Hooniverse Asks: Are Production Car Interiors Too Dull These Days?

928 Pasha Interior
Hey, I really like the interior on your car. What color grey is that?  You may or may not remember the ’70s and early ’80s and what a terrible time it was for automotive performance. Even if you do remember that era as a low point for horsepower, you might not recollect that it was also a high point for interior design. Maybe those amazing interiors were the automakers way of making up for all the crappy performance.
We have very few cars today that have laudable interiors. Oh sure, Audi makes some of the best, and Volvo’s pretty good too, but they’re still pretty dull and conformist. Where are the psychedelic upholstery patterns? Where have all the adjustable instrument clusters and control pods sprouting like vestigial limbs of years past? Where even are the audacious chrome interiors of the sixties with their swiveling seats and “magic eye” sensors?
Interiors today are probably the best they’ve ever been when you take quality into account. They are however, some of the worst when you consider over the top design or the ability to tell you the door is ajar in a scratchy pre-recorded voice, and who doesn’t want to hear that? Have we gained back our performance, and gained previously unobtainable levels of quality, only at the cost of audaciousness and delight? What do you think, are modern car interiors just too damn dull?
Image: Anthomobile

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  1. Sjalabais Avatar

    Agreed on the Volvo comment*, but who’d want plaid and b/w-patterns, really? I could end up driving that, but I’m not so sure I’d order it.
    2011 is new enough, right?

    1. Maymar Avatar

      I would absolutely order plaid or Porsche Pasha if given the opportunity, but I’m also a big fan of Volvo’s weird orange leather.

  2. Tiberiuswise Avatar

    I couldn’t disagree more. While they may be missing some pizzazz compared to the higher-end malaise luxo-barges, let’s not forget how the average Fusion, 200 or Malibu compares to the mid-range Granada, Aspen or Nova of the era. Also, the less said about a 70’s Chevette interior the better.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Looking back through The Carchive; Detroit dashboards from around ’73 to ’80 showed precious little real design variation irrespective which brand you look at.

  3. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    I’d say that the yardstick by which a really interesting interior design is judged has become very high, with the vast majority being just adequate. The Range Rover interior is still pretty special, and the BMW i3 and i8 interiors show a commendable Ikea Does Star-Trek flavour to them.
    I’d like to give a special mention to the latest Ford GT for basically reviving all my 1980s concept car interior fantasies.

    1. ninjabortion Avatar

      Hell yes, chop the top and bottom of the wheel off and you’ve got a modern knight rider interior.

  4. Tanshanomi Avatar

    Jaguar is still killing it for the most part. Their interiors are thoroughly modern while continuing to have enough burl, brushed metal (and other non-gray materials) to be classy and elegant.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      I want to like it, but the 50 shades of brown make my head hurt. Isn’t that a somewhat incoherent use of colours? I mean, we all like brown (basic assumption of the internet), but that’s looking messy to me. With the rich functional options on the wheel and the screen, I also see myself lusting for simpler times.

    2. Krautwursten Avatar

      Oh no, someone has spilled hot chocolate all over my discounter kitchen!

  5. William Robinson Avatar
    William Robinson

    At least most new cars aren’t all cheap plastic and see through fabric seat covers as they where just a few years ago. Most of the run of the mill sedans these days are at least decent looking on the inside.

    1. JayP Avatar

      The 2015 Mustang GT interior and the 2005 I have is about the same as going from a Ranger to a Lincoln.

  6. BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ Avatar

    I would say that the interiors are the place where new cars shine, it’s much more that exteriors are dictated by safety laws and laws of physics. Take a look at the Spyker Preliator interior and you see that there is nothing boring about that, even with steering wheel adapted to fit a air bag. http://indyacars.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Spyker-C8-Preliator-7.jpg

    1. engineerd Avatar

      I came to point out that Mr. Spyker would be offended by this question.

  7. GTXcellent Avatar

    Oh how I loathe gray interiors. So much so that I had to order my truck just to get a tan interior. Thankfully, I think the manufacturers are starting to come around again. Accents of red or blue are slowly starting to trickle in. I dig the Caddy ATS interior

  8. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    While I sometimes lament the current dearth of interior options, I’d gladly trade those choices we had in the past for modern quality. Part of this is the modern sales model. When 99% of new car sales are from inventory, the dealer has to stock cars that appeal to the widest possible market. People can’t buy them if dealers don’t stock them, and manufacturers stop making them when people don’t buy them.

    1. GTXcellent Avatar

      Very very true – and the big problem is that dealers won’t stock them. Back in my dealership days, I practically begged the GM to order a pickup with a tan leather interior. They’d only order black or gray. Well guess what, that tan leather interior truck sold the day it arrived on the transport. So they relented and ordered another – guess what, also sold within a week. They’d still order very few tan, but I can’t recall any of them ever sitting for more than a month. Things that make you go hmmmm says C+C Music Factory.

    2. Sjalabais Avatar

      So the follow-up question to other new car buyers around the world would be: Is that different in countries, where don’t buy existing stock, but order their cars? Buying existing stock is very rare in Europe, it’s more of a deal-hunting exercise (a hefty discount is attached to “dealer test cars”).

    3. Krautwursten Avatar

      If buying from stock leads to the most dreary cars possible, then maybe people should have a little more patience and stop demanding to drive their cars off the lot the same afternoon they buy them. What’s two weeks of waiting when it means a better car?

      1. smalleyxb122 Avatar

        In principle, I agree with you, but then contingencies on incentives come into play. Often there are rebates that are only applicable if taken from dealer stock, so it might actually cost thousands of dollars to get different color seats. Most people will settle for gray or black for a couple of grand.

  9. Andrew_theS2kBore Avatar

    Absolutely yes. While huge strides have been made in terms of quality and durability, the absence of funky shapes, textures, and color choices is depressing. My AW11 had 80s-tastic blue tweed upholstery, a dashboard made up of jumbled polygons, and strange ergonomics; that character made it feel special every time I got in.
    Part of the reason I adore the Elise is the aluminum-bathtub interior. From a comfort perspective it’s a disaster; hence why Alfa at least put carpet in the 4C… but personally, I’d take the mini-racecar aesthetic every time, because it’s unique and exciting.

  10. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    I don’t think there are too many truly exciting and interesting interiors being done these days. But there are a whole lot less truly awful interiors available, also. Too many manufacturers are doing dashes that look more like an amped-up teenager’s idea of a bangin’ music system should be, crossed with a double dose of Japanese anime. Exiting, to me, is a Bentley, before RR took them over, or an italian supercar from the 60’s and 70’s. Compared to those, I don’t think there’s much produced now, where you’d be thrilled just to sit in the car and look at it all.

    1. Tanshanomi Avatar

      There are some that skillfully straddle that line between having a nice extra sumpin’-sumpin’, and being overdone. I think the current Subarus fit that description.
      EDIT: grabbed the wrong photo.

      1. Van_Sarockin Avatar

        That’s pretty nice, but the console wants to be a Transformer. Reminds me a bit of an Opel Corsa I rented a few years ago, especially that stack. No question it was an economy car, but everything was easy to operate, in pretty much the right place, visible gauges, and simple, durable, fairly handsome materials. No complaints, but not exciting.

      2. Vairship Avatar

        Not bad, but still “gray, gray, have some more gray”. Replace some of the gray with tan leather and/or beech, and it’ll look vastly better. Even if sticking with plastic, using some tan & dark brown plastic would be more interesting.

  11. engineerd Avatar

    It seems to me that while the quality of materials, ergonimics, and fit & finish of automotive interiors has improved tremendously over the last 20 years or so, the colors have become dull. Instead, gadgets and whizbangery have replaced plaid and wicker. I’m thinking not just infotainment systems, but also the trick rising shift knob in Jaguars or the 1280-way adjustable seats in the Lincoln Continental.

  12. mrh1965 Avatar

    We here at the Society for a Less Exciting life are.. well, excited by the dullness of current automotive interiors and exteriors. While you will occasionally see a red or yellow vehicle (alas), Americans seem eager to purchase silver, grey, white and black cars, with similarly dull interiors, that show the owner to be a dull, reliable, trustworthy person. Thank goodness the hippy, anything goes, 1970’s are gone with their exciting colors! Oops, I used an exclamation mark, sorry, we don’t like those either.
    Now if we can stamp out dancing and exciting breakfast cereals, American will truly be on the road to dullness. Eat your corn flakes, people. You won’t live longer, it’ll just feel like it.

    1. Krautwursten Avatar

      I don’t think American ’70s interiors looked exciting as much as they looked like cheap gentlemen’s clubs.

      1. Citric Avatar

        Cheap gentlemen’s clubs can be exciting!

  13. Tanshanomi Avatar

    Let’s remember that there was good-weird, and there was eye-bleed weird.

    1. Andrew_theS2kBore Avatar

      I… actually really like that. Except the steering wheel, because it’s for steering and should have spokes at 9 and 3.

      1. Tanshanomi Avatar

        I don’t mind the shapes, but the colors gag. The gray fabrics and “harbor-water blue” plastics make it looked pre-sun-faded.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      LSD is much under-utilized in today’s design studios.

  14. mr smee Avatar
    mr smee

    Have a 97 Volvo 850 grey interior. I don’t mind the colour, I hate how the switches are scattered willy-nilly, don’t operate in a consistent manner, you even have to switch something ‘on’ to turn it off. You swear they actually hired idiots to design their interiors.

  15. CraigSu Avatar

    I’m still waiting for Lotus Plaid interiors to make a comeback.

  16. stigshift Avatar

    Not if you like beige, gray, or black…

  17. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    man, if there’s something carmakers are doing right these days, it’s interiors. look at this shit. this is the C-Class Mercedes’ interior. the C-class!
    maybe it’s just luxury carmakers, but it seems to me we’re finally recovering from the bland designs of ’90s/’00s interiors.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      The general layout is great, the materials are wonderful, but color-wise it’s just variations of gray tones. Somehow they’ve even managed to make the (I assume actually dark brown) wood look gray in that picture.

      1. wunno sev Avatar
    2. Moparmann Avatar

      The problem is, why is it necessary to have such a HUGE center console/stack in a FWD car?!?

      1. wunno sev Avatar
        wunno sev

        the C-Class is RWD

  18. jim Avatar

    I think the new Alfa Giulia has nice interiors even in poverty-spec diesel version :

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