By on February 24, 2017

2015 Ford Mustang V6 shift paddle

You know how I know that things are getting pretty good in the automotive world? Because we’ve gone from a world where new cars lock their brakes and ignite their gas tanks and delaminate their tires with murderous yet monotonous regularity to a world where people get authentically upset when the fake stitching on their dashboard doesn’t look convincing enough. Our grandparents expected to have to grease their axles every thousand miles and rebuild their engines every 50,000, but we’ve turned into princesses whose posteriors are perfectly primed to detect the mere suggestion of a spherical inconsistency ten mattresses down.

I’m not just talking about the boss man here at TTAC being triggered by a wobbly hood release. I’ve been complaining about the paint and carpet in my Accord for three years now. Prior to that, I recall being very disappointed in the fact that one of my Phaetons only had the stamped-steel parallelogram trunk arms instead of the forged Campagnolo pieces that my other car had. It kept me up at night. I didn’t like opening my trunk in any sort of elevated company.

Of course, we’re not so quick to complain about getting 270 horsepower in the Accord that used to come with 110, or the five LCD screens that replaced plain mechanical gauges, or the vastly better NVH isolation. We want Rolls-Royce interiors and W126 mechanicals at Kia Rio price points. That’s because we now live in a consumer culture where we define ourselves by what we consume, not by what we produce. And it’s also because we’re kind of stupid about how the automotive sausage is made.

The truth of the matter is that all modern automakers skimp. They skimp all over the place, on all sorts of things, and they hope to heaven that you either don’t notice or don’t care. This is true whether we’re talking about the Chevy Sonic or the Bentley Mulsanne. You just have to pick and choose where you’re willing to have the skimping take place. Which reminds me of a great story about the 1996 Taurus …

In the infamous Mary Walton Taurus book, we find out the 1992 Taurus lost the folding armrest fitted to the back seat of the 1986 Taurus. This was just one of many steps that Ford took to equip the ’92 for the price-centric sales battle, but it was the one that annoyed the hell out of the program manager for the 1996 replacement. After all, the Camry had a folding center armrest in its back seat. In fact, it had all sorts of neat stuff; this was the “Lexus Camry” of the 1992-1995 model years.

After a series of bloodthirsty boardroom battles, the team got the OK to put the armrest in the ’96 Taurus. Nobody noticed. Worse yet, the heavily cost-cut 1996 Camry arrived without one, and it didn’t hurt that car’s popularity one bit! So when the stopgap 1996.5 “Taurus G” arrived to do business with price-conscious buyers, it was also short one center armrest. Which goes to show: you never know what’s going to make the customer notice and what will escape his wandering eye.

This is my quick list of cares and don’t-cares on new cars:

I care about:

  • Drivetrain performance and durability
  • How well the chassis holds up under heavy use — bushings and the like
  • Safety in a crash
  • Audio system
  • Ergonomics that fit my oft-broken twisted skeleton

I don’t care about:

  • Prestige, implied or realized
  • Up-to-date telematics
  • Styling (within reason)
  • OEM tire choice (I’m going to get rid of them)
  • The environmental sustainability of its construction
  • Fuel consumption (within reason)
  • Resale value

All of those are nice to have but I’ll let a manufacturer skimp on those if I can get more of what I want. The same is true for my Accord: I’m not thrilled about the paint but I’ll eagerly give up good paint for a durable engine and transmission.

What’s important to you? What are the Un-Skimpables? And what can you accept, with or without rancor? Can I interest you in monochrome grey bumpers? Roll-up windows? A trunk with no liner? How about a driveshaft that does double duty as a lower control arm? It’s all out there, you know!

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200 Comments on “QOTD: Where Do You Want Them To Skimp?...”

  • avatar

    Infotainment. You can and may keep these (and their CR-downing bugs).

    • 0 avatar

      Realistically they should just make all infotainment an extension of cell phones with a radio added on.

      • 0 avatar

        Scrap the Infotainment for me as well. Junk the whole concept. I don’t need navigation. I don’t need a sound simulator for engine noise. I don’t need virtual buttons for all the functions of the car. Simple is better. Give me a stereo with an Aux button. In addition to speed, fuel and RPM, give me a temp gauge, a voltage gauge, and an MPG estimator. That is all I need.

        • 0 avatar
          Joe K

          Agreed. Also the ability to micromanage every system in the car. Thats what I am paying for, your engineers to set the car up. I mean really who uses or notices those settings? I know most car owners who can barely operate the Stereo.

        • 0 avatar

          I agree. No effin’ infotainment. And I don’t have any on my ’08 Civic.

          I want Jack’s first three, as well as decent fuel economy and a smooth, highly responsive engine (but I don’t need huge amounts of torque). I want to be able to see out of the car in all directions, easily. I like power windows but I certainly don’t need (and don’t want, becuase it adds a lot to weight) power seats.

    • 0 avatar

      For infotainment, standardize on an aux input, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay (and their successors). If you want to add features beyond those in higher models then fine, but this will be perfectly fine for the vast majirity of folks.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    In the family truckster, I care about:

    – Interior flexibility (Stow & Go or death)
    – Practical utility
    – Interior surface durability
    – Reliability
    – Front seat comfort
    – Predicable driving dynamics

    I don’t care about:
    – Externally perceived utility
    – Styling
    – Useless features (how many SUVs have ever been in 4WD-Lo?)
    – Raw performance numbers (though I really am liking the Durango SRT)

    • 0 avatar

      “– Useless features (how many SUVs have ever been in 4WD-Lo?)”

      A fair point, but I lament the loss of capable SUVs and traditional transfer cases and rugged underpinnings, as I’m one of the small subset of people who truly want/need those features for how we use said SUVs.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick 2012

        I fully agree that there are people who need 4-Lo. I’m just not one of them.


        For example, the Dahatsu Terrios I rented in Costa Rica had a locking center diff and creeper 1st gear. It was a great little BOF trucklet and could maintain a much faster speed on rougher roads than CUVs like the RAV4.

        I loved the thing, but it is totally unnecessary for my environment.

        • 0 avatar

          Nick I actually just got back from Costa Rica and likewise rented a Terios (fantastic trucklet, loved it). 1st gear is fairly short, but not THAT short. Our climb up to our Air B&B was manageable but only just on the steep dirt switchbacks. Either an extra “Super low” gear like Honda’s old Civic RT4WD below 1st, or an actual low range would have made it that much more capable in my scenario.

          Also, it is NOT BOF, but a unibody with a longitudinal RWD layout with a solid rear axle. The ride is tuned soft and with long travel, additionally it seems that the rental places underinflate the tires slightly to prevent punctures on sharp rocks somewhat which likewise adds to the soft ride. Agreed, a Rav4 would rattle your fillings out on similar roads at the kind of speeds we drove at.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Funny. 12 years ago in Costa Rica our rental car was…a Terios.

          • 0 avatar

            30 mile they’re into their second generation now (12 years ago would have been the first year of gen 2 production), which thankfully retained the very utilitarian nature and hardware of the 1st. It was absolutely the ideal vehicle for bombing around down there. Fuel efficient, easy to maneuver, enough power to pass with a drop down to 3rd (with the 5spd) and really fun to drive. We bounced our way down to a secluded beach that included a steep drop-off from the paved road that would have definitely flumoxed the Rav4s that were a common “upgrade” at the rental counter. I really want to write up a TTAC review for it, just need to get off my butt and work on it while it’s reasonably fresh in my mind.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Do a review. I’d love to see even more reviews here, I enjoy reading what other people think of cars and I particularly like your perspective on them.

            Yeah, a Terios is perfect for Costa Rica, it is almost like a species that evolved there. Lots of clearance, fits on those narrow hairy two-lanes (dear god, watch out on blind corners), and is pretty good on fuel.

          • 0 avatar

            Thanks for the encouragement, I will lay out some thoughts over the weekend. I even took a bunch of pics of it with a potential review in mind.

          • 0 avatar

            That’d be an interesting review!

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Good! That will encourage me to clean up a draft ownership review of our cheapo Altima I’ve written, but that may be way too boring, way too outdated for a site with only so much publishing space.

            I’m waiting for some more time with the 4Runner to finish that review, I’d like to get a few camping sojourns under the belt first.

          • 0 avatar

            I googled the Terios. Like most Daihatsu vehicles, I love it.

            I also encourage both of you to write your reviews, I too enjoy it.

            I wouldn’t mind reading the Altima review. The one I have experience with is a 2012 I believe, its the last of the first generation that went into CVT oblivion.

            Not that I loved the older one I drove for a few months, either. I think it was an 05? Anyway the handling when pushed got weird on me and I didn’t like the feeling at all. It also felt like I was deep inside a cocoon compared to other cars I normally drove. Put it this way, it was one of the earliest to give me that impression.

            I was also annoyed the display being constantly blanked out by the sun, and I’ve noticed the always-lit gauges make people forget to turn on their lights at dusk. I see them all the time…or rather I barely see them.

            They’re worse than guys who work out of their GM truck, throw papers and junk up on the dash over the light sensor but leave their lights to “AUTO” and high beams on so they blind people driving around all day from job site to site.

            A cross-eyed filthy truck is a common sight lol (excluding newer versions without side-by-side headlamps of course).

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve used 4LO on my truck to pull bushes out of my yard and a few friends yards, used it to pull a heavy boat out of an unpaved landing, and a handful of other time.

      • 0 avatar

        I my perfect world all AWD systems would include a 4LO/CENTER LOCK setting. Yeah only about 10% of the population knows how to use it but for those of us that do it would really open up the options when the snow or the mud rears its head.

        I think anything “truck based” (BOF) with 4×4 has to have an AUTO setting a 2wd setting and a 4LO setting. Otherwise what was the freaking point of buying it in the first place?

        • 0 avatar

          Well I’d say you are one that doesn’t know how to use Lo range. The last thing you want to do is double the torque available at the wheels when operating on a slippery surface. One of the reasons we kept the 5sp AT equipped Mountaineer is because you can start it in 2nd or 3rd from a start to reduce the torque at the wheels to reduce the likelihood of wheel spin in snow/ice. I also prefer being able to select and hold the lower gear of my choice when towing that Ford took away with that PRNDL selector used on the newer 6sp.

          • 0 avatar

            I was talking about crawling out from a standstill or nearly a standstill. Not going down the highway.

            I’ve been in snowstorms that have dumped 14 in on an area overnight. It is nice if you can crawl out of the drift instead of shoveling around the vehicle.

          • 0 avatar

            I said noting about going down the highway in 4Lo but the simple physics of trying to get traction on a slippery surface. You want to decrease torque multiplication not increase it.

      • 0 avatar

        4lo is a wonderful thing on boat ramps. In the past I have used it many times, But I’m not sure I have ever bothered on my Durango (which tows a very small boat and does not go offroad).

        • 0 avatar

          +1. 4LO on boat ramps has allowed me to launch and retrieve in places where many others dare not tread. My eyes were opened to this capability about 20 years ago when I had occasion to pull a 6500lb boat/trailer combo up a 12+% grade gravel driveway. I wasn’t going to ask my ’92 4Runner to pull the boat down the highway at 70mph, but it was perfect for getting us back up to the road. I put it in 4LO, let out the clutch, and she creeped right up that hill barely above idle.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            +2 on boats ramps. My big boat weighs almost 4 tons and it is nice to be able to pull it out nice, slow and easy without straining the truck.

            “I wasn’t going to ask my ’92 4Runner to pull the boat down the highway at 70mph, but it was perfect for getting us back up to the road”

            When I had my ’93 Toy PU, 4L was the only way that truck was backing my 23′ cuddy (around 3 ton) up my gravel driveway. Like you, never used it to tow it down the highway because it didn’t have the power. 4L allowed me to use it to take the boat to the ramp a few miles away. though

            I’d have people watch me at the ramp because they thought they were in for show when I tried to pull out. But in 4L that truck effortlessly got it out. In 4H I would of had to smoke the clutch in a bad way to get it out of the water and up the ramp.

    • 0 avatar

      4 low got me out of a jamb in my Isuzu Trooper a few times, but I didn’t use it off road as much as I thought I would.

      Well, I mean I did, but I didn’t own it long-term like I had planned. Blame it on being a one-year-only powertrain and having consistent issues with it lol.

      I loved that it was a rust-free 2 door, manual and had an I-4. I also loved the round headlamps. I just didn’t know enough about them to consider skipping it due to the drivetrain issues including the lack of available parts.

      I sold it to a guy who had a mechanically excellent but extremely rusty body/frame example, same year. He said it had got so bad that he was scared to move it around the yard. Every little thing I pointed out on it like the headlights being pretty dim despite being upgraded, he was like yep, mine too. Clearly, he knew what he was getting into. Haha

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    Everyone slams Mazda for its NVH. Thats where they cheap out. Personally what I care about most:

    -Reliable drivetrain
    -Durable chassis: shocks, springs, bushings, tie rods
    -Durable Paint. Seems like some of these new cars clear coat will scratch if you look at them the wrong way
    -Comfortable. I’m 6’2 and 290. I need legroom and hip/shoulder room.
    -Decent sound system
    -halfway usable infotainment system

    What I car least about:
    -soft touch plastics: I’d rather have hard plastics that are put together really well that will last
    -Rear seat legroom. No one rides in the back.
    -NVH. I’t doesn’t have to be that quiet
    -resale value

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      Agree on resale. Never been much for spending thousands more to get an extra 500 bucks at trade time. Maybe if you swap cars frequently it could be an issue but for most people I think it is just something they use to show everyone how smart they are.

    • 0 avatar

      Daniel J I’m with you on most of you wrote. I keep my cars a long time. I’m on my 2nd car (Mazda3) and have owned it for 3 years. My last car I kept for 14 years (Civic).

      Clearly I don’t care one bit about NVH and resale value.

    • 0 avatar

      Mazda’s NVH would be better with another 100 pounds of sound deadening.

      But that flies in the face of the low-weight “Skyactiv” gig.

      • 0 avatar
        Daniel J

        I had a 2016 Mazda6 for a loaner, and its road noise was worse than our CX5. But then again, big ole 19 inch wheels will do that. I think some 17s would have improved the road noise. Wind noise was almost non-existent until we hit about 80.

        • 0 avatar

          I rented a 2012 Mazda6 back in that time period, it was extremely noisy and it had 16″ steelies I believe. Was not a fun car like I thought it would be.

          • 0 avatar

            Mazda? Don’t get me started! My wife drives a 2012 Mazda5 and I hate the vehicle with a passion! The thing is slower tha molasses in winter with fuel consumption like a large V6! And the undercarriage is as rusty as a 15-year-old car, rusty as heck! Is squeaks and rattles like an old Chevy Minivan.

            Plus, there’s NOTHING simple to service on that vehicle! Almost anything takes extensive disassembly to fix or maintain. NEVER AGAIN!!!!!

          • 0 avatar

            A 2012 Mazda 6 and a 2016 are not remotely the same car. The ’12 is closer in spirit and execution to your beloved Taurus than a ’16 Mazda 6!

            I also had a 6 as a rental from that time period. It was OK, it was better than the same age Galant I had to drive back the other direction. But fun? No, I wouldn’t say fun.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Paddle shifters. Zero use for them. They should be stand-alone options, for those who want them, not standard. My wife’s previous vehicle, an ML550 and her current one, a Grand Cherokee, came with them and they are more an annoyance than anything else.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. Putting paddle shifters in most cars is a waste, particularly if they’re going on a CVT or slushbox automatic. The whole point of paddle shifters is to allow you to make quick shifts while driving at speed and/or cornering without having to take your hands off of the wheel. If pulling the paddle results in a shift 1-2 seconds later then there’s no point to them. You shouldn’t even have them unless you’ve got some sort of a dual clutch setup that actually makes them usable.

      And on top of that, almost nobody gets them right anyway! I can’t tell you how many cars have “right paddle upshift, left paddle downshift”, but have the paddles mounting to the steering wheel rather than the column, resulting in the paddle swapping sides if you’re turning. The correct function is “pull back to upshift, push forward to downshift”, and if you can’t manage to figure that out then at least mount the damn paddles on the column so that left is always left and right is always right.

      • 0 avatar

        Right paddle up, left paddle down. Pull only, there is no push option. That’s the way it is on race cars, that’s the only way it should ever be. They can turn with the wheel, unless you’re going at pit speed or slower, you’re not going to turn hand over hand at any point on a track.

        I completely agree about their pointlessness, though. If it takes longer to shift than it would take a row-your-own, why have it?

        Auto-stick or slap shift should always be pull back to shift up, push forward to downshift. Just like sequential boxes in race cars.

      • 0 avatar

        “particularly if they’re going on a CVT or slushbox automatic.”

        So, you prefer paddle shifters with a manual trans?

        When Ford came out with the Fusion in 2006, everyone complained that it just had [D] and [L] selections for forward motion, despite having 5 or 6 gears (depending on engine).

        You can’t hold engine speed for extended downhill drives! You can’t keep it in a lower gear in the city to keep it from shifting so much! Ford hates its customers!

        So, they started putting paddle shifters in cars like the 2010 Taurus. Not only can you hold lower gears, you can play with it by down shifting before a curve to slow it down and to already be in a lower gear for acceleration out of the curve.

        It doesn’t turn the car unto a 3 pedal Mustang, but it is more interesting than D or L.

        People complained it was silly on a non-sports car. So they put a rocker switch on the shifter to accomplish the same thing, and people still complain.

        • 0 avatar

          “So, you prefer paddle shifters with a manual trans?”

          No. As I said, put them on cars that have dual clutch systems, like VW/Audi’s DSG. Those transmissions are designed to provide much faster shifts than you can get out of any regular AT.

          As for the rest, they can certainly do gear selection on automatics via the shift lever. My 2006 Acura had that, and if it ever made sense to manually control what gear I was in I could do it that way. (hint: it didn’t)

    • 0 avatar

      I’d put “shiftable automatics” in general on there. If I wanted to shift, I wouldn’t have bought an automatic. My Ram CV cargo van has one, because I always like to pretend I’m driving a racecar when I’m really driving a windowless Caravan.

      • 0 avatar

        ” if I wanted to shift, I’d buy a manual!”

        Okay, so giving you the *option* to choose the gear for yourself is such a terrible thing? For those few who know how and when to take advantage of such, they put them in the entire model range. If its just too much for you, pretend its not there.

        Might as well complain about auto-down windows or delayed lighting.
        “If I wanted the window down, I can hold the button!”
        “If I wanted the interior lights on, I’d open the door!”

        Some people will never be satisfied. And if the moment arrives when they are, the rest won’t be.

        • 0 avatar

          “Pointy knees. 2/10, would not bang.”

        • 0 avatar

          That’s not the point of the question. The question was what features do YOU care/not care about. It is a personal opinion. Clearly there are people (myself included) that don’t care one iota about having the option to shift an AT manually. It’s a feature of my car that I never use, just like the lighted mirrors on the sun visors. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t someone somewhere who likes/wants/needs those options. It’s just that there are people that really don’t care. And that was the point of the question.

      • 0 avatar

        > I’d put “shiftable automatics” in general on there.

        NO! You apparently don’t know why automatics have a forward setting other than Drive, and it’s not about pretending to be a race car driver. I wouldn’t buy a vehicle with an automatic that I couldn’t manually downshift.

        Downshifting on steep grades provides engine braking so you don’t need to ride the brakes. Limiting the upper gear in some winter conditions makes the vehicle easier to control.

        I’ll also limit the upper gear in city driving to prevent the transmission from hunting. How much fuel are you really saving if the transmission only gets into overdrive for a moment before you have to slow down again? Downshifting to Drive is worth it to reduce wear-and-tear on the transmission and also keep the engine in its powerband for when you need to accelerate again.

        • 0 avatar

          yep. gear selectors on automatics- whether paddles, buttons, etc.- are there because in the days of 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 speed transmissions, “PRNDL” and “O/D OFF” are obsolete. what is “L” when you have 10 forward gear ratios?

          • 0 avatar

            Our ’14 Odyssey has either L or O/D off for manual control. I hate that, especially since Honda’s transmission programming leaves much to be desired.

            Though given the higher failure rate of V6/automatic Hondas from 00-12 and that most people put minivans in D and go, I think I understand the decision behind it. I don’t like it, but I understand. I doubt the forthcoming 10-spd will be any different.

    • 0 avatar

      First choice is a real stick shift. After that, the “+/-” gate on the center console preserves some of the intuitive feel and rhythm of a real stick shift. But flicking switches on the steering wheel? I don’t get it.

  • avatar

    This is why I drive low trim models. I’ve seen so many cars and trucks get launched and built that interiors look like bills of material to me. And most of it is fake.

    Rather than buy fake leather packages for my truck, I spent 1/3 of the upgrade cost on an Italian tanned English hide tufted leather sofa built in NC that I bang sl*ts on.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick 2012

      Where’d you get the couch? I’m looking to replace one at my house and want to get something USA made if possible.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al From 'Murica

        Hickory NC has a big outlet where all the NC manufacturers sell stuff. Be advices outlet does not equal cheap in this case.

      • 0 avatar

        I bought it sight unseen. Best purchase I’ve ever made. Leather is extremely durable (I got the ‘berkshire bourbon’ which is meant to show marks, scuffs, etc). Cushions sleep better than most beds.

        • 0 avatar

          That “contemporary” gives me the feels, tres.

          • 0 avatar

            It’s slick. After I save up from being broke from house renovation, I may buy another piece. I bought my monster sofa then my grandma gave me her velour tufted sofa (9′ long just like mine) and now I have two giant sofas. Had I known I would get her beauty from the 60’s, I probably would have bought the contemporary. I can’t recommend this place enough.

        • 0 avatar
          Nick 2012

          Thanks Tres.

          Good to know on the durability. My kids have destroyed 2 couches so far.

          As an aside, are you on reddit’s raw denim thread under the same name? I type this wearing White Oak jeans.

          • 0 avatar

            lol, I am. I love me some american made denim. I’m a little more polite in that realm.

            Also – I’m not sure how rough your kids are. My couch was moved and dropped several times (it was wrapped in shrink wrap) and didn’t ‘break’ through any spots. It’s beat up but that’s kind of the aesthetic of that leather.

        • 0 avatar

          Damn, man. Some of the best car-related commentary on this site and then you drop this on us.

          We need a couch, badly, and I’m not happy with the stuff you see in the overpriced chain outlets you find in the city.

        • 0 avatar

          Our inexpensive yet still overpriced couch is showing some more wear than I care for, and not in the flattering way you describe for your couch. Thanks for the link.

    • 0 avatar

      “Rather than buy fake leather packages for my truck, I spent 1/3 of the upgrade cost on an Italian tanned English hide tufted leather sofa built in NC that I bang sl*ts on.”
      I guess thats why this are built in places called HiGH POINT…and yes I know THomasville builds more..

    • 0 avatar

      “She’s got a silk dress and healthy breasts
      That bounce on his Italian leather sofa”

    • 0 avatar

      The prophet speaks!

    • 0 avatar

      Some may think I have a brocrush on Tres, but it’s only appears this way because 1) he’s one of the few people who puts his balls on the block (there used to be more insiders willing to do so; where did they go, Mrs. Robinson/Joe DiMaggio?) to give real, solid, insider information, especially of the dirty-scoop variety, of the transgressions, shortcuts and sins of the manufacturing-process (‘The Manufacturing & OEM Supply-Chain Cheater’s Guide to The Galaxy’), and 2) he buys mid’trim or lower-trim versions of vehicles, as I mainly do, because not only is much of the stuff on loaded versions of those same vehicles superfluous (to my needs), but many of those things create reliability and maintenance headaches (and as Tres mentions, aftermarket leather, speakers [it’s unfortunate that so many automakers make it hard or not possible to upgrade audio head units now, particularly as audio systems get married to infotainment systems], and other components can be found of much higher quality in the aftermarket world, and also, 3) fools and their $$$ are easily parted, and automakers cull a huge % of their profits by selling things like testicle/vagina-warmers/washers/scrubbers/powderers, and incoming missile chaff countermeasure systems (as well as LIDAR, RAIDAR, HATER, STRAITAR and other such systems, historically reserved for top of the line models, have now trickled down and are available in Kia Accents, which makes little sense (*IMO), especially when they cost just as much in those models as they do in much more expensive models from the same manufacturer, and will create an even larger depreciation anti-matter black hole as they would in those much more expensive, substantive, higher-end models (look at my Mitsubishi Mirage with 100% fair-trade certified Inuit-sourced Walrus Leather throughout, LIDAR, NADIR, lane-sense, rain-sense, pain-sense, taint-sense, FLARE Signal System, Hill Ascent System, Mountain Descent Mode Assist [MDMA], Chemical-Nuclear-Biological Containment & Filtration System & Quarantine Lock-Out, Laguna-Seca Launch Mode, etc.

      As to Jack’s QOTD: When it comes to the “guts” of the vehicle, such as suspension, transmission, motor, cooling system, chassis/frame rails, driveshaft, axles, exhaust system, wheels, starter motor, battery, relays, switches, solenoids, and the clamps, bolts, nuts, screws, fasteners, wiring, hoses, tubing, etc., that hold it all in place/prevent it from rusting/keep all fluids contained/ensure start up and proper functioning –


      Buy quality. Cry once (until they no longer allow it, which will happen, at any price).


      • 0 avatar

        Not to mention all those nannies puke K band radar or Lidar, setting off the detector for miles. At least the V1 is smart enough and programmable enough to filter most of it out.

        Really, if you need lidar not to tailgate on an open highway, I’m not sure I want to share road with you.

      • 0 avatar

        “where did they go, Mrs. Robinson/Joe DiMaggio?”

        some people like their jobs enough they don’t want to risk losing them just to score a handful of Internet Points.

      • 0 avatar

        This is why the 200C is probably the best value for the buck (component wise). It was such a steal that FCA made a business case to kill the damned thing as it would have bled cash rather than get anywhere close to an ROI.

        It’s chassis was better engineered than cars twice it’s cost.

      • 0 avatar
        Daniel J

        Good luck with that. The perfect vehicle doesn’t exist. You won’t find a car maker that doesn’t skimp somewhere.

      • 0 avatar

        Dead Weight: “(there used to be more insiders willing to do so; where did they go, Mrs. Robinson/Joe DiMaggio?) to give real, solid, insider information, especially of the dirty-scoop variety…”

        There used to be a lot more insiders on here, but they all got bludgeoned to death with less than witty remarks from the so-called “best and brightest”. One too many demagogues on here bored, irritated or frightened them away with their stinging reparteé.

        It *would* be great if every comment were well thought out and this place would be nothing with the inside jokes. But I’ve been on this board for at least 10 years now, and seen waves of editors, writers and commentators come and go.

        Every year or so it seems the discourse is hijacked by some guy who thinks he has a gimmick (Cockroach of the Road®, anyone?) and is going to be ‘internet famous’. All they do is drive away the good commentators and the rest get into this internecine argument about trivial matters.

        Basically, this has become an unabashed boy’s club. Women commentators and writers get harangued and treated poorly. There are sh!t ton of women who work in the business. I bet some of them have something to say, that we’d probably like to hear.



        • 0 avatar

          I am preparing to head off a hangover now (did not drive – sugar t!ts did), by downing 4 to 5 glasses of cold, reverse-osmosis filtered water, spiked with fresh lemon, and taking niacin (try it; it really works, as it helps expedite the processing and elimination of the impurities in alcohol that cause hangovers (I could have and should have stuck to vodka, which typically has 75% to 85% fewer such hangover causing impurities than other types of alcohol.

          However, you can disagree with my opinions (I expect many to) and tone (I’m rough around the edges), but I’ll be a motherscratcher if you or anyone else who really reads what I write thinks that I DON’T put genuine thought and effort into almost all of that which I do write.

          It’s not as if I’m a hit & run, one-liner or one-sentence provocateur.

          You can criticize me for many things, but it’s not as if I don’t put genuine, heartfelt effort into my comments.


          • 0 avatar

            That “special hangover” remedy/preventer did not work.

            I’m hungover like a dog.

            Put me down quickly with a head shot.


          • 0 avatar

            This will help


          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            What’s know DeadWeight. We may not agree all that often but you are right on with the hangover cure!

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            Hmm. Not sure what you had but it seemed to work well with Wild Turkey 101.

          • 0 avatar

            DW: Apparently we were on the same track last evening. Unfortunately, I had to be up this morning for jazz service, so I didn’t drink myself into a stupor like I have on other occasions.

            Stick to the good stuff, no mixed drinks and don’t mix types. You’re right, you should have stuck only to the vodka (and not the flavored stuff either, that will make you puke…).

            Drink water between rounds, get some sleep, upon waking take some NSAIDs and Vitamin B complex. Keep the water intake up as much as you dare. If you can, take a nap the following afternoon. The body does it’s best repair jobs during sleep.

            I understand you think you put a lot of thought into your posts, but I’m not seeing it. No matter, it’s a (semi-) free country and the site is free to use, too. I can just as easily ignore your posts as respond to them.

            But you did ask the question why so few “insiders” post on here, I gave my observations. I guess I should have not started on the evening’s activities before posting.

    • 0 avatar

      Mental note to self: don’t buy an Italian tanned English hide tufted leather sofa off of Craigslist.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      What if I prefer to bang s!uts in my car? Will the Carhart truck seat covers be adequate?

  • avatar

    A minor correction: ’96 MY Camry was still the “Lexus” one. ’97 was the next cost cut body style.

    • 0 avatar

      I wouldn’t say cost cut. The interior was more plain, but it was still high quality. I owned both and I still miss them.

      Speaking of dealbreakers for me, this is gonna sound nuts, but I don’t care. The quality of cloth seats in most cars now is abysmal. The velour-like light gray seats in my 2000 Camry wore like iron even with my fat butt in the seat for 200,000 miles. My 2015 Mazda6’s seats are basically felt. They drive me insane and are impossible to keep clean. Every spec of dirt or hair gets velcroed into the fabric.

      • 0 avatar

        “The quality of cloth seats in most cars now is abysmal”

        You’re preaching to the choir. Our old ’90 Civic wagon had nice tweed cloth, our ’89 MPV had a very nice velour. My ’12 Civic has the same felt you speak of. My wife’s ’12 Camry has a mix of vinyl and scratchy fire retardant cloth. Certainly easy to clean, but not pleasant to touch with bare skin. Both my current old Japanese steeds have leather, but I would have preferred the cloth option (’96 ES300 and 4Runner Limited).

      • 0 avatar

        +2, you’re not at all nuts. For compacts-and-up, cloth (if available) tends to be crappy and basically is an effort to shame you into getting leather (which itself often is not great). And it’s something of a double whammy in that heating & ventilation make leather seats more enjoyable in many climates. The industry now steers you toward two upgrades.

        Oddly enough, there are some subcompacts that have, IMO, better cloth than what comes in other segments. This is because leather is not available, and therefore the cloth is first and foremost a seating material and not a tool to shame the customer. I’m a frequent borrower of a Yaris sedan. It’s mouse-fur upholstery isn’t necessarily stylish, but I prefer it to the base twill you’d get in a 2010s base Camry. (I’m guessing it’s a similar material to what came in quaquaqua’s 2000 Camry, though probably of a lower quality.)

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I’ve owned a lot of cars that have what would be described as unacceptable interiors. And for the most part, I never once cared about them.
    Maybe it’s because I’ve never really lived with what is currently considered a nice interior, but for the most part I drive alone and use about 10% of the interior. I have auto climate control which is something I am quickly learning I am unable to live without (but only if it actually works right). I listen to the radio or my portable MP3 player. I steer, brake, and gas. I don’t use the phone when I drive so the advanced infotainment stuff is pretty much useless for me. I think I would still prefer to be able to replace the stereo with something else if I wanted.

    The original IS300 would be ridiculed to no end for its interior if it were released today. But having completely disassembled and reassembled it I can say I’d rather swap out the dashboard on an IS300 than try to figure out how to change the radio station on a new car.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I’m old.

    Oh, and I also don’t need all the creasing and “flame surfacing” (whatever that is) in exterior body panels. I still think the E39 5 Series was the ultimate automotive design. Clean and simple lines which were still dramatic to look at.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    My truck is relatively low trim. The things that perplex me on it are:

    1. The little switch to manually select gears. It is a column shift. If I really wanted this I’d have gotten a floor shift. I have no need to emulate a “six on the tree”.

    2. Infotainment. Not that I don’t like modern integration, I just wish they’d do Apple car play and android auto integration and quit trying to reinvent the wheel. The mobile manufacturers are better at this sort of thing than the car makers.

    3. Leather. Unless I am buying high end it is typically crap and an aftermarket leather wears better in my experience. I’ll generally wear the cloth a bit then install some decent aftermarket leather covers just for the ease of keeping it clean.

    • 0 avatar

      If the truck is a GM that’s the replacment for the D-3-2-1 on a 6+ speed transmission. Its not for manual shifting its for setting the max gear the trans will use. For example if you’re going to tow through a hilly area you can pull the shifter down to M and set it to 5 which will keep the truck out of 6th gear.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al From 'Murica

        No, F150. You can drop the detention M and treat it like a manual(as much so as any auto). If you leave it in D and work the button it behaves as you describe though.

  • avatar

    I have to agree with this list for the most part, though I personally care less about the audio system than most since I listen to significantly more talk shows and audiobooks while I drive than music. Tire choice is a sort-of-car for me because yes, I’m going to replace them with something I prefer, but I’d like something that 90% lives up to whatever the intended use of the car is from the factory so I’m not hating it for the first couple years until I wear the factory rubber out.

    The biggest thing I care about not on the list is touch points, specifically the steering wheel, armrest(s), and shifter. I’ve been in enough rental cars to know I prefer a leather-wrapped wheel and shifter over plastic, and I don’t want my elbows resting on raw plastic when I use the arm rests.

    Talking about modern car stuff I don’t care about, I do without having modern driving aids and infotainment outside of Bluetooth, but even more than that is digital gauges and info screens. I prefer good old fashioned analog – give me round analog speed, tach, fuel, water temp, and in a perfect world oil temp gauges and I would be a very happy camper.

    • 0 avatar

      I dread the future of all-digital gauges that’s coming towards us. Even the Golf refresh is going to be all digital (luckily that’s for Europe, and US cars are sure to lag behind by years).

      I analogize it to watches. Do you want a fine, mechanical watch, with moving parts? Or a digital Casio? Both will do the job, but one will make you feel good about the craftsmanship behind it. Even Audi’s new digital gauges just remind me that you can buy a cheap Android tablet at Walgreen’s for under 50 bucks.

      • 0 avatar

        Considering my mom gets her wristwatch repaired every two years, I’m not sure that’s a good analogy. I don’t get a sense of “quality” from spedometer needles. My Cavalier had one of them. I love being able to customize my display. But there are good and bad ways to design that stuff amd sometimes (Ford, Chrysler) they can go overboard with the cutesy/flashiness of these digital gauges.

        • 0 avatar

          To me it’s not about customization, it’s about longevity. To the mechanical end, the needles move based on electronic inputs run through the ECU, so it’s not like we’re running on steam gauges in an old airplane.

          I know we’re about a decade removed from it, but the LCD clusters of the early 2000s from a litany of brands suffered significant pixel death after around a half decade – the only remedy was remove and replace. I don’t want to think about that happening when my entire instrument cluster is screen-based. I’m even less enthused about the cost.

          Glare is also a potential issue in day to day use of these things, likewise whether or not they’re legible with polarized sunglasses on.

          Quality on an analog gauge is just based on the design sense of the manufacturer. I don’t know how they do it, but GM manages to pick font and tic designs that almost always manage to look cheap. Contrast that with VDO gauges like on a classic Porsche that exude a look of legibility and quality. Red needle, white numbers will always look classic and be legible.

  • avatar

    My counter question is, do they even need to skimp at all? Truly, what is a car really worth, versus its price?

    Just yesterday I was looking at Kia Forte5 prices vs the Elantra GT. Crazy enough that a lot of leftover 2016 SX models are $6000 off sticker, but one in Georgia was marked down $8000! BRAND NEW, and cheaper than most of the used ones out there for sale! So what kind of margins do these vehicles have, and at the point where you’re profiting 4 figures (probably 5 figures with trucks and SUV’s), why the hell are people trying to save 50 or 60 cents on pieces of plastic?

    I think the whole beancounter culture is long past the point where corporations have to question and scrutinize everything they say.

    • 0 avatar

      Typical Hyundai pricing strategy – price it too high to begin with, then discount it to hell so the buyer thinks it’s a deal.

      It appeals to people who buy by the pound, but not as well with the Honda/Toyota market.

      Shame, because the product is pretty much “there” these days.

      • 0 avatar

        FreedMike – that’s not really the case as much as you think it is. You can look up industry average incentives for all car companies. And Hyundai and Kia aren’t putting as much cash on the hood as rental-crazed Chrysler or Nissan.

        • 0 avatar


          Go to this site:

          And tell me what the average discount on an Elantra is. I’ll give you a preview – it’s ridiculous. And it’s been that way since last fall. And it’s not just this dealer – it’s every Hyundai store around here. I’m assuming this is just the way they do business.

          I don’t know if this is incentive driven, but I can tell you Toyota and Honda dealers do NOT discount Corollas or Civics like that.

          The problem this poses for Hyundai is that the product is solid enough to be sold on its’ own merits, but the pricing suggests that the cars are Blue Light specials. That’s not a problem for certain buyers, but it makes buyers who’d be more attracted to more “upscale” brands like Honda think twice. It cheapens the product.

          Hyundai’s a “value” brand. Now, if the transaction price on an Elantra is really $16,000 or so, why not approach it like Saturn did, and sell it no-haggle for that money? That’d put butts in the seats. And given that Hyundais are now reliable, that might just attract a few thrifty Corolla-buyer types who aren’t into Mazda/VW style performance as well.

    • 0 avatar

      “My counter question is, do they even need to skimp at all?”

      typical margins for automotive companies is around 8-10%.

      read this and wonder if you should ask that question again:

    • 0 avatar

      That’s a smoking deal. And then I read the fine print at a local Kia dealer… $1200 freight, and $800 processing fee, in addition to all the usual military/retired/college grad restrictions.

      No wonder the car has been sitting on the lot for half a year.

  • avatar

    What I care about:

    Driving dynamics (to a point) – Steering that has some feel, decent roll control, good throttle response in any gear and a decent ride. In a word, competence.

    Interior comfort – Decent seats, no annoying hardpoints that cause discomfort, good climate control, interior quiet.

    Audio quality – This is the one are where I’m most often disappointed. The culprit is mediocre speakers.

    Reliability – I’m okay with occasional issues that are quickly corrected, but anything that recurs is bad news.

    Practicality – A decent trunk and folding rear seats go a long way in the real world.

    Value – I’d rather spend unnecessary money on airplanes.

    What I don’t care about –

    Prestige – It’s more important to my wife than me.

    Impressing anyone else – The car should impress me with its overall competence, no one else.

  • avatar

    Personally what I care about most:

    -Reliable drivetrain
    -Durable chassis: shocks, springs, bushings, tie rods
    -Interior Space
    -Leather, sunroof, lumbar support (4way)
    -Exceptional sound system (short in that right now)
    -My version of acceptable power 270 plus HP V6

    What I care least about:
    -color as long as its not blue
    -NVH. It doesnt have to be Buick quiet but I would like for it be more than my CX9 is now.
    -resale value (til the wheels fall off baby)
    – Whom else owns one
    – MPG ( to a point)

  • avatar
    Dave W

    I buy cars to use them, not to have them. I don’t really care what they look like, I particularly don’t care what image they project. If trim pieces start falling off after a few years, but functionally everything works I’m happy. If the radio has good range, but less then stellar volume or fidelity, no problem. I won’t go cheap on tires, but steel wheels are fine. The seats have to work with my slightly wonky back, but they needn’t be power anything, and whatever thy are covered in is fine as long as I can keep it clean with minimal effort, and it stands up to wear. Resale value? if it still has value why would I sell it? the only way to support diminishing asset value is to wait till it diminishes to zero. Every car is manufactured to compromises, and every purchase is also a balance of compromises so I can’t really say exactly what I need, just that the balance that a particular car offers is where the choosing starts.

  • avatar

    Welcome back Jack…how was the Vacation.. :/

  • avatar

    “And it’s also because we’re kind of stupid about how the automotive sausage is made.”


    I grind my teeth into dust any time I read some Internet Rando b!tching about something on his car and how he wonders “why didn’t they just…?”

    If it was as easy as “just” doing something, the car companies would “just” do it. I remember the dust-up on the Panther cars, where one or two police Crown Vics had the fuel tanks punctured when they were struck by some numpty at 70 mph. I literally (as in “literally,” not as in “I don’t know what literally means”) read more than one person ask “why don’t they *just* move the gas tank?”

    Uh, #1 no car on the market is designed to fare well in a 70 mph collision, #2 you’re basically saying “why don’t they *just* redesign the entire car?”

  • avatar

    Acura saved money in my MDX by using [email protected] metal, which reacts to road salt by melting into its’ partner part. Bonus to the guy who fitted pot-metal bolts to the stainless exhaust and heat shields. When (not if) it rusts at 30-40k miles, the screech from the vibration of the heat shields is not to be believed. Likewise the cats that die at 100k, just out of warranty. You’ve just been promoted to Vice President of after warranty sales !!!

    GM clearly has one parts list. I’m discovering my Caddy is made of generic GM parts with a 100k lifespan-but at least GM parts aren’t too expensive. Likewise my MDX is all cheap Honda parts-When the bluetooth module died, what was behind the veneer wasn’t even cheap Testor’s Model plastic.-and the bluetooth board died for bad solder joints-another cheap-out.

    No one buys a car because it has a great alternator or climate control door mechanism.

    Infotainment is caught between the car lifecycle (5 years) and the electronics lifecycle (5 weeks). I wouldn’t order nav in my cars again, unless they bundle it with the uprated stereo system and I have no choice.

    GM, Honda, etc know exactly how long the bits will last. We retail suckers have only CR, and forums to know that “they all do that”. Why do wheel bearings die on Caddy ? It would seem a simple part and the forces involved dealt with for over 40 years ? Someone cheaped, and no one buys a car for wheel bearings. If the bearings don’t die, the magnetic reluctor ring rusts because it is cheap metal and you get Stabilitrak errors. A Twofer !!!

    Sometimes they guess wrong (90’s Toyota, or Hondas) and the car is too well assembled, messing with the planned obsolescence.

    Care -NVH- soundproofing is cheap, use it. I know the cheap car has to sound cheap, but, no…after two hours in the car you notice this one…
    Touch points. Wheel and door points should be soft, even if you allocate one square for the elbows.

    Don’t care -Leather seats, sunroof- Do NOT give me 19 or 20 inch wheels-you ever been to NYC ?. Don’t bother with paddle shifters…I know it isn’t a manual, don’t try to make me feel better, and lots of the new autoboxes are better than most of us anyway.

  • avatar

    Digital dashes. Give me (as has been said already) a honest-to-God speedo and tacho. Maybe a temperature and oil pressure gage and let’s call it a day.

    Ironic that interior bits and pieces have me conflicted. I prefer that they all don’t warp, but really don’t care if they are soft or hard. I test drove a 1993 Lumina yesterday with only 63k (yes, you read correctly on that) as a beater for a family member and had forgotten just how poorly the interior bits were made. Every single surface had buckling or warping. Every. Single. Surface. My son’s 1997 Tercel now has 250k on it, but the interior might as well be a Lexus in comparison to that Lumina. Yes, I know they are both 20 year old (plus) cars, but I like to think the interior of whatever car I own will hold up and not fold like a house of cards down the road.
    Other than Bluetooth, I find I’m not really all that worried or in need of much of what comes in a car these days. Less is more. I’d be happy with crank windows, a manual trans and a/c for day to day driving.

  • avatar

    Marketing & Advertising – I know what’s out there.
    Showrooms & Service Centers – I don’t spend much time there.

    Essentially, most overhead. Build the best product the most economically and don’t waste money “tricking” me into buying it.

  • avatar

    Fuel economy is high on my list.. but the other thing high on my list is HVAC controls.. Everyone is going to buttons which I hate as you have to look down. I prefer three dials- easy, simple and can be made to look good in any interior. Not sure this is a skimp or not but I cannot stand it. And of course, the huge useless consoles for an auto shift.. Can’t they save some money here and do a bench seat/column shift? I’d buy one.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve tried to rate HVAC by “number of times I need to touch it”.

      The thermostat systems don’t save any touches over the three dial systems. My house and my car are not the same…. Don’t make getting air out of the dash a “figure it out” kind of thing.

  • avatar

    I’m a sucker for the door slam sound. One of my formative automotive experiences was tagging along with my dad when he bought cars, and the Mercedes 450SE he bought in 1975 spoiled me rotten for anything else. I’d call it “velvety bolt action.”

    And my current car – a ’17 Jetta – has the same kind of feel to it. I find myself opening and closing the doors just to listen to the sound. That’s the kind of thing that speaks to me.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, the doors on the current Jetta are fantastic. They were great on my 2013 TDI as well. In fact, VW made a commercial about them once…

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed on that. My 16 Golf sportwagen feels like its been machined from a piece of billit. Everything you can see and touch looks and feels like quality. VW really did a good job with their MQB platform.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      The door sound and feel was one of those things that stuck with me after test driving the Jetta Sportwagen back in 2010 and contributed to the perceived quality of that vehicle. Not to be believed, perhaps, but it was even better than your Mk6 Jetta. The interior door pull felt like solid metal, and would release the door with a delightful substantial *plonk!* after the perfect amount of resistance. Just great.

      • 0 avatar

        Yep, VW’s an ace at this particular facet of perceived quality. The instrumentation is also outstanding – it’s simple, perfectly legible, clean, and elegant looking.

        Let’s just say it makes up for the abundance of hard/cheap plastics inside.

        Worth noting: the door closing sound on the American-spec Passat isn’t nearly as good.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          True. What little I recall of the one Passat I tried (base S trim) was that the stereotypical milled-from-a-single-piece-of-metal description often applied to German cars was just about entirely absent.

          • 0 avatar

            It doesn’t get any better with the more expensive Passats.

          • 0 avatar

            For what it’s worth I was massively impressed with the overall level of quality in the facelifted ’16 Passat SE with Tech package that I had as a rental. Shortly after that I had a Jetta SE TSI, which as expected had a substantially cheaper feeling interior (but the underpinnings were still very good and made for a satisfying drive).

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            I was actually thinking of the positive rental experience you’ve mentioned here before, gtem, as a contrast to what I wrote. I think part of the problem with my experience was the base S trim. Lousy fabrics, poor seat adjustability, monochrome interior, 5-cylinder engine that was durable but very uninspiring in such a large car. The 1.8T probably wakes it up substantially. The SE also makes the seats comfortable due to more adjustment and adds enough enhancement to the interior trim to make a big difference. The Passat’s materials are actually quite nice–dash pad, door armrests and window sills, assembly quality, but it’s hidden by the S trim’s dour color palette.

            Driving experience and perceived structural solidity? Well, they just felt like any other midsizer to me but you’ve got more miles under your belt than I do. I didn’t think it was poor, but not unique in the way a Golf or Jetta feel so solid and substantial in their respective classes. So why risk the resale and reliability issues vs an Accord?

          • 0 avatar

            Yeah part of the appeal was the well-finished dash and pleather heated seats, throw in the adaptive cruise and moonroof and huge legroom it felt like a substantially more luxurious/expensive sedan than just a plebian midsizer that I’d normally experience at the rental counter. And yes the incredibly competent 1.8T was part of that very positive impression.

          • 0 avatar

            I very strongly disliked the early Passat S I rented, and it wasn’t because of the cheap interior (although that was present) or 2.5 boat anchor. I thought the steering was some of the most unpleasant I’ve ever experienced, totally lifeless and not very accurate. I don’t know if that’s typical or if my car had some issue, but it turned me off the MuricaPassat.

          • 0 avatar

            So, speaking of Accords…if you get off on solid door slams, check out a sedan. Just beautiful.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Conflicting opinions! They’re all over the board for the Passat. MT and C&D *loved* them until they suddenly didn’t.

            I see that VW offers a light tan two-tone interior with fake bamboo trim on the SE that looks rather upscale compared to the safe Japanese offerings. I’m still a sucker for VW interiors, that might be enough to get me in for a second look were I in the market.

          • 0 avatar

            For reference within my realm of midsizer rentals I’ve had a pre-refresh ’15ish Fusion 1.6EB (gruff drivetrain that you had to really cane to accelerate briskly, decent everything else), ’16 Camry XLE (much better feeling interior than wife’s ’12, smooth riding suspension tuning, quiet, competent 2.5L, overall unremarkable), and finally the Passat that I was bowled over by.

          • 0 avatar

            I’d take an Accord, particularly with the strong Honda leases. And given the experience I had with VW dealers versus Honda…it’s night and day. I had two Honda stores working on a Civic deal for me, and each one did a great job providing me with transparent, workable numbers that made perfect sense.

            The VW dealer? Well, let’s just say it’s a good thing for them that I fell in love with my Jetta. I made that clear on the owner survey VW sent me, for what that’s worth.

            If VW wants to make inroads, this is an area they need LOTS of work.

          • 0 avatar

            Here’s my view of the midsize sedan hierarchy (it is going to be the segment you get most familiar with if you rent a lot):

            1) Accord. NVH could still use improvement (it is a Honda) but it gets everything else right. Spacious, comfortable, excellent steering/suspension, four-cylinder engine that feels as torquey as the old Japanese V6es, well-built.

            2) Camry SE. Interior looks cheap, but all the mechanical bits work together well, and NVH is better than the Accord. Clearly slower than the Accord.

            3) Malibu. The new 1.5T powertrain is notable mostly for being quiet; it’s totally uninspiring. Like a lot of recent GM products this one distinguishes itself by being very quiet and feeling solid, at the expense of some playfulness. The interior is quite comfortable.

            4) Fusion. It’s too heavy and the 1.5T powertrain is unremarkable, but the interior is full-featured and very comfortable (if a bit cramped in back), and the ride/handling balance is excellent.

            5) Camry LE/XLE. Cheap interior, and the suspension/steering aren’t nearly as well sorted as the SE, but it’s generally well built and competent.

            6) Altima. Interior is cheap, cheap, cheap, with some more cheap. NVH is, well, very present. But I have a soft spot for these because the seats are comfortable and the observed fuel economy in my hands is the best of any midsizer in this list.

            7) Passat. (Granted I haven’t driven one since the refresh.) Cheap but very roomy interior and typically solid VW suspension tuning let down by just awful steering.

            8) Sonata. Powertrain (2.4) and interior are competent but uninspiring. As usual with Hyundai the letdown is in suspension and steering; the ride feels at once busy and floaty, and the steering has everything bad you remember about EPS.

            9) Chrysler 200. Less said, the better.

  • avatar

    I really don’t need a hood that stays up by itself, a prop rod is fine. I give more value to two-stage hood hinges, like old Volvos, that allow you to open the hood 90 degrees and lock it there.

    I’m an MT diehard, but when I do drive automatics I really hate paddle shifters. I know no person who uses them after the novelty wears off. They are fine on super/hyper cars, meaning those that are basically F1 cars with license plates and blinkers. For all other automatics, please bring back the column shifter and free up the space between the seats.

    Also, please skimp on big wheels with low profile tires (excepting cars designed specifically for twisties), I’ll take the ride comfort and the lower bill when I have to replace tires.

    Please spend a little more on (anti) sway bars–I’m not sure whey a car/SUV has to lean quite so much just gong around corners (I know this is a bit inconsistent with the previous remark about low-profile tires).

    Lose the touch screens. One of the reasons I bought a Subaru is the controls are knobs big enough for clumsy people to use with gloves on, and, bonus!, after a couple weeks with the car I can use all the controls without ever taking my eyes off the road as no visual feedback is required.

    • 0 avatar

      Nothing wrong with a touchscreen as long as there’s physical button backup. My truck’s touchscreen is awesome for pairing devices, changing settings, etc. But I like that I can control just about everything it does either via physical buttons or voice commands. I can use many controls without taking my eyes of the road OR off the wheel.

      • 0 avatar

        Ford has gotten pretty good about this, after all the MFT complaints. Even though my Mustang has a touchscreen, everything can be controlled via physical buttons, except for one thing. I have to go on the screen to control the air vents. But that’s not much of an issue, since I just let the climate control handle it most of the time.

  • avatar

    I care about

    – Drivetrain performance and longevity
    – Longitudinal drivetrain
    – Low beltline and a high roof
    – Sunroof or similar feature for open air driving
    – E85-capable
    – Lots of space for people and things, I’m a frequent road tripper.
    – An interior that isn’t a sea of dour black; break it up with some different color and material accents or use a two tone design. I love brown interiors.
    – Ability to tow something
    – Burns 87 octane 100% of the time
    – Column shifter; console shifters simply waste valuable storage space
    – V8 exhaust note
    – bluetooth phone
    – boxy styling, I don’t want to drive a wedge of cheese with a melted-V front end. Damn you aerodynamics!

    I don’t care about:
    – Prestige (I actually prefer to drive a non-luxury marque)
    – Most luxury features
    – Fuel economy
    – heated anything
    – how the materials feel; just make them quiet
    – big wheels; I’ll take the smallest diameter rims available; I like me some sidewall
    – exterior color

    • 0 avatar

      Frylock I’m right there with you on most points. I do care about fuel economy somewhat, but when it is gained at the expense of too many of the other factors I’ll take the ground clearance and durability every time.

  • avatar

    I do care about some prestige; not a lot, but some. I like a stylish, luxurious, expensive looking interior. Also exterior styling and HP/performance is important. Living in the Phoenix area, the A/C has to be both good and reliable. A modicum of overall reliability would also be nice.

    I don’t care too much about the infotainment system. I only really use the stereo regularly and nav once in awhile. I don’t use the phone functionality or care about carplay or android auto. Likewise I don’t care too much about MPG or resale value.

    In my car the trunk is the only area that they clearly skimped on and is a minor annoyance. The lining is cheap and the mechanism to lower the rear seat backs looks like an afterthought.

  • avatar

    I want them to skimp on marketing swine, press junkets, ceo salary, and prestige brands that hold down their normal cars….also I want my high side a/c service port to use a rubber ball check instead of a presta valve like every other auto maket so that all my refrigerant leaks out regularly, even when I REPLACED the damn thing twice in the last year. Also smaller brakes are good and so are 50 year old engine blocks. Mark was in the nose. F you to GM Indeed. Thw snowflakes in this site are so whiney. GM skimps EVERYWheRE and generally put out pieces of c rap…Do I have to bring up my park/ blinker in one bulbs which can be installed backwards so the park filiment lights up as the blinker and the blinker filiment as the park?

  • avatar

    A manufacturer can skimp out on anything fancy and high tech that used to be done easier and more reliably.


    -rotary shift knobs that can fail and kill Star Trek actors (looking at you, Chrysler)

    -automatic duel zone climate controls. A simple knob and switch that can be adjusted intuitively in the dark without looking was real luxury to me

    -infotainment systems that look dated before the manufacturer warranty runs out and costs $1000 to replace when it inevitably fails.

    -LEATHER. It’s getting to be difficult to find a car that has the options I want without having to settle for a seat surface that doesn’t singe my ass off after being parked for an hour in the Florida sun and begin to crack and look worn out within a few years.

    • 0 avatar

      Only $1000? Dream on. :P

    • 0 avatar

      Anton’s Jeep didn’t have the rotary shift knob. It had the prior T-shaped shifter that always returned to the starting point, regardless of what the transmission was doing.

      I feel you on the leather though. It’s getting difficult to avoid. Unless you want the most basic trim available (the one where no other options are available), you can’t get cloth.

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    I’m afraid the responses are going to be all over the map. For example, I carry a lot about the total lowest drive ratio a great deal (after being stuck a couple of times with 1:13), but I don’t think I met another person in years who knew what the total ratio was and what it was useful for in daily driving. That’s because nobody drives over deep snow and dry sand every day.

    Another thing, people _lie_. Everyone, including Jack, say that “styling does not matter, within reason”. But they lie when they say that. Of course it matters, a great deal. What really happens here, they get used to styling of cars.

  • avatar

    -Resale value the used car market is a really good reflection of long term quality. Definite correlation between quality and resale value.
    -Good headlights- ridiculous how much variation there still is in headlight effectiveness.
    – Heated seats
    -assist handles Why have I always loved these, whether passenger or driver?
    -Cars should have the exhaust integrated into the bumper and not hanging like the balls of a mule.
    – Interior storage
    – Logical dash- I still prefer analog
    – Merging power
    – Rear camera
    -Proper axle ratio for use- trucks
    -NVH reduction

    Not so important:
    – Power seats
    -Paddle shifters
    – Auto climate
    -Most leather- prefer the new fabrics

  • avatar

    The perfect car for me would be a Toyota version of the GS-F so whatever combination of skimping that hypothetical vehicle would have.

  • avatar

    Unless the car I’m buying is designed to be a light weight sports car –

    Steel bumpers are required

  • avatar

    I dunno, I hold different cars to different standards. In the family vehicle I prioritize:

    -Safety-both active and passive-along with the ability to avoid through good dynamics.
    -Weather capability (AWD with snows in my case)
    -Fun to drive-it’s got to be able to eat up miles at a high rate of speed-doesn’t need to drive like a sports car

    Things I don’t prioritize:
    -maintenance costs
    -fuel economy (within reason)

    Now I’m looking at getting a car to daily drive and turning over the family luxo-SUV to my wife. My priorities are different with this potential vehicle. Safety, enough room for 2 kids without luggage, all weather capability, and fun to drive are tops.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Its good to see you can write an article that isn’t some fantasy. Thanks.

    Your preferences didn’t include country of manufacture. This is great.

    The disparity in vehicle quality is ever shrinking. Sooner or later that Kia Rio you mentioned will have similar quality and vehicle dynamics to a BMW. This trend has already started as is evident with prestige brands becoming cheaper (and overpriced in some instances).

    Keep up the good work.

  • avatar

    Looking at Jack’s Lists I’ll say I whole heartedly agree

    I care about:

    Drivetrain performance and durability
    How well the chassis holds up under heavy use — bushings and the like
    Safety in a crash
    Audio system
    Ergonomics that fit my oft-broken twisted skeleton

    I don’t care about:

    Prestige, implied or realized
    Up-to-date telematics
    Styling (within reason)
    OEM tire choice (I’m going to get rid of them)
    The environmental sustainability of its construction
    Fuel consumption (within reason)
    Resale value

    Don’t skimp on the greasy and electrically charged bits, that’s the part that will be burned into peoples brains if/when it fails.

    The district has 3 Journey’s from the prebankruptcy prerefresh time period. They are all V6, FWD, three row editions. The last time I was in one it had 30,000 plus miles of hard fleet use on it. Yes the interior was cheap, hard, and had a Tuperware quality to it. But damned if I could find a scratch on that hard plastic and the drivetrain worked just fine together on a long trip to Phoenix.

  • avatar

    What I do care about:

    – Performance. I want more horsepower than I need. If it’s an automatic, I want a transmission that shifts responsively, or I want a manual.

    – Ride/Handling. If it’s a performance-oriented car, I want it to handle well with ride as a secondary consideration. If it’s not a performance car, I want it to have a smooth, compliant ride.

    – Color. Yes, this is important to me. I refuse to buy a black, white, gray or silver car, and I refuse to buy a car with a black interior.

    – Interior quality. I can’t handle the standard cloth interior in most cars. I would prefer a quality, plush cloth – the kind of cloth that used to be standard in the 1990s. Since that no longer exists, a decent quality leather is needed. I enjoy the little touches like center rear armrests.

    – Cost of ownership. I don’t want to have to shell out big bucks for routine maintenance.

    – Style. Yes, this is why I won’t buy a crossover, and I prefer coupes.

    What I don’t care about:

    – Latest infotainment. I want bluetooth for phone calls and some way to play music from a device, but that’s about all I care about.

    – Fuel economy. Most of my recent cars have averaged 20 MPG, and I’m fine with that. Higher would be nicer, but not required.

    – Environmental concerns. While I’m not opposed to being green, it’s not a factor that I take into consideration.

    – Giant wheels. Remember when 16″ was considered large?

    – All-wheel drive. I live in a snowy climate, and I’ve never needed it. I’d rather have a good set of snow tires.

    – Long-term reliability. In the sense of people who say “only Toyota and Honda build reliable cars that will last 20 years!” I’ll gladly buy a GM or FCA or VW and take my chances on how well it will hold up, but I’ll most likely be rid of it in less than 5 years anyway.

    • 0 avatar

      ” – Color. Yes, this is important to me. I refuse to buy a black, white, gray or silver car, and I refuse to buy a car with a black interior.”

      YES! Can we please have some actual colours that are not neutrals. I have some Ford colour charts from 1975 and 78, it’s amazing what was available, and it wasn’t 14 shades of grey. I’m not sure how the “Metallic Glow” series would sell now, but at least there was choice. The 1975 chart lists 36 colours available, plus 2 tone options. Bright Aqua Glow anyone?

      I also refuse to buy another car that has a black interior.

  • avatar

    I’m going to mention one that I haven’t seen so far: Some parts are going to need to be removed and cleaned/maintained/replaced sometime over my long ownership of the car (over 10 years.) Make the car so it can be maintained without having to take it to the dealer who will spend half the day doing something stupid like a new alternator.

    I don’t want to open the hood and not be able to actually see anything but the battery, a big plastic cover (with a mess underneath) and a rats nest of hoses and wires. I don’t want to have to buy fifty different wrenches because it was decided that variety was the spice of life when choosing fasteners. (For instance, my B5 Passat had a mix of allen, “triple-square”, Torx, special-order-tool-only, and hex bolts only in the most unusual sizes. My new CR-V? Most fasteners (for nearly everything under the hood) are 10mm hex. Period.)

    If it’s a transverse V6, don’t put the rear plug bank and PCV up against the firewall, requiring a contortionist and the disassembly of half the things bolted to the valve cover, the cowl, and wiper assembly to access. (The wife’s Toyota “only” required removing three “if you don’t know where they are and what size, they aren’t coming out” bolts and the intake plenum.)

    Use rubber and plastic parts that are not going to fall apart when touched after a few years of under-hood heat. (It’s not a big mystery as to which plastics hold up under heat; please use those. I’ve gone through a small pile of zip ties holding my wife’s ’06 Solara together because every original plastic clip breaks when touched. Vac hose loves to split over barbed fittings.)

    Is a transmission dipstick too much to ask for? Yes, I know they aren’t easy to use properly, but if the only alternative is putting the damn thing up on a lift so you can pull a plug and watch fluid dribble out, that’s a real PITA.

    Lastly, and not related to serviceability: Nothing drives me nuts more than interior rattles showing up over time. Yes, it’s hard designing panels that won’t flex and rattle. Make the effort.

    • 0 avatar

      yes, my tool box is a shrine to bizarre sockets and tools that someone spec’d in Assembly and have no natural place anywhere else. Rear Brakes on my Golf ? Special tools ! FOR A SIMPLE BRAKE JOB ????? WTF is a triple square and what on god’s green earth made you think it was a good idea ? Own stock in the company ?

      Move the idler pulley on an e46 ? 13 mm bolt, later changed to a Torx T-25. Oh yes, I have one (drives to parts store for no reason-don’t have it, must special order). Why ?

      I found a few items which dated from my SAAB…and I haven’t used since.

      So far, the Caddy hasn’t done that to me, so there is that.

      Worst on the Acura is replacing O2 sensors…they are clearly screwed in first and the whole cat assembly installed. When the cats puked ($2600 day) and I replaced both I had them install new sensors while they were there. I’m never doing that job again on that vehicle.

      • 0 avatar

        @speedlaw: You can borrow the rear brake tool from most auto parts stores for free (I got one from HF for $20.) It’s not just a VW thing; prior to electric power brakes, the screw-in pistons was one of the two ways to have a parking brake in rear discs; the other being a small drum brake integrated in the rear hub, which drives up complexity, and also makes the rear rotors as expensive as the fronts because of the additional precision-machined surface.

      • 0 avatar

        Reminds me of BMW securing window regulators in the E39 with mostly hex bolts…and one e-torx. wtf

    • 0 avatar

      I totally agree! I wish they would design cars with more thought to maintenance and repair in mind, and not cut corners on things that will be difficult to access to repair.

      One of my beefs with our CR-V is you can’t do an oil change without making a mess. The oil filter is half-way up the backside of the engine block, on its side. I can reach it easily enough from underneath if I drive onto ramps to do an oil change, but when you unscrew it oil showers down everywhere, all over one of the CV boots, frame rail and lower control arm. I have to put a large piece of cardboard under it to keep the driveway from getting oil all over it.

      HVAC system in Dodge pickups is lousy. My ’94 was bad and my ’07 looks to be even worse. Can’t change heater core without removing the heater box, which first entails removing the entire dashboard and disconnecting the A/C. If the heater box was designed so the two halves separated with a vertical seam instead of a horizontal one, one half of the box could be removed with the system still in the truck for service. Even better would be like my old Rabbit: Remove a cover and there’s the heater core. slide the old one out, slide the new one in, replace the cover, reconnect the hoses under the hood and you’re done.

      My ’07 pickup has stepper motors to move the HVAC plenum doors. The plastic doors break, and it’s more major surgery to replace those. (Thankfully, an aftermarket company that sells upgraded plenum doors has come up with a way to make strategic cuts in the heater box to access them without removing the heater box.)

      My ’07 has also exhibited a common problem with the wires to the doors breaking, resulting in non-working power locks, windows, speakers. Why did they spec wires that can’t hold-up to the constant flexing of opening and closing the door? When I’ve had to repair them, I replace the section inside the accordion boot with silicone-jacketed wire designed for instrument test leads, which will withstand a lifetime of flexing. Most people probably take their trucks to the dealer, which will replace the wiring harness in the door with another crappy one that will fail again.

      • 0 avatar

        Trick to non-messy oil changes: My oil drain pan is a concrete mixing tub from Home Depot. I think it was all of $6, and it’s several square feet, meaning you’ll never have the oil squirt past the lip of your drain pan, you can have the drain dribble while you pull the filter, etc. When done, I just use a funnel to dump the oil into a jug.

        Also, hint on messy filters: Pep Boys sells an accordion/filter-wrench combo that mummifies the filter as you are unscrewing it so all the mess flows into the tool, instead of all over your subframe.

        (My wife’s Solara with the 3MZ-FE has an ingenious idea; beneath the filter is a little chute that directs the oil away from the subframe. A ten-cent bit of sheet metal makes oil changes about 10x less messy.)

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Darn, I pretty much agree with JB on this one. Cut and pasted his list with my comments and some revisions.

    I care about:
    Drivetrain durability. Yep. Performance, not really just about every car manufactured today within reason has reasonable performance.
    How well the chassis holds up under heavy use — bushings and the like. Yep
    Safety in a crash. Yep, very much.
    Audio system. No
    Ergonomics that fit my oft-broken twisted skeleton. Must have a 6 way adjustable driver’s seat and a seat cushion that does not worsen my sciatica.
    Accident avoidance systems: ABS, Traction and stability control.
    Overall reliability and durability.
    Maintenance requirements. No timing belts, no specialized dealer only fluids, no premium gas.
    Good, durable cloth (or velour) upholstery. Kids, dog and sports equipment so do not want cut or scratched leather.
    Proper dashboard illumination. Would love the SAAB ‘dark’ switch.
    A proper greenhouse with good sightlines.
    Ease of access/egress.
    Split folding rear seats. Because hockey sticks.
    At least one well placed, properly sized cup holder for the driver.
    Good bluetooth connectivity.
    An actual dial for radio volume.
    Auto lights. GM got this right decades ago, why can’t other companies?

    I don’t care about:
    Prestige, implied or realized.
    Up-to-date telematics. I do not want internal sat-nav. Prefer to use the phone. A built in will inevitably break.
    Styling (within reason).
    OEM tire choice (I’m going to get rid of them). Same with wheel covers/rims etc. I can buy my own.
    The environmental sustainability of its construction.
    Fuel consumption (within reason).
    Resale value. Must still be reasonable.
    A start/stop button. Much prefer a key. Buttons were eliminated in the 40’s because they are not as good.
    Pushbotton or rotating dial gear selectors. Come on, how is this better?
    Power windows.
    Digital dashboard. Sorry but tests prove that the human brain registers gauges/analogue faster than it does digital.
    Dual zone climate control. Like smoking and no smoking zones in a small coffee shop.
    Back up camera. Learn how to parallel park. Besides they get obscured by snow and ice.

    • 0 avatar

      “Digital dashboard. Sorry but tests prove that the human brain registers gauges/analogue faster than it does digital.”

      I’d be interested in seeing those tests. I also wonder who was tested and how the tests were performed.

      I understand what you’re saying about traditional gauges but I’m not sure if their the best way to present information. If it’s true that our brains’ register analog instruments quicker, it might be because that’s what we’ve been using for the last 100 years.

      Configurable digital gauges allow information to be presented in multiple ways. If you want a traditional set up, its there for you.

      This argument reminds me of the transition from “steam gauges” to glass in aviation.

      I learned on traditional steam gauges. Given the choice between that and a glass cockpit, I’d take glass every time. The way the information is presented makes for a more efficient pilot, reduces workload and increases situation awareness.

      Car displays aren’t to the level of aircraft displays yet, but they’ll get better. I really like the configurable display on the Stingray and to me it’s just a precursor of what will happen in the future.

      Just wanted to add that I also see this debate in the motorcycle world. Many of the premium sport bikes are coming with TFT LCD displays. I happen to like them, especially if they’re user configurable.

      So, while I look forward to the future of display technology I lament the falling number of three pedal cars available.

      • 0 avatar

        Regarding analog gauges, I can also vouch for what Arthur is saying. They covered it in my ergonomics class in school. The range of most analog gauges is setup so the “normal” range has the needle pointing roughly straight up. With a quick glance at a panel full of needles, your brain can quickly spot one that’s not normal and needs further attention, because it will be on a weird angle. Most speedometers also have 60 MPH roughly at the top as well, so you can also gauge your speed when on the highway with a quick glance.

        Digital gauges increase the workload on your brain, and take your eyes off the road for longer. Your brain has to do more processing to focus on each gauge, read the number and interpret whether the value is good or not. Obviously, this applies to gauges which have numerical readouts, or ones that have weird display shapes. Digital displays that are designed to mimic the look of round analog gauges wouldn’t have this problem.

        • 0 avatar

          I learned to fly on analog gauges.I make my living in a “steam gauge” airplane with some electronic screens and I’ve considerable time in glass cockpits too.

          While I appreciate the “at a glance” simplicity of analog gauges, glass is much easier to deal with on many levels.
          The all in one representation, especially flying on instruments, greatly reduces workload. Instead of The Scan you now have The Stare. But, in an airplane flying solely on instruments, you don’t really have to look outside either!

          I find myself preferring the hybrid gauges that are analog in style but are screens. Many transport category aircraft use this type of representation (and now aftermarket for GA). The automakers are catching on to this one too.

  • avatar

    I care about:
    mechanical reliability
    comfort – driver’s chair needs lumbar, adequate headroom, and ease of
    entry and exit
    good rear visibility
    durable fabric, as I take my dogs with me often
    manual shift transfer case with a neutral position
    manual hvac controls
    full size spare tire
    durable paint

    I don’t care about:
    infotainment “systems”
    backup cameras
    turn signals on outside mirrors
    blind spot warnings
    fancy infotainment – it’s a waste of money
    leather upholstery, but a leather clad steering wheel is nice
    carpeted floors – vinyl is much better
    heated/cooled/vibrating seats and/or steering wheel
    fancy interior trim – hard plastic is just fine

    Nissan used to advertise the Xterra as having “everything you need, nothing you don’t”. I endorse that sentiment.

  • avatar

    I care about design and vehicle dynamics (going, stopping, cornering).

    I don’t care about safety equipment – my personal safety is my business and no one else should be concerned. And I don’t concern myself with being in a catastrophic wreck every time I get behind the wheel.

  • avatar

    My priorities are exactly those of Jack’s. However I would upgrade “fuel economy” to the must-have list, if for no other reason than it is a pretty accurate indicator of powertrain engineering.

    Also I would add rustproofing to the must-have list. My Mazda was a harsh lesson in that respect.

  • avatar
    Kevin Jaeger

    I am willing to forego the Opera windows and Landau roof.

  • avatar

    I think it depends on my use case, but for a daily driver:

    I care most about:

    Build quality – squeaks and rattles really annoy me and it’s something that you are reminded of every time you drive the car.
    Crash worthiness
    Reasonably low NVH
    Comfortable seating
    Decent RANGE on one tank… I prefer 450 highway miles or more
    Good visibility
    Full-size spare
    Good stereo w/ at least an aux input

    Nice to haves (I live in Chicago):
    Heated “stuff”

    Don’t care about:
    Backup cameras
    Blind spot mirrors

    That all being said, I drove a Miata for almost 10 years and nearly none of the above applied and I still think it’s the best car I’ve ever owned. :-) So take all of that with a grain of salt!!

  • avatar

    I care about:

    – Safety. I don’t care about electronic nannies, but a solid crash test rating.
    – Visibility.
    – Drivetrain durability/maintenance costs
    – Ride/Handling.
    – NVH.
    – Quality touch points. Steering wheel, shifter, control switches/knobs, seats, etc. These are items you touch every time you get in the car. Nothing says “cheap” like brittle plastic and sharp/uneven mold lines on these items.
    – Fuel Economy/Range. There are plenty of exciting, fun to drive cars that avg 30mpg. It also should be able to get 400mi+ on a tankfull.
    – Spare Tire. I refuse to buy a car without one.

    What I don’t care about:

    – Custom all-in-one infotainment. Leave it to Apple/Android.
    – Big, heavy, expensive wheels. Especially on upper level trims. I’d rather the OE spend more on competent tires on a reasonably sized rim. Ever had to replace a tire/bent rim?
    – AWD. Save your money and invest in a better set of tires.
    – Multi-zone/auto climate control. It shouldn’t take more than a second to set the temp, fan speed, or vent setting. “KISS” 3 knobs is all you need.
    – Soft-touch dash. How often do you really touch this thing day-to-day?
    – Panoramic Sunroof. A giant gaping hole in the roof covered by a big, heavy piece of glass. Does not do any favors for structural integrity, NVH, keeping out elements.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Depends on anticipated ownership period.

    Short term, ie. lease:
    I don’t care about durability or resale or maintenance ease/costs. I want the nicest interior, the best ride/handling combination, and the strongest powertrain performance I can find for the price. Frou-frou crap that breaks down and disintegrates by year 5? Fine. I’m out by then.

    Longer term, ie. my life because money doesn’t grow on any of the trees in my backyard:
    I have to trade substantial performance, features, and interior zip for durability, ownership cost, and the practical needs of a young family. Makes for some boring cars.

    My Sportwagen was a nice blend of these two worlds, it was enjoyable to drive and felt more expensive than it was but was also practical, cheap, and didn’t give me any trouble. The 4Runner that replaced it was a bigger compromise on perceived interior quality but should deliver well on long term durability, resale, and performance of a different variety.

    I need more money so I can have it all.

  • avatar
    A Caving Ape

    I agree with many items above, but have some additions. So, this applies to all cars. I’m not mentioning anything applicable to a particular category of vehicle. I think that carmakers should feel free to leave out:

    -Plus size rims, expensive OEM tires

    -TPMS. Good lord, TPMS. I know it’s not their fault, but still.

    -Sunroofs. Add weight, add cost, remove headroom, and then the goddamn sun gets in my eyes.

    -Power seats & steering wheels, remote locking gas caps, or any other motors/solenoids beyond locks, windows, and cargo access.

    -HIDs and other fancy headlights. I do kind of love them, but the money’s better spent elsewhere (see below)

    -Backup cameras & other aids that add multiple sensors.

    -Overly complex drivetrain solutions for incremental fuel savings.

    -Any weight/cost added for style alone. Excessive exhausts, body kits, etc.

    What carmakers should always include, for EVERY type of car that might be used as a daily driver:

    -Cargo flexibility. Folding rear seats; even a removable rear seat cushion. Thoughtful use of the spare tire compartment (which should be full size, by the way). Commodious glove box, lots of other driver-accessible storage areas. Threaded inserts or channels for roof rack mounting.

    -High build quality and ergonomics on touch points and adjustables. Double-hinged trunk, minutely adjustable seats/seatbacks, tilt/telescope steering wheels.

    -An acceptable level of sound deadening coupled with a build quality that’s highly resistant to developing squeaks and rattles.

    -One touch up/down for all windows. Because come on.

    -Powerful and effective climate control. A/C compressor that’s 15% oversized, full-width defroster vent, well-heated rear glass, mirrors, and sprayer nozzles.

    -Pushbutton start, cruise control, bluetooth, acceptable audio. Touchscreens I can take or leave, but mostly we’re talking about things that improve the experience and add lines of code instead of weight. I’m all for it.

    • 0 avatar
      A Caving Ape

      Replying to myself to expand. I’ve developed this list from my most recent car ownership progression: VW Jetta to Audi A4 to Fiesta ST. None fully struck the balance, but all of them had at least a few things from list 2 that I really appreciated, and were missing a few from list 1 that I was pleased to do without.

      And the fictional car that I would buy today in a heartbeat: the 2001 Audi S4 Wagon, with fully modernized electronics, no power seats, HIDs, or sunroof, and a modern 2.0T boosted to the gills instead of the college ex-girlfriend that was the 2.7.

  • avatar

    Things I care about:
    -powertrain and general mechanical durability/reliability, at least over 5 years
    -enough power to keep up with traffic
    -ride quality
    -seat comfort/legroom/headroom
    -air conditioning
    -environmental concerns/fuel economy
    -sound system, to a point, don’t need more than 6 decent speakers.
    -Exterior panel alignment

    I don’t care about:
    -safety (hopefully the car is solidly built, but want as few nannies as possible, just ABS, and TCS/stability is fine for me on a new vehicle. I’d rather be killed than permanently maimed in a serious accident)
    -power anything, but power windows are nice
    -heated seats
    -a back seat
    -interior panel alignment
    -interior materials, I just want something easy to clean, and I hate the trend towards “soft touch” everything.
    -interior carpeting, prefer vinyl or rubber floors
    -NVH, as long as I can hear my music and hold a conversation if need be
    -styling to a point (I’m not a huge fan of the Mazda 3 but bought one anyway, but I wouldn’t ever buy something horribly disfigured like a Civic or CLA)
    -resale value since I generally lease new cars
    -leather anything
    -infotainment, as long as it plays music and has somewhere to plug in an iPod (which could just be a cigarette lighter port). I never use navigation or Bluetooth, or even a radio….which means I don’t need an antenna either.
    -OEM tires, as long as they don’t blow out at random, since they can be changed
    -big wheels
    -chrome anywhere on the vehicle.

  • avatar

    To me, the manufacturer must absolutely never skimp on the alignment of the armrest pieces. These should be designed to be high art and manufactured like jewelry. The car can get 9 miles per gallon or 90, it can do zero to 60 in 3.5 or 13.5, I don’t care. But those armrests better be aligned or no sale.

  • avatar

    Infotainment and nanny devices are the low hanging fruit of this exercise. They exist because tech is cheap right now and you won’t notice a cost cutting lever somewhere until you’ve already made your first payment. Here’s some others:

    Id like some manufacturers to skimp on on these fancy auto transmissions. I don’t need 10 auto gears I need 6 manual ones.

    How about some more pushrod motors for less weight and lower cost? GM seems to get decent MPGs out of them.

    How about less sound deadening material? Seems with all the computational models cars go through before they are made we could cut some road noise out with aero changes. They probably already do that though.

    Here are some cost savings not on the actual car itself:

    Skimp out on mailing people your ads when you already know they have 50 of their 60 months left on the payment plan.

    Why are car brochures still a thing?

    Skimp out on concept cars you have no intention of ever making (Looking at you Cadillac).

  • avatar

    I think Jack pretty much nailed all the things I do and don’t care about- in a lot of ways, my Impreza is pretty much the perfect car where they’re concerned. Infotainment consists of a relatively basic AM/FM radio, CD player, iPod/aux jacks, and Bluetooth- among all of those, there’s nothing else I would really want or need. I also don’t mind at all that the interior consists of plastic of varying hardnesses; it’s functional, easy to dust off occasionally, and the cloth seats are plenty comfortable even for a long drive. Granted, if I paid Mercedes or BMW money for something, I think it would be reasonable to expect more, but for what it is, it’s perfectly acceptable to me.

    The one glaring omission that really gets me is that it lacks a temperature gauge. Yes, it has the revised EJ engine with head gaskets somewhat less prone to self-immolation, and yes, there’s a red light that’ll come on when it’s starting to overheat, but it really would be nice to have more advance warning when things start to go wrong there.

  • avatar

    Power or heated seats, info-tainment or remote glove box release button. Nor sunroof.

  • avatar

    I like stuff in my vehicles. I know I can survive without lots of things, but I don’t want to. And since we tend to lease most new cars, I’ll go with the highest trim I find reasonable. Our Odyssey is an EX-L and the only thing I want now is the rear seat entertainment system. In three years, I haven’t found myself needing or wanting anything that comes on the Touring or Touring Elite.

    Anything I see or touch on a semi-consistent basis, don’t skimp. Don’t skimp on what makes it go,stop or suspends it within reason. I don’t expect to autocross a minivan, but I want to know it will stop. I don’t need 280hp 99% of the time I’m driving, but it’s nice to know it’s there.

    Everything is built to a price, it shouldn’t be painfully obvious it is.

  • avatar

    My number 1 priority is suspension and steering. That can mean a lot of different things depending on the mission of the particular car involved, but my biggest turnoff is when those things are clearly half-baked. That is the biggest reason I typically dislike Hyundais.

    Beyond that, I want the manufacturer to sweat little build quality and durability details, and I could go without the very latest cutting-edge technology in exchange. That’s why I own a Lexus and an old Acura. (But I’m also receptive to a car that’s a compelling package, taken all together, for other reasons; thus my current C-Max and former G8.)

  • avatar


    Not sure I believe you about styling. For someone that does not care too much about styling, you ended up with an S5 and an Accord Coupe, two of the most attractive cars out there (says the A5 owner, but at least I admit it!)

  • avatar
    George B

    Jack, I’d rather auto manufacturers skimp on end user replaceable wear items like the tires and battery than things that are prohibitively expensive for the end user to fix like paint and automatic transmissions. I can fix the undersized battery, cheap floor mats, and OEM tire choice on my 2014 Accord, but the chipped paint on the hood will be an ongoing annoyance. I’m ok with Honda’s choice of “Leather seating surfaces” with vinyl on the sides and back of seats and old-school but effective halogen headlamps. Haven’t used the CD player once so it could probably be deleted to cut costs.

  • avatar
    Matthew H

    What I think I care about:


    What I actually care about:


  • avatar

    Must have:
    – Seating position that works for me. With a long torso, the seat needs to get pretty low. My current car search is teaching me that car size does not correlate with my ability to fit comfortably. For example, I felt cramped in headroom in an E550 and A8 (2008s, both of them). My E46 has a more spacious feel in the driver seat, and that one is also mounted too high.
    – Low NVH. As my hearing gets worse, NVH bothers me more. Probably because it makes it harder to pick out conversation over ambient noise. I find loud cars extremely tiring to drive.
    – Good Powertrain. Reasonable power, say a 15 sec 1/4 mile, and I want it to sound good doing it. Automatic transmission should be transparent. Manual transmission should have cooperative shifter/clutch. Must be generally durable. Seeping leaks that don’t need immediate attention I can deal with.
    – Fuel economy. I measure good fuel economy relative to power, not in absolute terms. For example, 21 mpg is fine for a 300+ hp V8. 24 mpg is not OK for a 240hp 2.0T used for highway cruising.
    – suspension and steering. steering should be accurate and predictable. I can probably get used to any weighting. Suspension should offer a controlled ride without crashing over road imperfections. Roll is OK, as long as it is controlled and not “boaty”.
    – quality touch points. Steering wheel, shifter, armrests, and if my knee ends up touching the center tunnel that part better not be nasty plastic.
    – infotainment that doesn’t aggravate. I’ve yanked many aftermarket headunits for this, effectively rolling back available features.

    Nice to have:
    – Automatic climate control. Once I set a temperature, I best not have to intervene. Does not have to be dual zone.
    – Leather seats. I like the easy cleanup and not having to worry about staining or constantly vacuuming dog hair.
    – V8 soundtrack.
    – Good packaging. This is in “nice to have” because it is somewhat flexible depending on what else the car offers. In general, a large car that is not good at carrying people or things will not be considered. For example, Camaro. Sedans with sloping rooflines also suck.
    – OEM tires. Sure I can change them, but why do I want to drop $1k on a new car to have good tires?

  • avatar

    I’d prefer they skimp on almost all modern electronics aside from engine management. Give me manual climate controls, or at least automatic controls that are not integrated with anything else; a fully-mechanical AWD/4WD system where applicable; and no safety nannies to tell me anything I should already know or do anything I should be competent enough as a driver to handle myself.

    And if you can’t match the sort of audio system that I can put together for $1000, just keep it simple enough so that it’s at least upgrade-able.

    I’ll take cloth seats, while we’re at it. But don’t actually skimp on that. They can be of much higher quality material than the stuff that passes for automotive leather.

  • avatar

    I’d like an excessively powerful engine, mechanical bits built to last, service bits that don’t require disassembly of unrelated parts to access, and a quiet interior that doesn’t rattle or have exposed sharp edges.

    I don’t care about paint, panel gaps, hard plastic, etc. and I only care about infotainment to the extent that I’d prefer if it were left out of the car entirely.

    If you can sell me an entire large car for $25,000, and they can, then there’s no excuse other than profiteering for a $35,000 car to be missing anything at all.

  • avatar

    It’s true. Modern cars are remarkably good compared to their forefathers, and I’d like to enjoy the engineering by eliminating the unreliable infotainment system.

    If I’m indulging my purist tendencies, I want all power driving controls to be outlawed. No power brakes. No power steering. No automatic transmissions. The car market will be 1000% percent better. Nothing but fuel efficient fun to drive cars. No old men with fake-bakes sipping lattes and driving their Aventadors. No more runts driving around in their skyjacked Ram 1500’s. Horsepower will be useable again, rather than being neutered with ridiculous gear ratios.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I would like to see less chrome and smaller grills. I would also like to see less fake wood, just eliminate wood trim from most vehicles except luxury and higher trim. As for crank windows I understand that it is less expensive for manufacturers to make power windows and power locks as standard since it is less expensive to buy parts in larger volume and more cost effective on the assembly line to have less variances. I prefer real analogue gauges but if manufacturers are not going to offer all analogue at least offer temperature and oil in analogue. As for hard plastics I really don’t care as long as the top of the door is padded and the arm rests on the doors have padding. Manufacturers could just offer a plain stereo with a USB port. I would like to see manual transmissions continually offered even if they are limited to just base models. Limited exterior colors and interior colors doesn’t bother me as much as long as white, black, or silver are still offered. I understand limiting certain colors and options to make it less costly to manufacturer a vehicle and I can live with that.

  • avatar

    All America really needs is a 1963 Plymouth Valiant with the slant six and torqueflite.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    or its twin the 63 Dodge Dart slant six.

  • avatar

    I care about:

    -styling (if I’m going to spend this much, I want to like looking at it when I wash it.

    -Handling and steering feel

    -good drivetrain interaction and performance

    -Driver seat comfort

    -crash test and active safety

    -at least reasonable ride quality

    – resale (good resale lets you move up a class and have the same overall cost of ownership)

    I don’t care about:

    -infotainment systems (though a good sounding stereo is a plus)
    -rear seat room
    -trunk room (within reason)
    -Overwhelming power (just bragging rights, it’s unuseable)
    -having an uber reliable appliance

  • avatar

    This is why I love my old 2000 Lexus, infotainment and micromanaged systems weren’t even invented so the budget went into materials and build quality. My old GS is virtually poverty-spec compared to a new Civic, but that’s what I prefer.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I doubt we will ever see again a simple new vehicle equipped without all the electronic nannies.

  • avatar

    Important-Acceleration, MPG, Lumbar support, a place to plug my phone in for power and decent speakers. Useful-Intuitive cruise control settings, front collision braking, traction control, and stain resistant interior. A full sized spare and a vehicle jack. A Dip stick.

    I hate road noise

    get rid of- fancy electric junk that I can’t remove and needs a trip to the dealer to get fixed. Automatic servo motors that freak me out when they start adjusting on their own and end up needing to be recalibrated.
    TPMS, run flats, low sidewall tiny tires. 

  • avatar

    Recently car hunting on the lower end of the market, Skodas and SEATs.

    What I absolutely wanted:
    – Rear parking sensors. The cars I were looking at were sedan shaped hatchbacks with high tails, not the easiest to try and park without sensors. Plus my old Saab had me spoiled.
    – Rear electric windows. May sound surprising in this day and age, but basic ‘fleet/hire car spec’ ‘S’ model Toledos and Rapids have manual wind up windows. Even those models that had rear electrics didn’t have driver side control – not ideal for a family car with growing boisterous kids!
    – Alloy wheels. Again, the basic ‘S’ spec models made do with horrible wheeltrims. Yes this can be rectified for a few hundred £/$, but then the insurance company has to know etc.
    – Seat rear pockets. Amazed that base spec models cut these out.

    The car I ended up getting was midrange ‘SE’ spec, which annoyingly made do without a front armrest. While the Saab had a rear armrest, any passengers I was ferrying – usually extended family – tended up put the armrest back up anyway.

    I would’ve liked steering wheel controls, a strange cost cutting effort when the car is supplied with a decent touchscreen VW group stereo (of which has Bluetooth but no other connectivity like Android Auto).

    The worst cost cutting in Skodas is the NVH, the rear trunklid of the Rapid, Octavia and Superb is a large piece of bodywork that seems to hit a resonant frequency via the dampers on some roads.

    I am always surprised to see expensive premium/luxury sedan trunklids being opened to reveal gooseneck hinges. If a Peugeot 407 can use a cantilever, why can’t a BMW 5 series?

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