like a cheap Bentley, now it looks like a baby Rolls. It really is that good. Unfortunately, the interior is a let down. The interior today would have been high end in 2005. Today, it looks five years old.
I ended the good with Chrysler, so I’ll start the bad with them:
Chrysler 200. Nice try, but the thing still has the Sebring stink to it. The interior seems to have taken a step back in fact. This platform never needed a facelift, it needs replacing.
Fiat 500. I really wanted to love this car, so it’s hard to say I was disappointed. If the 500 was being pitched against the Chevy Aveo, I would say it was spot on. Unfortunately, it’s being pitched at the Mini & Fiesta and falls flat. It just feels like a cheap Italian car. Details like the head rests that are injected foam with horrible amounts of flash around them and the thin doors yell: I AM CHEAP TO BUILD.
Mercedes, Acura, Lexus and Infiniti: With how cutting edge Ford, Caddy and Buick are, these luxury makes are hugely disappointing & also why I had a disclaimer about not talking about how these cars drive. If these makes didn’t have huge engines, great handling, heritage, badge snobbery, I don’t know if they would be any better off than Saab.
Lastly, the HTT Plethore whatchamacallit Quebec-Canadian supercar that is supposedly $450k canadian. This thing had more orange peel and crap in the paint than anything else at the show. The resin on the carbon fiber front splitter had runs in it. The interior had leather (vinyl?) dangling off the steering column. I won’t criticize the design, engineering, concept, etc, because I don’t know where to begin in building a car from scratch. Having grown up wet sanding cars for my dad and brother, I do know about good paint jobs though. Also, having worked with an interior guy on my first 914 interior, I know about what a good interior upholster should look like. This car has the paint and interior of a used '96 Cavalier.
Photos will be coming this afternoon!