Want to discuss random thoughts and observations from test drive events sponsored by automakers? This would be a good place... In the past, when I'd been to a bunch of Toyota hybrid roadshows in WA state, the Toyota test drives offered at the Seattle auto show and most recently the Toyota test drives offered at Green Drive Expo in Richmond, CA, most of the staffers were the same folks. Yes, the folks I saw in WA were at GDE. Some of them recognize me and have gotten to know me after a few of the events. They apparently work for some agency/3rd party company and not directly for Toyota. They handle Toyota test drive events on the West Coast. Today, I went to Cadillac Culinary Challenge Test Drive at Santana Row in San Jose and I test drove all the vehicles there: CTS sedan and coupe, SRX, Escalade Hybrid, BMW X5, Mercedes E350 sedan and coupe and Lexus RX. I spoke to numerous ride along staffers and learned that they all came from different parts of the US, such as LA, Texas, north of NYC, and so on. Apparently they were all contracted by the same person. Apparently, the event's almost over w/remaining events in So Cal, Georgia and Florida. One of the women says she works at Scion events at other times of the year. I mentioned to her my familiarity w/the Toyota staffers (above) and how some folks in other parts of the country (East Coast?) were disappointed by the hybrid knowledge level of those staffing Toyota events. She basically said that the test drive folks at the Seattle auto show wouldn't be the ones working the show floor. She was correct about that. She said that "product specialists" on auto show floors have to know more and that people who know more are thus paid more. To her, those staffing test drive events, if they aren't one of those "paid more" folks... their lack of product knowledge isn't too surprising. She hypothesized that Toyota only had so much budget to hire whoever they got vs. the "paid more" folks. About the cars: I'm not a BMW fan and I found the X5 has VERY touchy brakes. I was warned about it by the ride along go and it was tough to get used to them. I was guessing that maybe there was something wrong w/the car but a few Google searches turns up the same complaint (in the automotive press). I've test driven a wide range of BMWs before but don't remember encountering anything like this before. I'd heard complaints about the X5's goofy turn signal lever and found them legit. The way it works is very annoying and unlike ANY car I've driven, Japanese, Korean or American. The gearshift lever is also goofy (seen complaints about this too). I can't imagine how many sales BMW has lost on the X5 when cross shopping w/other cars, unless one is a BMW fanboy. If were in the market for that class of vehicle, besides in being a BMW (w/high maintenance costs and hit/miss reliability, some very poor), the above reasons would be even more reasons to scratch it off my list. I thought it was odd to bring the MB E-classes to have up against the CTS. I'd figure a BMW 3-series or MB C-Class would be more appropriate. On the Mercedes, they put their cruise control adjustment lever in a weird place. They put it on the left side of the steering wheel, angled up and above the turn signal lever. It's exactly where I'd expect to a turn signal lever on Toyotas, so I kept pushing on that. It was odd that Mercedes saw it fit to put a huge analog clock on the left side of the dash. It reminds me of cars from the 70s and 80s. IMHO, analog clocks in cars today are ok, but a huge one in the dash? That's odd. Back to product knowledge, when I was in the Lexus RX, the woman in the car for some reason brought up (premium) fuel "requirements" for all their cars and competitors too. I mentioned the SRX recall (http://priuschat.com/forums/other-c...-fuel-grenaded-cadillac-srx-gms-response.html) but I didn't remember all the details. She was unaware of it. It was somewhat fitting to bring it up given what she brought up and given that an SRX was available for test drives. In the end, I was able to lookup some articles of it on my iPhone 4 and showed them to her.