Due to the hazardous smog from the wildfires, I wasn’t able to go outside much during the Thanksgiving week break. Despite threat to lungs however I did make it out to the annual San Francisco auto show at the Moscone Center. It thankfully rained on that Wednesday so the air quality wasn’t too awful, but it rendered the manufacturer test drives a bit moot. A Jaguar F-Type is nice and all, but being stuck in downtown traffic in the wet isn’t the best representation of a driving a proper sports car.
Shame; I really wanted to try the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.
Nevertheless it’s been a few years since I’ve last gone to show, and combined with the fact I’ve been car-less since May, I was decidedly eager to be around automobiles again. New car smell may be poisonous but it’s intoxicating all the same.
I was most looking forward to touching the surfaces: the various contours on the outside, and the materials on the inside. The 10 years ago me would’ve been aghast at the thought of laying a finger on any part of a car that doesn’t involve actual operation; can’t risk scratching the paint or leaving oil marks on interior panels. I was obsessively compulsive like that, though that has changed. These days I highly encourage the tactile pleasure from interacting with the materials of a car: the smoothness of the paint, the industrial cold of metal trim, or the soft warmth of leather.
Because why rob myself of that experience simply because I want to preserve that last bit of perfection, which itself is a Sisyphean task short of placing a car in a hermetically sealed, climate-controlled box. Cars are meant to be driven and used, and the patina that comes from wear is to be honored and displayed proudly.
So I attacked all the surfaces presented to me at the auto show, and I came away with a one big realization: I can’t buy a car that isn’t from a premium or luxury brand any longer. The interior experience offered by brands like Audi or Mercedes Benz is leagues above mainstream marques like Ford or Toyota. The difference in quality of materials and how it feels to the hand is stark. You are pampered in a Range Rover, compared to merely functional inside a Honda Pilot.
Of course one would pay dearly for that privilege, but I think it’s well worth the price premium. The inside of a car is the part you interact with the most (as you sit for hours in traffic) so why not make that time spent as best as possible. Pay up for that open-pore wood trim, the Alcantara headliner, and the sound system with too many speakers.
Willing to pay for superfluous and vain extras in car? I am indeed getting old.