Automakers Putting the Screws to Us

When I climb inside a new vehicle I want to be soothed not perturbed. But too often when I look up, I’m staring at some craggy fastener that never should be seen.

May 26, 2017

3 Min Read
Judge Schweinsberg not happy with exposed pin of Mercedes EClass grab handles
Judge Schweinsberg not happy with exposed pin of Mercedes E-Class grab handles.

Guts. Innards. Entrails. Viscera.

All that stuff is gross. You don’t want to think about – much less look at – internal organs.

So you may understand where I’m coming from when I say I don’t want to see how the sausage, er, automobile is put together.

Some of my fellow Wards 10 Best Interiors judges say I’ve taken my nitpicking of vehicle interiors to a whole new level, but I just can’t stand visible overhead grab-handle screws or pins.

When I climb inside a new car, truck or utility vehicle, I want to be soothed, not perturbed. Too often when I look up, I’m staring at some craggy fastener that never should be seen, an element that to me breaks up the beauty of the carefully thought-out materials and colors.

Some automakers try to hide at least some of the screws, the hardware that attaches the plastic grab handle to hinges on the ceiling. But automakers are too willing to leave the two pins exposed on the inside edges to the handle, right above passengers’ heads.

If an OEM has to leave two pins exposed for cost purposes or ease of manufacturing, at least put them on the outer edges of grab bars, so when a driver looks up from his or her seat they’re not seen. Our two Nissan test vehicles, the Rogue CUV (pictured below) and Armada SUV, have grab-bar screws on outer edges.

Another acceptable arrangement is when both screws face the windshield, i.e. one on the outer edge nearest the A-pillar, one on the inner edge behind the driver’s head, with none visible to backseat passengers. We found this setup in the Hyundai Ioniq (pictured below).

What really incenses me is when there is no attempt to hide them and screws are visible on both inner edges.

I saw it too often with this year’s stable of nominees, but especially egregious were the two German luxury sedans we tested.

The ’17 BMW 540i we drove stickers at $82,610. Even at that princely sum I looked up from the comfort of my 16-way power-adjustable driver’s seat swathed in $1,000 ivory Nappa leather, and while listening to the lovely sounds emanating from the $4,200 Bowers & Wilkins audio system, to see two shiny pins. As our president would say: “Sad.”

The Mercedes E400 wagon we tested – $83,055 thanks to $21,000 in options including an $11,200 premium package with all manner of niceties – also has pins visible on grab-bar inner edges, mucking up what otherwise are very nice handles trimmed with aluminum and stitched beige leather.

You may think there must be no way to hide these damned fasteners if even the German luxury makes do this. Not so.

I came across one model in this year’s competition that has no visible grab-handle screws, the Bentley Bentayga. Sure, it costs $279,000, but there is no way invisible innards need to be only the province of the super-rich.

So automakers, to lower my blood pressure, will you hide those blasted pins? I’ll even accept a cute little plastic cap to cover them up.

And seat tracks, next year I’m coming for you!

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2017 10 Best Interiors
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