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A dumb question: What does "refinement" mean? (in a car review.)

Dictionary saids:
noun /riˈfīnmənt/
refinements, plural

The process of removing impurities or unwanted elements from a substance

  • the refinement of uranium

The improvement or clarification of something by the making of small changes

  • this gross figure needs considerable refinement
  • recent refinements to production techniques

Cultured elegance in behavior or manner

  • her carefully cultivated veneer of refinement

Sophisticated and superior good taste

  • the refinement of Hellenistic art

try as I might to apply that definition to a car, I just can’t see it.

The VW GTI has been described by Edmunds as “refined.” Do they mean that the seating material is good? The interior uses high quality material? Do they mean that the engine is quiet?? The handling is good?

I say it’s a plaid nightmare inside. :stuck_out_tongue:

I think it’s just a buzz word. The VW might be more refined than the Civic, but it’s nowhere near as refined as an S-class Mercedes

“refined”, right next to the word “smat” as in, “that’s a smat looking car.” Or, another Downeaster might say, ain’t that a " cunnin lookin cah". “Bet it was refined after it twas lost the second time.”

As in to make nicer than the previous version of the same vehicle. Or, the Cadillac CTS is more refined than the Ford Pinto

refined = more money…

I think in this case it means “higher-than-normal maintenance costs.”

I see “refined” as a very subjective word. It can mean just about anything and be interpreted differently by every individual reader. Therefore not a good word.

Yet, it is commonly used in reviews. So, what I interpret the writer is wishes to convey is something like a knob that turns nice and smooth with just a hint of resistance. Cars of old had many slide controls on the the heater for instance. These slides actually connected to cables that went through the dash somewhere and hooked onto a valve or something at the other end. Some of these controls were sticky, too easy to slide in one direction and hard in the other, etc. These controls were NOT refined. I therefore see refined as a temp knob that works easily and smoothly both ways and is linear meaning a small move makes a small change, a big move a big change.

Today I’d guess refined controls are buttons big enough to push, well marked, and not too many of them. If you can figure out how to work the heat, lights, wipers, and audio system without needing the owner’s manual every 5 min., perhaps that is refined today.

Buttons that feel slimy, need a petite ungloved finger to operate, are sticky, or too many placed too close together, or are hard to reach for the driver are not refined. I sense that many new models with fancy screens and loaded with technical features can seem great in the showroom, but confusing in practice on the road. That would not be refined in my book - even if the shiny chrome knob looked nice on the dash. Refinement is stuff works; easily, smoothly, linearly, and dependably; all the while looking good and feeling good to the touch. Is that too much to ask?

Refined has little to do with quality, reliability or life expectancy. It does mean the opposite of “crude”, such as early Hyundais and the infamous Russian Lada cars which smelled of industrial grade plastics (think new garbage cans).

Today, Hyundais (Elantra, Sonata, and the new Accent) are the most “refined” economy cars. It refers to fit and finish, noise, upholstery texture and how the controls operate.

Volkswagens have good road manners, have good seats and generally have a good fit and finish. But a relatively “crude” car (according to Consumer Reports) like a Toyota Yaris will likely outlast any Volkswagen. One of the most “refined” cars ever made was the 1955 MG Magnette, a small sedan with leather upholstery and walnut dashboard. Unfortuately it was poorly engineered and built and had a very short life expextancy like most British cars of that era.

If you ask a veteran soldier, the US-designed MK16 is a very refined weapon, but the Russian AK 47 is a relatively crude weapon by comparison, but it remains every terrorist’s favorite (cheap and “readily available”)!

You could always write to Edmunds to get clarification on what they determined to be refined on the GTI, and to what they were directly comparing it to when they declared it “refined”.

Usually they take care to spell it out in the article.
Usually they will say that the suspension and handling on the GTI is more refined than the previous version of the car, or the interior quality and layout is more refined than the Ford Focus SVT it competes against (who really likes egg carton grey interiors?).

But, you need to know the context of the word refined to truly understand what the writer is trying to convey.


Refined VW GTI = trimmed off the flashing from the molded dash parts… :wink:

dagosa, a little further south it might be “wicked pissah”

The last two definitions you give fit the bill. compared to other cars of its class, the author of the review believes that the handling, ergonomics, and interior materials are a cut above the challengers.

I see “refined” as a very subjective word. It can mean just about anything and be interpreted differently by every individual reader. Therefore not a good word.

Unless, of course, you’re a marketer, in which case it’s a great word because it means nothing but sounds good. :wink:

It means the user is pompous.

Language means whatever the speaker wants it to mean.

For example if I see a young lady and say she is cool, maybe I would like to ask her out on a date, or offer her a coat.

In marketing, language means whatever you can trick the audience into thinking it means, even though you mean something completely different. :wink:

I think of refinement as the general level of improvement that cars have seen.

Back in the '70s, my mother had a Pinto, and my sister’s in-laws had a couple Vegas. They were just pieces of junk! I had an '87 Ford Escort. It was bog slow, had no A/C, a plain AM/FM radio, and tie-rod ends that, in my opinion, should not have made it into the production stage. It also had the water pump that seized and snapped the timing belt, which seems to have been a standard feature on 1st generation Escorts. It happened at 60,000 miles, right on schedule!

My '07 Nissan Versa is leaps and bounds better in every way, and it is a bottom-of-the-line car!

I recall an automotive magazine actually defining “refinement” some years back, and their definition was something along the lines of…excess noise, vibration, and harshness being eliminated in the design and development stages. This was related to their test of the then-new Hyundai Sonata.

The magazine noted that the Sonata was essentially equal to a Honda Accord in terms of performance and general fit and finish, but that the Sonata had a rougher ride, more road noise, a general background noise from harmonic vibration of certain parts, and switchgear that didn’t have the Honda’s silky feel to its action. In other words, they felt that the Sonata was mechanically sound, but that it was still sort of “rough around the edges”, and gave a less-civilized experience to the passengers.

As most folks know, Hyundai did learn how to “refine” their vehicles, and Sonatas are now considered by many to be a better overall buy than competing vehicles such as the Accord.

Some years back, I went along for years without receiving a promotion. I finally went to my Dean, showed him my long list of publications and my very good teaching evaluations. “Dean, why am I not promoted?” I asked. “Triedaq”, he replied. “You just lack refinement”. I responded, “Why s**t, Dean, I got refinement”.
Maybe my opinion that the Studebaker Scotsman was a great car shows my lack of refinement.

I think VDCdriver nailed it much better than I did.

Some cars are just nicer to operate than other cars of the same class. Engine smoothness and the feel of switches and controls are factors.

Now that I think back on it, at 4,000 RPM, the engine in my Escort sounded (and felt) like a cheap vacuum cleaner with an impeller vane missing. Because of the widely-spaced gear ratios and Pittsburgh’s topography, high RPMs were frequently necessary. It made for a rather unpleasant driving experience.