The Perfect Car Interface

I want to take a step back from digital interfaces for a moment and tell you about a car that I believe possess the perfect car interface. When I say interface I mean the controls in the car, like HVAC, infotainment, nav, all that stuff. I’ve owned the car since it was new in 2006, and I can’t imagine ever selling it. It’s a Honda S2000.

"There is no navigation, no bluetooth, and the interior is pretty spartan."

First off, the Honda S2000 is not a perfect car, but it is damn near close, especially if you don’t have more than one passenger. If you’re unfamiliar, the S2000 was Honda’s two-seater roadster with a high strung 2.0L four cylinder engine pumping out an impressive 240hp, or 120hp/liter. I could go on, but a quick search will yield many articles praising the car. In short, the S2000 is a drivers car, and the interface in the cockpit serves the driver perfectly.

There is no navigation, no bluetooth (a little ahead of its’ time), and the interior is pretty spartan. Most importantly, all of the controls are focused around the driver; the stereo is in reach of the passenger, but that’s about it. It has a digital gauge cluster inspired by Formula 1, with a beautiful tach arching across the top of the large centered digital speedometer. Fuel, and water temp flank the speedometer, with the odometer, trip meter, and clock tucked in below the speedo. They are all in a legible orange/amber color, and the driver can select between miles or kilometers with the touch of a button.

![S2000 gauge cluster](/content/images/2017/06/DSC_0211-1.jpg)

On either side of the gauge cluster the S2000 has two control panels within close reach of the steering wheel, stereo controls and the start button to the left, and HVAC to the right. The button layout for these are perfectly mirrored. My favorite part of these pretty mundane controls is how simple they are, and that the designers intentionally made the buttons accessible with almost no need to remove both hands from the steering wheel. The rocker switch used on both the volume and fan speed is shaped so that you can keep you hands on the wheel and move it up or down; that's how close they are to the wheel.

The shifter is mounted high on the transmission tunnel, directly in front of where your arm naturally rests, there's no guessing where it is. Like the HVAC and stereo controls, the shifter is so close to the steering wheel that I can reach both with my pinky and thumb on one hand. I think that's pretty driver focused.

"Anything bigger than a toddler's sippy cup will get in your way of shifting."

There is however, one major, glaring, infuriating flaw: the cup holder. Every S2000 owner knows it, whether it's the single cup or revised two cup design, there is no getting around the flaw. They sit directly behind the shift lever. Now, purists will say that a drivers car shouldn't have cup holders, but if they exist they shouldn't impede driving the car. Anything bigger than a toddler's sippy cup will get in your way of shifting. I guess nothing is 'perfect'.

Obviously the S2000 isn't practical or perfect for everyone. What's the perfect car interface for you?

Darcy Stalport

A user experience designer with a passion for cars, design, and great interface. He's particularly critical of the car you drive and the interface in it.

Seattle, WA