Since TTAC is already “noted for dissing its mainstream competitors for cosseting carmakers,” we might as well not try to resist temptation on this one… because Car And Driver may have just outdone themselves. It starts with the one of the best headlines in ages:
10Best Surprise: Plastics Make the Chevy Volt’s Interior Possible
Surprise? Where? But in spite of the painfully unambitious headline, what follows is a symphony of strange. The ultimate point of which appears to be that C&D is absolutely thrilled about GM’s decision to make the Volt’s interior out of plastic. Yes, really.
After noting that plastic is ubiquitous in cars, but is “usually disguised as burled walnut or carbon fiber or anything but what it is,” C&D offers the photo shown above as evidence that Volt’s center stack represents “industrial design at its best” (an epithet that is now apparently synonymous with “looks like an iPod”). Ditto the doors, which according to C&D achieve that old design school trope “embodying the material.”
Plastic, by definition, is wonderfully malleable. The Volt’s door panels, for example, take full advantage of this, being shaped and modeled into a form that’s both attractive and practical.
Now, to be perfectly fair, I have not personally experienced the Chevrolet Volt… but this is a $40,000 car. As much as I share the author’s distaste for fake wood and carbonfiber, the prejudice doesn’t make me any more likely to rave over the plastic-happiness of any interior at the Volt’s asking price. A main reason so many automakers put fake wood and carbonfiber (and the good ones use the real stuff) is because plastic is impersonal, industrial and ubiquitous… all unwelcome adjectives at the $40k price point. The not-so-old saying “the medium is the message” applies here, and the message is that the Volt isn’t all that different from a Cruze. As this image illustrates, the Volt’s interior is clearly more pleasingly designed than the Cruze’s, but it’s not the difference between a Cruze and a CTS, or better yet, a Sentra and a G37.
Luckily for the Volt, its drivetrain would pull in early adopters even if the interior were made out of old tupperware and duct tape. And, as C&D as much as admits, the Volt will be bought in spite of aesthetics anyway because
the car’s exterior… is aesthetically confused and not up to the rest of the advanced design.
In light of this, perhaps C&D could have focused on (say) the touch-sensitive controls for its Voltaic “Surprise” instead of trying to bring plasticky back.