Department of the Interior

One sometimes loses perspective. It is fair to say that virtually the only auto interiors I see anymore at Volvo Village, In Control and in my own cars are Swedish. While Volvo and Saab do not necessarily embrace the same aesthetic, there is certainly that Swedish something present in both brands, and I very much appreciate and have gotten used to their interior designs. 

Since this is what I see and sit in every day, I take a well thought out and executed interior for granted; at least I did until I had to drive one of our used cars recently. It astounds me that in 2015 that I can come across interior designs which are so bad that you wonder how anyone  approved them, let alone created them. I understand that I have a bias: I prefer the design in European cars. When I worked with Subaru, I was not always enamored with the interior designs, but within the context of modestly priced Asian cars, I found Subaru interiors mostly innocuous and inoffensive. Yes, that is damning with faint praise. 

The used car I had to drive recently was a 2013 Buick Enclave, a mid sized SUV along the lines of an XC60. In terms of design, while not to my liking, I do find that the exterior is well executed, proportioned well and except for the hideous grille, looks fine. Then you open the door. Wow. This car redefines baroque. First, some of the materials have that cheap look and feel that ruin an interior, especially on the dash and door panels. Then there was the fake wood, which was a hue of purplish gray that looked similar to the skin tones seen on zombies in the Walking Dead, and this stuff was everywhere. Then there was the bright-work. There was more of it than any ten cars should wear. 

Getting beyond materials, there is the lack of design cohesion. Stuff just does not fit together in a way that makes sense or appeals in any way. If you looked at just a black and white sketch of the interior oblivious of color or material, it still would not work. Various interior components, and all cars have the same ones, need to have a sense of flow and some sort of harmony in their assembly and placement. That is absent in the Enclave. Some controls were intuitive in function and placement, some were not. Steering wheel buttons were poorly placed, seat heater switches wee too busy, the few actual knobs on the radio felt incredibly cheap, and the gauges, while nicely complete looked as if they belonged in a much cheaper car.

 When I went to retrieve this car after its repair at a local GM dealer, it was dark, and that brought to "light" a design element I had otherwise not seen: Buick Blue Lit Cabin. BBLC is a band of bluish led which rims the Walking Dead wood on the doors, then sweeps across the entire dash. It completes, in matching the lighting on the dash and gauges, a look we could call "Late 20th Century PInball Machine." Does EVERYONE at GM management have bad taste? Could not one manager have said that this interior looks ridiculous? Maybe they could have suggested these designers spend some time driving an Audi, a Volvo or a Mercedes? In fact, with a subdued grille and an interior out of a German or Swedish car, the Enclave would acquit itself rather nicely in its segment. As it sits, it is a tawdry pretender, and you can blame the interior designer for that.
Categories: Automotive
; ;