Journal: Which Automaker Crafted The Best-Looking Dashboard?

Which Automaker Crafted The Best-Looking Dashboard?

By Michael Banovsky
March 18, 2016
74 comments

The freedom designers have long enjoyed when crafting a car’s interior can make or break an entire vehicle stylistically, but in the past, these designers often paid little mind to driver comfort, function, or safety.

I recently tracked down and read Unsafe At Any Speed by Ralph Nader, for no other reason except it’s often referenced by (I think) people who haven’t read it. What I found most interesting is that the Chevrolet Corvair was a sacrificial lamb not necessarily because of its poor crash record—but because it was one of the few vehicles that had been mentioned by name in crash test results and accident reports. More often than not, period police and other investigations paid little mind to the potential for vehicles themselves being, sometimes, a factor in road safety.

All those gleaming, chrome, metallic interior surfaces we hold so dear thanks to the stylists at General Motors? Designers often had no clue polished metal knobs could be dangerous because, at GM at least, through the ’60s had been spending more money on highway safety research than vehicle safety research.

While I appreciate the steampunk-ness of early Pre-War vehicles, the majesty of an Art Deco Voisin, and the overt metallic shine of most pre-’70s interiors, my personal pick has to be from the ’80s. I’m in a car to drive, so chrome embellishments aren’t needed. Porsche 911s always score high marks, especially with such clear gauges, but the car I least wanted to leave was a Lancia Delta Integrale Evo II I drove a few years ago.

Yes, the constant creaking of this particular example’s interior plastic sounded like a sailboat tied to a dock, listing in the wind, and the materials inside were as drab and black as the alley behind your favorite nightclub, but it’s one of the few modern cars that makes you feel as though all of the money was spent on the drivetrain, the seats, the steering wheel, and its chronograph-inspired gauges. The Delta was nice, mind you, but I have a feeling I’d also enjoy the Lancia Trevi dashboard’s array of round cheese grater-like holes…

Which car’s interior is “perfect,” at least to you?

Image sources: pinthiscars.comtumblr.com, Remi Dargegen, and David Marvier

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RMBarnett
RMBarnett
2 years ago

I’m partial to my current toy, simply because I don’t have my true love, an EType

Hans Teijgeler
Hans Teijgeler
2 years ago

Our take… http://www.minotto.nl

Jason Lycett
Jason Lycett
2 years ago

Early lotus espirit( 1975-88)
Amazing looking dashboard

Etienne Steenkamp
Etienne Steenkamp
3 years ago

DS5. & DS 3 (Citroën)… I drive a DS3 and its almost 10 years old and the interior of that car doesnt look 10 years old…well thats my opinion.

Thierry
Thierry
4 years ago

Maserati Boomerang concept from 1972.

Peter J Smith
Peter J Smith
4 years ago

Any high end British manufacturer. There is nothing like the sight of Smith’s gauges, set in burled walnut.

impaled nazarene
impaled nazarene
4 years ago

😉

Craig Palmer
Craig Palmer
4 years ago

For its time, the renault avantime..just, so much room and a refreshing break from the dull interiors of the time in so many cars. Did I mention the feeling of space? Like taking a drive in your loungeroom

bobmancini@cox.net
bobmancini@cox.net
5 years ago

I have to agree with the comments about the 70s-80- Trans Ams. I remember the tidy GT steering wheel and the machined instrument nacelle. Totally bad-ass. If the perfectly placed stick would have linked to something other than an automatic it would have made the fantasy better. Sitting in those cars as a pre-teen and then a teenager defined speed for me. For tangible modern machina, I love my 2016 Golf R. It has the seats that were only available in Audi fare a few years ago, perfect. The leather is good. There are thoughtful pieces that lend occasion, like the woven carbon on the sides of the aluminum and leather DSG selector. The piano-black is nice and the white stitching is special, but not pretentious. Nothing feels contrived or cheap. And the steering wheel. We all know about the steering wheel. The flat bottom was here first and so, does not feel like anything other than a purposeful item meant to better transmit inputs and feedback, to impart a sense of quality and occasion and to evoke joy.

george
george
5 years ago

Porsche 928 and Aston Martin. You can’t go wrong with waterfall interiors. They make the interior of the car look complete when they done well.

Jacob Jenkins
Jacob Jenkins
5 years ago

I like an interior that looks absolutely special. For that, it’s hard to beat the Pagani Huayra.

Alfa Guy
Alfa Guy
5 years ago

Tipo 33

615
615
5 years ago

944 s2 and fc3s rx7

Florian Prinz
Florian Prinz
5 years ago

2004 Spyker C8 i think

Jason Fournier
Jason Fournier
5 years ago

The Alfa Romeo 164

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
5 years ago
Reply to  Jason Fournier

Came here to say it! Beat me to it…

Andreas May
Andreas May
5 years ago

The dashboards of the E9, E28 and Porsche 911 rank towards the top of my list. Simple, clean, yet elegant.
The Koenigsegg dashboards are pretty spectacular too.

Tiens64
Tiens64
5 years ago

Can’t decide between the Citroen SM and CX.

Stefan Boodt
Stefan Boodt
5 years ago

One of my modern favourites has to be the Alfa Romeo 159/ brera/ spider dash

Ad van der Lee
Ad van der Lee
5 years ago

Porsche 928, many years ahead, after 40 years still modern.

gio64
gio64
5 years ago

…. I don’t know… So many, so little time…
I really like the third generation RX7 dash. everything is exactly where it should be, with a couple of exceptions, the gauges are very clear and it’s all business, no stupid and unnecessary stuff. Only problems: no boost gauge and idiotic temp gauge, which in that car is a really bad thing.
I love most Alfa Romeo stuff prior to the mid 80s (special mention to the Alfetta GTV split dash) , I agree with the author, Porsches are awesome, Ferraris depends, although the older ones are absolutely sublime.

Vincent
Vincent
5 years ago

1931 Bugatti T51 Dubos Coupe

Sid
Sid
5 years ago

I’m a big fan of the Volvo P1800S dash. Something about it looks just perfect to me.

Rick Moreno
Rick Moreno
5 years ago

I love the 1964 T-bird dash concise with great visibility and loads of style

John McGrath
John McGrath
5 years ago

The current Audi dash style is killer!

Greg Long
Greg Long
5 years ago

Early DS

Arya
Arya
5 years ago

The Ferrari 308 gauge cluster is definitely the best to me. Don’t know about complete dashboards though.

Arya
Arya
5 years ago

The Ferrari 308 gauge cluster is definitely the best to me. Don’t know about complete dashboards though.

Eduardo Valverde Silva
Eduardo Valverde Silva
5 years ago

Alfa Romeo!!!
A great place to sit and drive, to sit and enjoy the view.

James Hasler
James Hasler
5 years ago

Saab 900 Turbo or any Saab dashboard for that matter from the 900 onwards. The clarity and ergonomics made more sense and still do compared to anything else I have come across.

They were need to know basis only and while to many the black panel feature was ridiculous, actually it was quite brilliant especially on long journeys.

The funny thing is I was someone who loved gauges by the shed load. The Jensen Interceptor or the Jaguar E Type are a delight to view but require constant monitoring. The architecture is stunning but in reality require too much distraction. The Saab lacks all this drama but just works.

Dan Tucker
Dan Tucker
5 years ago

I have always been partial to the Volvo P1800 dashboard.

Gino Pino
Gino Pino
6 years ago

Fiat Uno Turbo MK2, simply gorgeous.
also the wheel is beautiful…

Luís Rodrigues
Luís Rodrigues
6 years ago

Everything you need, in the front of your eyes. Every sports car should have one like this. Water temperature, oil temperature and pressure, analogic as it should be.

1989 uno turbo i.e.

Gino Pino
Gino Pino
6 years ago

Oh my God, I signed up just to write the same comment. Yes, I think that the Fiat Uno Turbo MK2 is the most beautiful and complete dash that I ever saw in my life. For me, is gorgeous, also the character for the numbers is perfect.

federico
federico
6 years ago

Fiat 500 dashboard Minimalist

Dane Boulton
Dane Boulton
6 years ago

Ferrari 288 GTO was beautiful

sebb427
sebb427
6 years ago

The Lamborghini 400 GT has one of the most beautiful dashboard designs of the sixties. One day I will make a watch with exactly the font that was used in the tachometer and speedometer.

Avinda Perera
Avinda Perera
6 years ago

I love the classic style of the alfa 156 dash. The finess of the audi a6 dash. And the all day everyday practicality of the land cruiser 70 series.

Vincent Cox
Vincent Cox
6 years ago

1970-73′ Datsun 240-Z dashes and stock steering wheel were a darn good look still even for today. Even the textures were good.

Darren Bell
Darren Bell
6 years ago

2nd gen Pontiac Trans Am. The engine turned facia with the tech that had the red line in the 1:00 position.

Bobby Degenhart
Bobby Degenhart
6 years ago

I keep coming back to the 70’s-era Pontiac Trans Am. It’s just so bad-ass. The ‘Formula’ steering wheel, the engine-turned-dash bezel, no-nonsense gauge layout. Just classic.

Juan Carlos Herrera
Juan Carlos Herrera
6 years ago

It depends on what “best” means. If it means simplicity, nothing is better than original Austin Mini Cooper S dashboard. Really, nothing can be more simple than that! Sometimes, lees is more…

JsT Fartin
JsT Fartin
6 years ago

Another vote for the Volvo P1800/1800S. As my mechanic (for my ’66 1800S) said, it’s what Volvo engineers in the fifties thought the future would look like. Yes, old before its time but lovely.

acceleration
acceleration
6 years ago

Years ago a pal rebuilt a Datsun Fairlady in English white with burgundy upholstery. I remade all the gauges in the same colour with his name on each. You can just make out “Hoover” under MPH on the attached:

Mark Bell
Mark Bell
6 years ago

If it’s ‘crafted’ you’re after then maybe the hand made levers an gauges of an early 60s’ Facel Vega, but for me, I love a facia covered in crackle finish paint with crisply figured chrome dials a la those cheeky Italian Devils of the same era. Remind yourselves of the opening sequence from The Italian Job…

Kevin Lynch
Kevin Lynch
6 years ago

I think the timeless architecture of the Porsche dash is the best. Seven generations of 911, simple common principles, subtle but excellent evolution and improvement. Love the current 991 GT3 RS layout, all the way back to the 3 gauge, green print with silver trim rings, of my 1966 Porsche – it’s the best dash of all time.

André Borges
André Borges
6 years ago

Would have to be a P80 platform Volvo or a 70’s/80’s Citroen DS/CX.

Tim Scott
Tim Scott
6 years ago

Alpine A110. Simple, clear gauges, well arranged. Beautiful.

ronaldo eduardo
ronaldo eduardo
6 years ago

I like the C1 corvette dashboard and the whole interior as well.
An deserves to mention on the list the jaguar xk 120 dash too.

moosesport
moosesport
6 years ago

It’s hard to beat the 80’s Porsches. The 944S, the 928S and the 911 are great.

Benjamin Shahrabani
Benjamin Shahrabani
6 years ago

60’s through mid 90’s 911. Simple but timeless!

Frank Anigbo
Frank Anigbo
6 years ago

Volvo 1800/P1800 S. Surely one of the coolest dashboards ever.

Sid
Sid
6 years ago
Reply to  Frank Anigbo

Yes! The P1800 S is my pic as well.