Wood, for some reason, means luxury. It's in more places than your car, like on your kitchen cabinets, your recliner, your rubbery phone cases. Rarely is it real wood, but there's something about the look that resonates with people when thinking about premiumness.
Honestly, wood trim is not my thing. Part of it comes from being exposed to too much of the fake stuff in things like 1980s Buick Centurys. It's spreading, though, throughout all cars as a way to push them upmarket in the eyes of some customers and sometimes it does dress up an interior well.
I took a walk around the LA Auto Show in search of some good car woods. I thought the best ones would be the dull, unfinished looking ones that are in fashion now. Turns out, that's not always the case.
This is the Mercedes S65 AMG. It's supposed to be fast and luxurious. I have no doubt of its quickness, but it does manage a luxurious interior even with shiny wood. Perhaps it works here because most of the interior is actually covered in beautifully stitched leather. The wood is quality, though, and the color nicely matches the cream interior of this particular show car.
Because the sheen doesn't work on the Infiniti QX60 Hybrid I found at the neighboring Infiniti stand. This was some of the shiniest wood I've seen, made worse by the crazy lights in the stand. It's also a giant fingerprint magnet – those aren't even mine on the cupholder cover. As a family vehicle with a lot of fingers of various cleanliness touching stuff like the cupholders and the surrounds for the audio and climate controls, this is a bad choice of trim for the QX60.
The whole unpolished wood thing is still a bit trendy. But I stayed off the Audi stand and wandered over to Volvo. This is an XC60 with a clean, non-shiny veneer covering the waterfall console that's a thing on pretty much all Volvos. It's not a glossy, overdone thing in a relatively minimalist interior and it's great. It's that understated elegance that is becoming increasingly difficult to find in some segments.
But the surprise was the Lincoln MKC. In keeping with more of the Audi influences with the rest of the design, the wood on this particular auto show car was totally unshiny. You could get a good feel of the grain, too, and the color isn't too yellow. It's really nice, and wouldn't look out of place in a German crossover. Shame it's only used lightly on the doors and dash.
Of course, the unpolished business can come off as cheap, too. The BMW i3 isn't meant to be ultra luxurious or anything. That big slab of wood on the dash top is meant to be sustainable, as one of the greenest cars around. It looks great from a distance and even from behind the wheel. Get close and touch it, though, and it all comes off as very IKEA. In fact, most of you have likely assembled a coffee table that feels a lot like the i3's dash. It evokes a similar sense of quality.
Then there's the white "wood" of the Kia K900. Yeah, I don't know what to make of that, actually.
I'm firmly in the matte wood camp and not even the classy job Mercedes does will sway me. I just have no interest in seeing everything reflected in the trim pieces.
But where do you stand on wood?