After experiencing the stark sleekness of the Tesla Model 3’s dashboard, we’ve been fighting amongst ourselves about whether or not modern cars should bother with gauges. Here is our debate.
Alanis: On cars not made by spaceman Elon Musk, some of the most common gauges in front of the driver are the speedometer, tachometer, temperature gauge and fuel gauge. There are oil-pressure gauges and voltmeters, too. Other information can often be replaced with warning lamps.
But no, no, no, not for our reviews editor Andrew Collins. Andrew thinks all gauges can be tossed aside, literally, and put in a large center infotainment screen instead of in front of the driver. He called the typical dashboard layout a “gauge cluster” in his Model 3 first drive review, preferring to stare at a blank slate of wood instead of information about the car he was driving. Even though he said it was hard to remember to look at the 15-inch screen in the center to see the speedometer, he wanted it there.
Andrew: Hang on, let me stop you right there. I’m not really a fan of the center-mounted gauges. I’d rather do away with them altogether.
Ditch all the distracting nonsense about speed and safety, give me a better view of the road. Who wants to read when you could be soaking up the sunshine? Besides, when’s the last time you consulted your oil pressure gauge, which few cars have anyway. Or your volt meter?
Most people don’t know what their TPMS light means. How many car operators do you think could honestly say they know what to do with the information on their dashboard besides speed and fuel?
Alanis: Andrew is wrong. A car needs gauges. A driver needs to be able to look down and see their speed without having to tilt their head and search a huge infotainment screen, especially in a fast car like the Model 3, because it’s really easy to get going way over the speed limit. Do that in a rural town in the south, and you’ll get a ticket before you can stop the car. (Ask any Texan about Riesel.)
Andrew: I’ll make a concession: give me three gauges. A light to warn you if you’re about to run out of oil, a light to warn you if you’re about to overheat, and a light to warn you if you’re about to run out of gas. Actually, shoot, how about just one light that says “Sorry.”
Alanis: “Sorry”? Sorry about what? Not having gauges? Sure, that’s a valid thing to be sorry about.
A driver needs to be able to see the tachometer, too, because no one wants to use paddle shifters or an actual shifter while tilting their entire body toward the center of the car to monitor the redline. And most importantly, who wants to abandon their upright fetal position in the cold to see if the car is warm enough to blast the heat yet? That gauge needs to be in clear sight.
Andrew: If you need to watch the tach to know when to shift, you’re doing it wrong. Same goes for speed, like, almost all the time. Moving with traffic? You’re not speeding. Passing traffic? You’re probably speeding. Same with riding on rural roads. The environment is either moving around you casually or quickly. If it’s the latter, you’re probably breaking the speed limit.
I’m not claiming I can feel a few miles per hour difference through the seat of my pants, but I’m pretty confident I can tell if I’m driving fast enough to get the police’s attention or not.
That said, I’m already ready to make a second concession. I obviously need to test my theory here, and cover my speedometer to see how good a guesser I really am. More on that later.
Alanis: “I just listen to the car.” Yeah, sure, listen all the way past the redline.
Plus, gauges just look cool. The lower-end version of the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E300 was so much more refreshing because it had a real, tangible speedometer, tachometer, temperature gauge and fuel gauge in front of the driver, instead of some digital display that the owner could change the look of whenever. The car felt more like a car that way.
Andrew: You know which gauges looks cool? The McLaren 720S’s, because they go away.
Alanis: Enough already. Please, everyone, get Andrew on the right track here, because the future has obviously blinded him from the wonders of the present.
Andrew: I know everyone reading this is already busy applying aloe from the pain of my hot take, but, I’ll just leave you with a warning not to take anything too seriously. Maybe I should put that “Sorry” light on my blogs.