My favorite cars that I’ve driven share one thing in common: some kind soul ripped out most of the unnecessary bits in the interior, and either sold them to road-going cars’ owners, or put them in the dumpster. If you buy a car to have fun with, all those frou-frou interior niceties are just extra weight.
I wanted to give Top Gear’s Chris Harris a hug when he reviewed the Alfa Romeo Giulia this season. Harris noted—as an aside, not as the focus of his review—that the Alfa Romeo Giulia had some flimsy bits in comparison to the heavier BMW M3. (Our review concurs, if you’re curious.)
The M3 is widely considered the standard for fast four-doors with its solid, quality feeling interior, yet Harris was firmly on Team Alfa. He preferred the Giulia because it was simply more fun to drive. Thank goodness someone else admits that fun is what actually matters.
If you want everything to shut with a solid thud, feel inviting to the touch and be built to withstand both curious toddlers and the apocalypse, cool. That is as valid of an opinion as mine. Knock yourself out overanalyzing the materials in the interior of your car. There is a time and place to be snuggled by the cozy cocoon of one’s own car, and even I admit to wanting just that in a tow vehicle.
The time for ultimate luxury isn’t on a track or even on a good road, though. Interior snobs ultimately end up with a heavier car weighed down with fancy leather-wrapped aircon vents and 27-way butt massagers.
Weight is the enemy of fun. Heavier cars are less nimble, and harder on consumables like fuel, brakes and tires. Interior quietness, solid “feel” and soft-touch materials don’t make the car faster, easier to control or more hoonable—they’re all just dead weight.
That’s my beef. We’ve blurred the lines between luxury and performance to the point where performance cars get judged by the same standards as luxury ones. When was the last time you read a Lotus review that didn’t kvetch about something not feeling “solid” enough inside the car, for example?
Granted, I still value an interior that’s usable. I’ve daily driven a Mitsubishi Lancer since it was new in 2010, and it’s perfectly adequate inside, hard plastic dash and all. It’s a car loathed by interior snobs, but it’s perfect. The Lancer’s button and knob based controls are easy to use without taking my eyes off the road, and the basic interior components get the job done without adding unnecessary weight to the car.
Everyone looks at me confused like I’ve just admitted that I have five testicles when I point out how much I appreciate the Lancer’s basic interior, but I don’t care. In fact, I’d prefer a cheap plastic dash in a car purchased for fun or even for basic transportation if an automaker can save some weight in the process. Why load a cheap car with a small engine down with extra heft?
I know many of you like having a car that’s fun to drive but that also doesn’t feel like the inside is held together with sun-baked zip ties and spit. That’s fine!
But unless you bought a car specifically to play double duty as both a track car as well as your ultimate in-garbage-traffic relaxation space, what’s the point in having a “nice” interior? Sometimes a worse interior makes the whole experience of a car light years better.