Things Noticed at the AutoShow.

When you spend several days at a given auto show you start looking past the super cars - and super booth professionals - and you start noticing the little things. Here goes...

1) Audi's shoddy built quality. Noticing it only took opening Audi A7's driver side's door. Since they absolutely nailed the exterior with its chopped rear and sensuous swooping sport back lines I was very exciting to find out what it was like on the inside. The instant I opened the front driver's door two things hit me. First, Audi's interiors have now become beyond outdated. It's ridiculous that I can trace back many of the buttons to the previous generation Audi RS4. Second, the A7 features some of the lightest and puniest doors I have ever opened this side of a Caterham Superlight. But instead of sucking in for a tight squeeze, the battery had died and the seat was stuck too far forward. As I took my hand off the lifeless seat adjustment buttons I shrieked at the sheer shoddiness of it all. From hard plastics to misaligned trims, it was as far removed from German built quality as that Italian panel glue that is burning down all those 458s and FFs. Following my realization of everything that is wrong with the A7 I noticed that in typical compromised Mercedes CLS fashion, the rear seats were completely useless as that - albeit sexy - downward swooping roofline cut in to the rear headroom like a french guillotine. Now I've driven the R8 and S5 and I'll be the first to tell you Audi makes fun cars, but for the money, I'd rather be driving something a little better built and with a few less christmas lights around the front light clusters. 

2) Subaru's styling department has thrown in the towel. You can't call them uninspiring because they STI WRX and brand new BRZ are very much exciting cars. But feel free to join me in criticizing their atrocious designs. They've always been a bit difficult to love as they were never truly pretty cars. It was a combination of rally bred credibility, unbeatable four-wheel drive systems, insane durability, and those quirky boxer engines that had people coming back for more. We accepted the styling and enjoyed driving something a bit different. I remember  recommending the Subaru Forester from a few years back to a family member upon guarantee that the thrilling 3.6 R engine would be specced. A car that is guarantee to hold its value and outlast us all. Marvelous cars then, but what in the name of style has happened to their current lineup?  Shame on you to whoever is in charge of styling the range. Shapes and design cues so out of place on cars it left me at a loss for words. Oh for shame. 

3) Volvo's XC90 needs to go. Its had a great run. It was endorsed and loved by all including the world's most influential car critic, Jeremy Clarkson, who couldn't stop talking about its kid friendly 7-seat set-up and infotainment system. But that was one year short of a decade ago, and since then Jezza, together with the rest of the world, has upgraded to bigger and better things. In Jezza's case, a Range Rover. The XC90's typically stark Swedish interior that was once fresh and funky has become plain inspiration-less. The funny thing is that none of us, since we've all been in a Volvo carpool at some point in our lives, want the big Volvo to go. We like it for its 'safest car in the world' shtik and slightly overconfident premium price. So Volvo, we'd like another one. Just get on with it already. 

4) The little child inside me decided to sit in every big engined American muscle car. This means the Vette ZR1, Camaro ZL1, Challenger SRT-8, Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, and Mustang Shelby GT500 all got their seats pushed all the way back and down, and their steering wheels jammed back into the dashboard to make room for my 6'6" frame. I hereby apologize for the slow electronics to all the people who were cueing up next to me waiting a turn behind the wheel. I also apologize for those same people who then plunked down in to a low seat and couldn't see or reach past the steering wheel. Anyways, I know very little about American muscle and I'd surely make an absolute fool of myself on the die-hard enthusiast forums. But here are a few things that caught my curious and briefly unbiased mind. The Vette and Camaro look the meanest while the Mustang Boss actually looks better than the Shelby. The Camaro features the best driving position and acres of alcantara. That's a double win. The Vette's interior still looks straight out of a mid 80's econobox, while each of the engines, as nearest makes no difference, churned out an angry 560 horsepower. Now that's ridiculous. If you give 560 horses to a German engineer he'll come back with a car that'll lap the Nordschleife twice before that Challenger loses its interior trim on the bouncy Carousel on its first time round. Fair enough the Vette ZR1 put down a blistering time which left everyone in the world scratching their heads and walking back to the drawing boards. But still, something about needing near 600 horses to put down mid 4 second 0-60 mph times just reeks of complacent engineering. As a fan of more dynamic, zippier, cars there's just something wrong about these overpowered, shouty, overweight muscle cars. Something I was reminded of when I test drove that awfully slow 300 horsepower  V6 Mustang last summer. 

/end rant