It seems as if analog speedometer and tachometer gauges are a thing of the past, another automotive relic designated to the waste bin along with wind-up windows, vinyls seats and soon to be the manual transmission. More and more automakers are switching over to digital high-definition screens instead of actual analog gauges. Digital speedo’s aren’t an entirely new idea. The C4 Corvette had an option for digital gauges, Honda Civics have had digital speedometers for the past three generations and the Mercedes-Benz S Class has been using them for the past couple of years.
But now, these digital gauges are becoming all-encompassing, being not only the gauges but navigation info and even radio controls. Audi’s latest iteration of this is called the Virtual Cockpit and it’s absolutely fantastic. It is powered by nVidia Tegra 3 chips, the Virtual Cockpit functions at 60 frames per second and delivers astonishing graphics. It’s able to switch between different views with smooth and rapid precision. It’s also able to switch between standard looking speedo and tech gauges to a massive navigation screen with those gauges being made smaller in the bottom corners of the screen. This is tremendously helpful on long journeys, as the entire map and upcoming directions are immediately in front of the driver.
The Virtual Cockpit also controls everything in the car, acting as the car’s MMI screen. This may sound confusing or difficult to control, but it’s actually incredibly intuitive. Using a scroll wheel and redundant menu buttons on the steering wheel, the driver is able to flip through screens in a breeze, with nary a look off of the road. The passenger is also able to control the screen with a rotating disc controller, similar to previous MMI systems, on the center console between the two front passengers. This controller also has redundant menu buttons to simplify switching through them all.
Mercedes-Benz offers a similar idea, except the Benz’s is a dual screen setup and the second screen acts as a traditional navigation and COMMAND screen. While the first screen just replaces the gauges and displays some navigation and radio information. But it isn’t nearly as comprehensive or intuitive as Audi’s Virtual Cockpit.
These Virtual Cockpit style screens may seem distracting to some, but Audi’s works brilliantly. Those who disregard these systems haven’t yet tried Audi’s Virtual Cockpit. Having used it in the new Audi TT, I can say that it’s an absolute must have in any Audi vehicle that offers it. If I were ordering a new Audi, the Virtual Cockpit would be one of the first options I selected. If you’re in the market for the new Audi TT, make sure you take a look at the Virtual Cockpit out and try it for yourself, it’s really the best in the business.