As enthusiasts, we spend our lives admiring the styling of cars.
We gaze at their shapely spoilers, drool over their curvaceous wings and stare at their plunging rooflines. But when we actually use cars for the purpose for which they were built, that’s not what we see at all. For every minute we spend looking at our car’s exterior, we spend hours, maybe even days, looking at its interior.
And you don’t have to think hard to know which designer has the more difficult job. Exterior designers whinge as one about how difficult the job of making cars look cute while obeying all the latest crash regulations has become, but they’ve got it easy compared with those on the inside. Interiors must not only be safe, but they must also be ergonomically sound, offer decent visibility, present information both beautifully and clearly, accommodate occupants of all shapes and sizes, blend state-of-the-art tech with traditional materials, provide storage space and accept many different colours, all while coaxing and cajoling a bewildering array of materials from plastic to carbonfibre past wood, metal and leather into some kind of harmonious co-existence.
This, then, is our tribute to some of the greatest interiors, and interior features, from a wide range of cars from today and yesterday – as well as just a few that, in often somewhat bizarre ways, failed quite spectacularly to come up to the mark. The list is nothing like exhaustive and you may have many ideas of your own. If so, we’d love to hear about them. In the meantime, however, welcome to the wonderful world of automotive interiors.
GENERAL INTERIOR AMBIENCE
Just like the outside, the interior is part of the promise on which the car beneath must deliver. An interior is a statement – an invitation to treat, for you legal eagles out there. In one glance, it tells you what kind of driving experience you should now expect. In terms of setting the scene for what is to come, there is nothing more important.
And no car ever set that scene better than the Ferrari F40. You sit in a carbonfibre channel and look around trying to spot a creature comfort. You soon give up, because there is none. It’s a place to focus on your driving and nothing else. Even the top of the dashboard is just a strip of matt black felt, all the better for killing reflections on the screen.
Unsurprisingly, the Rolls-Royce Phantom takes the opposite approach, and you’ll know it from the moment your feet disappear into a forest of lambswool rug. Everything looks and feels as if it were designed not in CFD by computer wizards but in a studio by craftsmen with pencils behind their ears. Long may it remain that way. But there was never any greater single statement of intent than the McLaren F1’s central driving position. Nothing could speak more clearly of the absence of compromise that went into the car’s creation. And when you drive one and understand the benefit of always being the same distance from an apex regardless of the road’s direction, you’ll know this is no mere gimmick. It’s an idea of genius simplicity.