CARS.COM — Digital gauge clusters are all the rage these days as automakers use the latest display technology to give owners a new level of customizability in cockpits. Audi was the pioneer everyone points to with the launch of its Virtual Cockpit, replacing the entire gauge cluster with a reconfigurable screen. But I recently had some time to explore the latest digital gauge cluster in the 2018 Ford Mustang, and it may just be the best one yet.
The 12.4-inch digital cluster is an option on the redesigned-for-2018 Ford Mustang, and its impact on the interior atmosphere is considerable. It's reconfigurable to three different setups, but within those (which can either be selected independently or linked to one of the three specific drive modes) are even more options available.
So Much to See
The cluster was designed by Ford graphics engineers that have video game experience, and the result is a bright, clear, easy-to-see-and-use layout that doesn't sacrifice style for function. There are 900 different color combinations you can choose from for your vehicle's gauges, with left and right dials independently configurable, and eight different gauges available for insertion into the cluster's layout. There are even 10 animations hidden within all of the cluster's special menus.
Some notable features:
- When the Mustang's line-lock burnout feature is engaged, a visual representation is shown on the screen — complete with animated tires doing a digital burnout.
- Drag Strip Mode engages a virtual drag strip, complete with an animated Christmas-tree light setup and approaching quarter-mile finish line.
- Eight possible gauges display various vehicle information: vacuum (on V-8 models) or boost (four-cylinder turbocharged models), air and fuel ratio, temperature gauges, inlet air, cylinder head, coolant, trans oil (auto) and axle oil (if equipped with the GT Performance Pack), and voltage gauge.
Easy on the Eyes
What makes the Mustang's digital cluster so different? It's the way the system has been executed.
More than 2,000 hours of development have gone into creating the graphics and researching the best way to present the information. For instance, the font size on the various settings screens in the Mustang is much larger than that which I've encountered on any other car — so while you really shouldn't be adjusting things while driving, it's now much easier to navigate various menus thanks to the big text.
Sweeping needles offer a "comet tail" effect, designed to make it easier to track them as they spin. The cluster's graphics are super smooth, as well, with the system using more than four times the memory capacity of Ford's smaller 4-inch digital screens.
We'll let you know how well this cluster works while the Mustang is in motion (my experience with it was limited to sitting in it ... in a wind tunnel) soon, when we bring you a First Drive of the new 2018 Mustang. But the initial look is promising.
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