The world of computer technology is one of the fastest-changing technologies in the world, and right along with that is the rapid change in automotive technology. Most of the time, the changes are behind the scenes, where changes to engine, transmission, suspension and braking computer systems enhance the control of our vehicles. But sometimes, the change is visually noticeable.
The dash display on the 2018 Mustang is one of those visually noticeable digital changes.
Dash displays have a simple job. They need to inform the driver of current driving conditions, such as vehicle speed or turn-signal operation, and of operating conditions such as engine, electrical or brake-system problems. Many displays have also progressed to show features such as compass direction, temperature, and driver controls for suspension settings and engine-power modes. The 2018 Mustang dash display takes it much further.
The Mustang features a 12-inch wide digital display that can be configured by the driver to many different display modes. A switch at the front of the console allows the driver to quickly change display modes. Five modes are available: normal, snow/wet, sport, track and drag mode. Each mode has its own features, and along with the display, the other computer systems on the vehicle also change to modify how the car performs and sounds.
In normal mode, the display has a more conventional layout, with round tachometer display on the left and round speedometer display on the right. This is enhanced with a digital speed display in the centre of the speedo and a selectable display between the two large gauges. My preferred choice of selectable display is three smaller, round temperature and oil-pressure gauge displays located between the two large, round gauges. Additional information is shown above and below the three small gauges. My experience with digital displays is that often they take too much time to gather the information you want as a driver. But the layout of the Mustang display is great, giving you all the information you need at a glance with a crystal-clear readout, even in bright sunlight.
Sport mode was my favourite display mode. The round tachometer changes to a multi-coloured, laid-down candy cane mode, with the long leg across the top of the display. The centre of the hook now shows the selected transmission gear. The centre of the display is still selectable for additional information, but an even more noticeable change comes from the exhaust note, where the powertrain system changes not only throttle response and transmission shifting, but also the position of the variable-opening dampers in the quad exhaust tips. The exhaust note is pure music to my ears. If the car has the optional digital shocks, the suspension settings are also changed.
Track mode is just what it sounds like. It has a display with a digital bar graph along the top of the display for the tachometer, and the speedo display is now just a small number on the right side. Other instrument information, such as lap-time display, can be shown below the tachometer. But the display is dominated by the large bar graph. Normally, I find it difficult to react fast enough to a bar-graph display for engine speed, but the clarity of this display makes it easy to predict for perfect shifts. Computer control of the throttle, with engine speed matching to gear selection, makes perfect shifts simple for even a novice.
Finally, drag mode looks similar to track-mode display, but has a small starting-line “Christmas Tree” on the left side. The driver can have a countdown timer for starting, and elapsed timing to speed displays. In drag mode, the driver also has a line-lock feature, which applies the front brakes and releases the back brakes so you can warm up the tires for the best traction on launch. Launch control is also available if the car has a manual transmission rather than the 10-speed automatic.
I love the look of the new digital dash and how the display is integrated into the complete car operating system. With customizable colour selections and display modes, it is a digital dash with a display for every driving situation.