Sunday, May 07, 2006

Beep Beep Beep Beep--Yeah!

I've done some more test-driving and car-looking since my debacle of an experience with Marietta Toyota. Looked at a BMW 530 and 730 (great cars, but each of them is a little short on some of the higher-tech features offered in Japanese cars--and the 530 may have the most laughably bad cup-holders in modern automotive history), the Infiniti M35 (a very comfortable car that would be a great car if it had some sort of iPod interface other than a cumbersome set of RCA audio and video plug-ins located in the back of the center console, requiring users to run cables alongside the seat to use those plus as iPod feeds), and the Lexus ES 350 (a top-notch vehicle, but it's brand-new this month, and the two nearest Lexus dealers are both owned by Nalley, a company that arrogantly refuses to discount this model at all, so if I buy it I'll be going to Hennessy Lexus in Duluth or Lexus of South Atlanta, where the salespeople actually act like they'd appreciate your business).

Best feature: the cooled seats on the Infiniti and the Lexus are great, but it's the "personal surround sound" speakers built into the headrests of the Infiniti that really appealed to me.

Weirdest comment: "The leather on Lexus's comfort-seating option is taken from cattle raised in barbed-wire-free pastures to avoid any scarring of the hide before we slaughter them." Somehow kind and cruel at the same time...

Most arrogant comment: "Your first 50,000 miles worth of services are free. After that, BMW service costs a bit more--but it's a BMW, so you expect that."

Strangest salesman: The fellow at Roswell Infiniti who kept calling me Michael. "My name's Cliff," I'd correct him, only to have him call me Michael again a moment or two later. Furthermore, he didn't want to talk about cars. He wanted to know where I lived, what tv shows I watched, and he even asked, "What do you do when you're not driving?" as if I spent the bulk of my time behind the wheel. Ironically, the day I dealt with him was his next-to-the-last-day on the job...

Most warped logic: "Lexus doesn't offer free service because we'd rather offer you the option of paying for service at the service provider of your choice."

Best feature enhancement: Infiniti's backup monitor offers on-screen markings that show exactly where your car is going based on the current direction of the steering wheel--and that's very handy if you've ever tried to interpret a rear-view camera's fisheye lens view into something approaching reality.

Most surprising addition: Lexus's Mark Levinson enhanced audio system includes a cassette deck. An interesting throwback, but one that could come in handy for those of us who still have some books on cassette...

Worst elimination of choice: BMW's decision to force customers who want satellite radio to accept only Sirius. Those of us with XM bias are left out...

Design element I'd most like to do away with: The Chris Bangle-inspired big butt on most cars today. Bangle designed this blocky automotive rear end for BMW, and since then virtually every car manufacturer has imitated it. The problem is, it cuts into rear-window visibility tremendously.

Almost but not quite: Infiniti allows front-seat passengers to watch a DVD on the navigation system monitor, but only when the car is parked. It would be much better to activate that option at all times, but allow for a swivel screen that lets the navscreen point towards the passenger only. (Yeah, I know it's supposed to be a safety feature, but you and I know that (a) there are easy hacks to override this, and (b) people with video iPods are just watching them on the smaller screen at a less desirable and more dangerous angle anyway.)

Halfway there: BMW offers HD radio as an option, but no XM (see above). Infiniti and Lexus support DVD-Audio, but no SACD (yeah, the $3 chip it would take to enable both would put the car entirely out of the price range of most drivers...)

Dream car: It would have Lexus's drive train and engine and comfort seating, Infiniti's sound system with the addition of the Lexus/Mark Levinson cassette deck and iPod connector, BMW's HD radio, Acura's navigation system with real-time traffic updates (I'm not currently looking at Acura's, but their nav system is still the best), BMW's body design (still a bit classier than anyone else's), BMW's first-four-years-for-free service, BMW's adjustable lumbar support, Lexus's interior design and woodwork, and Infiniti's dash and analog clock. If someone makes such a car, I'll sign up for it!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I purchased the M35 two week ago at Infiniti of Marietta after test driving the ES350, GS350, and 525i the same day. I am former I30 owner, but I was not originally sold on the M35 until I test drove the others. I regret not test driving the Acura and Audi offerings down the street.

I have been very pleased with the M35. Never the read the reviews until after I purchased. Can see why many people consider purchasing the new G35 with all the options. When you add everything to the M35 it is way too expensive.

So, I settled for the entry level stereo. However, I would recommend that others go to the next step up. Did not appreciate the difference until after a few days driving the car.

I am currently working on determing how I can tap into the N-bus wiring harness that is installed throughout the M35 regardless of what options you actually have. I suspect it will be easy to incorporate an iPod into the armrest or on the shifter console.

See this example of iPod placement in the 2006 model done by a local Atlanta "artist":

I am hoping to purchase his completed model and see if you can do the install myself.