As a driver, there are few aspects of a car you look at more than the instrument cluster. Your attention there is divided among occasional glances at the speedometer and tach, and if you’re really fancy, navigation instructions. The dials on some cars are so pretty they deserve a more extended gaze, so long as you’re at a stop light or parked.
Dial designs are a lot like wristwatches. Sometimes manufacturers don’t put in the effort, leaving them no more than numbers and notches that merely get the job done. The best dial designs are innovative and stylistically brilliant; many have, perhaps unsurprisingly, gone on to inspire watches of their own. These are 15 of the best instrument clusters of all time.
1999 Honda S2000
Purely motorsport-inspired, the long arch of color LED lights was the best way to show off the S2000’s 9,000 rpm redline.
1976 Aston Martin Lagonda
The Lagonda wasn’t the best looking car on the road, but the rise in popularity of digital technology in the late-’70s granted the Aston a very handsome, arcade game-like dashboard.
1993 Lancia Delta Integrale HF
Aeronautical inspiration is apropos, seeing as how the Integrale rally car spent most of its life in the air, flying over jumps on rally stages.
2007 Lamborghini Reventon
Cars, watches and planes share an incredibly integrated and collaborative history. The F22-inspired Lamborghini Reventon got one of the coolest sets of LCD gauge as a result.
1985 Nissan 300ZX
By the time the 300ZX came along, digital and LED gauges were nothing new, but the way the 300ZX tachometer subtly displayed power output as well as the current gear and engine was genius.
1973 BMW 2002 Turbo
In the case of the 2002 Turbo, simplicity is key. There’s something to be said about the timelessness of the design and the typeface used as well — BMW hardly changed the design over the next 30-40 years.
2012 Pagani Huayra
If the Bimmer gets on the list for minimalism, the Pagani earns its spot on extravagance alone. This design is so over-the-top Italian, you can almost taste the exuberance.
2017 McLaren 720S
The McLaren 720S cluster earns a spot for being purely performance driven. It even features a pop-up headlight-like action when changing betwwen drive modes instead of going the easy route by digitally switching the TFT screen face.
2000 BMW E46 M3
Like the 2002, BMW’s E46 gauges remain a simple black and white, but during night driving give off a soft orange glow. In a pitch black cabin, it feels akin flying in stealth mode in a fighter jet.
2012 Lexus LFA
The Lexus LFA’s V10 revved so freely and quickly than a conventional analog tach couldn’t keep up, forcing designers to go LCD. It’s just a bonus that the needle looks like a Jedi putting on a lightsaber demonstration just infront of your steering wheel.
2016 Audi TT
As far as modern gauges go, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit ranks at the top. Audi’s tech, which transplants 3D navigation to the screen ahead of the steering wheel, debuted in the TT. It wasn’t the first car to get the technology, but Audi gets bonus points for design and execution.
1957 Ferrari 250 Testarossa
Jaeger-LeCoultre, the watch maker, went in to designing instrument clusters for high-end cars in 1921 and then sold most of the company to S. Smith & Sons in 1927. Luckliy, design quality never faultered; if it had, the 250 Testarossa might be less of a car with out this beauty.
1967 Alfa Romeo Duetto
More evidence of how well a Jaeger instrument panel can (and should) dominate a dashboard.
2009 Spyker C8 Aileron
Is it any surprise that a Spyker landed on this list?
1973 Citroen DS 23 Pallas
Not only are the speedo and tach beautifully designed, the matching warning light cluster is also impeccably currated. It’s also super honest about what might go wrong during a drive.