Vellum Venom Vignette: Center Gauge Cluster-****?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Seth writes:

Hey Sajeev,

I’ve always had an aversion to dashboards where the main gauges are in the center of the car (Mini, Yaris, etc.). I can see why an automaker would do it if they sell internationally. Once, back when I used to listen to the Autoblog podcast, one of the hosts said that having the gauges in the center made them faster and easier to read. No way! That just can’t be so. I think I stopped listening to the podcast right then and there.

Would you care to comment?

Sajeev answers:

Would I care to comment? Asking an auto journo for an opinion about car design is akin to feeding a bear honey via pouring some on your hand.

Luckily TTAC readers care about my CCS design school experience, so let’s do it…to it.


I do not like center mounted gauges for the vast majority of interiors, even the smaller confines of niche/boutique products like the Panoz Esperante. Ergonomics and human factors demand gauges that share the steering wheel’s center line, at least for the primary gauges such as the speedometer and tachometer. For most cars and most eyeballs, you can quickly dip your eyes lower to catch the gauge readouts with several layers of your peripheral vision.

For you armchair analytic gurus, please consult your eye care professional and this Wikipedia page about peripheral vision applications, but the graphic above laid over the central/paracentral at the horizon line (hat tip – psarhjinian) should show what’s the best place for both primary and secondary gauges.

Secondary gauges like oil pressure, volt meter, fuel level and maybe even engine temperature can go in the center, or preferably to one side (or both) of primary gauges.

So classy! Which begs the question, does this matter in today’s high-tech environment?

Yes and no. Definitely yes regarding the MINI Paceman’s idiotic center speedometer around the circumference of the multi-function screen. (EDIT: there’s a speedo in a screen within the tach) Mercifully, the “normal” MINI has a big ass speedo adjacent to a smaller tach.

We are bombarded by information thanks to in-car connectivity. The dash’s center is a fantastic place for non-essential information: smartphone interface, HVAC, audio, navigation, and even the aforementioned secondary gauges.

In a perfect world where design constraints (cost, durability, etc.) are non-existent, a dashboard with smartphone-type crap in the center, a basic set of gauges and a multi-functional screen (for navigation, audio, etc.) inside the circumference of the steering wheel, and a heads-up display shooting your speed — and little else — onto the dashboard shall be perfect.

Put that in your often rambling and sometimes pointless auto journo podcast and smoke it. And I know these things are dumb, as I even tried it once. We all have regrets in our lives!

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

[Image: Shutterstock user Kurt Achatz]

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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3 of 78 comments
  • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Sep 24, 2015

    I think it's a pre-92 Cutlass Supreme. By 92 it would've had the six-button steering wheel, methinks.

  • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Sep 24, 2015

    I never knew that the '76 Vette had a steering wheel from a Vega! What grinds me even more, for some reason, is all of the goofy shapes into which the review mirrors are contorted on some cars, that MINI exhibit "A," but also Porsche and a host of others; I don't want a mirror "smiling" at me, and most of them designed this way are too small to see anything of note, which isn't a good thing considering most cars have the outward visibility today of a bunker! The mirrors in the larger Benzes or the "standard" self-dimmer, a nice beefy piece of plastic that won't loosen after 2,000 miles, is perfect!

    • MRF 95 T-Bird MRF 95 T-Bird on Nov 04, 2015

      That steering wheel was also used on upscale models of the Nova and Camaro.

  • Varezhka The biggest underlying issue of Mitsubishi Motors was that for most of its history the commercial vehicles division was where all the profit was being made, subsidizing the passenger vehicle division losses. Just like Isuzu.And because it was a runt of a giant conglomerate who mainly operated B2G and B2B, it never got the attention it needed to really succeed. So when Daimler came in early 2000s and took away the money making Mitsubishi-Fuso commercial division, it was screwed.Right now it's living off of its legacy user base in SE Asia, while its new parent Nissan is sucking away at its remaining engineering expertise in EV and kei cars. I'd love to see the upcoming US market Delica, so crossing fingers they will last that long.
  • ToolGuy A deep-dive of the TTAC Podcast Archives gleans some valuable insight here.
  • Tassos I heard the same clueless, bigoted BULLSHEET about the Chinese brands, 40 years ago about the Japanese Brands, and more recently about the Koreans.If the Japanese and the Koreans have succeeded in the US market, at the expense of losers such as Fiat, Alfa, Peugeot, and the Domestics,there is ZERO DOUBT in my mind, that if the Chinese want to succeed here, THEY WILL. No matter what one or two bigots do about it.PS try to distinguish between the hard working CHINESE PEOPLE and their GOVERNMENT once in your miserable lives.
  • 28-Cars-Later I guess Santa showed up with bales of cash for Mitsu this past Christmas.
  • Lou_BC I was looking at an extended warranty for my truck. The F&I guy was trying to sell me on the idea by telling me how his wife's Cadillac had 2 infotainment failures costing $4,600 dollars each and how it was very common in all of their products. These idiots can't build a reliable vehicle and they want me to trust them with the vehicle "taking over" for me.