Having spent more and more time around the various Euro's of my bosses, I am beginning to appreciate (and develop a taste for) the finer points of build quality and detail. I gotta say, the Euro builders really know how to make a car "feel" solid and full of quality. The guys here have got 2 x Mercs, 1 x BMW and 1 x Audi. They are all streets ahead of the local stuff in terms of fit, finish, and in a lot of cases, function.
When at a dealer, I will first go over the externals of the car. Paint, panel gaps, rubber seals and linings, they all get a good workover. I also make a habit of checking under the front and back ends, although I'm not sure why exactly!
I then have a good poke around under the bonnet, just to suss out the mechanicals, check stuff like accessibility, fluid levels, general layout, etc.
Then it is into the car, to go over the interior. I'll take a fair bit of time inside, and go over basically everything. Switchgear, seating, steering wheel, accessories, everything!! Back to the topic, to determine quality I guess I could summarize my technique into these points :
* Seating must be supportive but comfortable, and trimmed in quality fabric or leather. It must be adjustable enough to find the "ideal driving position".
* Switchgear must feel solid, both in terms of its operation, and in its construction. Cheap plastic switches, with a soft vague feel are a definite loss of points!
* Layout of dash - if the stereo / HVAC controls / anything are in a stupid place, why would you want to have to deal with it every time you get in this car! Very important.
* Steering wheel - size, shape, visibility of speedo, position. Nothing worse than a crook wheel in a crook position that feels crook in your hands (MAGNA!!!)
* General fit and finish - carpets, joins in upholstry, etc.
* Pedal positioning - absolutely CRUCIAL!!! If you can't heel-toe then forget it. It also must have a well placed footrest for the left hoof.
I for one am glad that Ford is using BMW as a benchmark of quality, they are a great role model for this particular topic.