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Car Configurator Quirks

The popular shopping tools are fun but imperfect

The Internet is a wonderful tool when it comes to researching a new automobile. Sites like provide expert opinions. Dealers post vehicles on their website that are available for purchase. Then there’s the automobile manufacturer websites, which offer further information. One specific area of the car company websites that I enjoy fiddling with are the configurators. We’ve all picked a car that we’re interested in purchasing—or dream of owning—and selected our preferred color, interior trim, wheels, and options. Unfortunately, there are faults with many of these configurators.

One issue I’ve come upon has to do with timing. Take the all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler. When the JL Wrangler launched at the Los Angeles Auto Show on November 29, 2018, dealers were able to order vehicles straightaway. Unfortunately, the configurator on Jeep’s website didn’t go live until late December and the order guides that the dealers had in-hand weren’t very detailed and lacked photos of wheels, options, etc.

Additionally, the new, trick ‘Sky One-Touch Power Top’ that’s optional on four-door Sahara and Rubicon models and was shown in LA and is also featured in the brochure is not shown on the online configurator. Only after some further digging and corresponding with the Jeep media communications team did I learn that the Wranglers with the power top option will arrive at dealers late in the 2nd quarter of 2018, but no pricing information is available yet.

It’s not much better in the world of high-end cars. Ferrari has an attractive configurator but it’s missing options that are listed on the option price list supplied to dealers. Additionally, you can’t print or save to PDF a document that lists all the options you add to your build on the configurator. Clearly, Ferrari wants you to meet with your sales person at your chosen dealer to go through the special process of ordering a new prancing horse.

Over at Aston Martin, the Brits provide a fantastic order guide to dealers that details out every option, seat setup, trim configuration, etc. It’s a wonderful, helpful document but you need to get your Aston dealer to provide it to you. The online configurator, like Ferrari’s, is beautiful but lacks information. If you’re building a new Vantage on their website you’d never know you can get the outside mirrors in body color (which is standard) because the configurator only shows gloss black or gloss carbon fiber. Same with the new DB11 Volante—Aston offers some gorgeous interior trim splits with various monotone and duotone setups. Unfortunately, the configurator doesn’t give you all the info. Again, you need the order guide from the dealer to be fully briefed.

Porsche does a pretty good job with its online configurator, but it too has quirks. For example, the new 2019 Cayenne comes standard with tinted glass from the B pillar back. Unfortunately, the configurator doesn’t show that and it makes it look like the $1,130 “Thermally & Noise Insulated Glass incl. Privacy Glass” because the Cayenne in the configurator only shows dark glass when you tick that box. I confirmed through a Porsche dealership—which had to contact Porsche—that the U.S. Cayenne comes standard with privacy glass.

Mercedes, in turn, fails to list certain special-order options in its configurator. For instance, you can spec aluminum interior trim and heated rear seats on the E400 4Matic Wagon, but you wouldn’t know that via the online configurator. You’d only learn that handy info if your dealer supplied you with that information—or let you review the fabulous dealer order guide. Make sure you ask your Benz dealer to review that document if you’re ordering a new car. It’s wonderfully detailed.

Cars are getting so complicated to order that it’s hard to keep track of all the details. Online configurators are valuable tools, but sometimes offer inaccurate or incomplete information. If you’re going to actually place an order for that custom 911 or Ferrari you just spent an hour of your Friday afternoon on, be sure to confirm the details with the dealer.

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