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Covering Sports cars & Supercars

The Design of Speed

McLaren 720 S Instrument Panel

📸: Photo courtesy

So far this site has only focused on the exterior designs of fast cars, as that is usually what one thinks of first when discussing automotive design. But interior design is just as important. While it's true that the lines of an interior will not make a car accelerate quicker or have any impact on top speed, a well-designed cockpit can help the driver perform better, which could result in faster lap times. The car-driver interface is critical to "driveability" or "road feel," intangibles that are difficult to measure, but are surely an important part of the overall sports car experience. Certainly, some very successful race cars may have been dreadfully uncomfortable and difficult to drive, obviously making up in sheer speed and handling what it may have sacrificed in driving experience. But road cars, particularly the exclusive high-end variant known as supercars, must provide drivers with a rewarding driving experience.

Part of that experience is the instrument cluster, which how the car quantifies the experience as it's happening. The basics: road speed, engine speed and engine status... simple numbers that, as we shall see throughout this new series, are communicated in many different ways.

We call this series Instrumentation, and we rightfully start off with the car company that has made the boldest instrument panel to date: McLaren.

📸: Photo courtesy

The folding dashboard is shown above in full screen mode, with a centrally located tachometer display, speedo to the right, gear indicator, trip mileage display and a bit more. Just what one would expect in any touring car.

📸: Photo courtesy

In Race mode, the 720S dashboard fold forward, moving out of the driver's line of sight, but still offering the bare minimum of information necessary to go fast. This may seem a bit gimmicky, but the fact is that the view ahead is indeed improved. As we mentioned earlier, high end cars are expected to provide a superior driving experience for the money; the dancing dashboard in the 720S is one way to do that. We'll see how some other marques achieve it over the next few days.

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