Sports Car Interior – How Important?

By Bruce McCulloch

08.18.2007

You know, there’s always been one opinion on sports car interiors that I could never understand. That opinion is as follows: “well, it is a sports car, so the interior means little as you’re focusing on the driving experience”.

Such an argument is one which you’re likely to come across very often; for instance, just a few days ago I read where a Viper owner said just exactly that. The question is, was what he saying merely an excuse considering the original nature of the topic to which he posted in (which was downplaying the Viper’s interior), or did he really believe what he was saying? I have come to the conclusion that it was perhaps a little of both; take note that this enthusiast has a collection of other automobiles which span from a Porsche 997 GT3RS to a Lamborghini Gallardo.

In any event, it’s quite interesting to examine people’s general perceptions and the way manufacturers cater to the individuals who purchase their vehicles.

So then, what are the reasons that the Dodge Viper has to stick with an interior which by the majority of enthusiasts, is deemed undesirable?

* Wait a minute *

Anyone notice the contradiction? If the Viper has an interior which is considered awful by the general public, someone must care about interior in a sports car. That being said, I believe the majority who speak that fateful cliché are most usually the one’s pawning it off as an easy excuse to the criticism which a car they like is taking.

So then, is the reason why the Dodge Viper has a lacklustre interior because Dodge themselves are operating on the old mentality which they believe they’re customers have, or perhaps the interior is as it is to control it’s already sky-high price tag; perhaps a combination of both?

Of course, to solely pick on the Viper would be unfair; after all, what about Lotus and their Elise? Lotus has always been known as a company which has focused on creating lightweight drivers’ cars. So, is Lotus’ aim to keep such vehicles as the Elise and Exige with a minimalist and characterless interior because it’s “in-theme” with company’s original motto, or because they can get away with it? If I’ve just lost you, allow me to elaborate with another example.

When Ferrari released their ‘Enzo’ flagship in 2002, it was immediately clear its interior focus was to aim at recreating something like the F40 – which as of now, came out some 18+ years ago. And what’s strange about that is the Enzo has the most simplistic and barren interior since Ferrari’s own 1995 50th anniversary supercar, the F50. But, why? Why, when comparable manufacturers such as Lamborghini and even the smallest of manufacturers – Spyker, for instance – offer interiors which have it all? Leather, luxury and function.

Of course, Ferrari would argue that the reason the Enzo doesn’t have an interior overly pleasing to the eye is because the addition of carpets, leathers and hard plastics would contradict the point of the vehicle. They would also most likely argue that the additions of these particular materials would also add undesired weight to the car. I’m sorry though, I cannot accept that; it all seems like a rather convenient response, an excuse if you will. This brings light to the next question, was the reason the Enzo was not fitted with a more luxurious interior (in a time which welcomes it) because they knew they could get away it; saving a few nickels in the process? Did they target their specific kind of customers knowing they’d buy it no matter what kind of interior it had?

Now, I don’t believe Ferrari, Lotus, or Dodge, for that matter, should take sole blame. Automotive companies world wide do stuff similar to this all of the time.

Nevertheless, Ferrari’s position makes no sense when the Porsche Carrera GT has an interior which not only boasts a design representing its respective brand, but is designed and assembled in a manner which looks modern and luxurious while retaining the ideal of the sports car identity. And you know what; the Stuttgart Monster isn’t a whole lot heavier than the Enzo despite the addition of this supposed ‘luxurious interior’ equipped with side-airbags and what-not. Because of that, I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that Porsche made less money per Carrera GT than Ferrari did per Enzo in this particular category. Frankly, I believe that was their intention.

Anyhow, whether you think a sports car should have a wonderful interior or not, you cannot deny the fact that the world of the sports car is surely evolving; after all, the most basic of sports car from the Mazda Miata MX5 up to the general population of Ferraris can now be ordered with such features as navigation systems, and air-conditioning. And frankly, competent interiors equipped with lavish designs and excellent ergonomics. This alone proves that the old cliché that a sports car doesn’t need to have a great interior is fading away. Truth is that the market is demanding something much more than it once was; we aren’t living in the 1990’s anymore.

Top – Honda S2000; bottom – Aston Martin V8 Vantage

So, after all that, a pertinent question – Do I feel a sports car needs an interior?

Well, considering the nature of the article, I think my opinion should be rather obvious. My opinion is that a sports car – of any sort – should have a good interior; I’m not expecting a Bentley, but I’m not expecting an oxcart either. If anything I think an interior is even more important in a sports car as I’m likely to spend countless miles in the vehicle.

To this end, I believe the following sports cars and manufacturers need to work on their interiors:

Ferrari:
Particularly the flagship models

Noble:
If TVR (Yes, I realize they are at the bottom of the barrel) can assemble interiors which are interesting in a package which is no heavier, why can’t Noble?

Chevrolet Corvette:
While I cannot deny the great improvement in quality and design from the C5 generation, I think they have still got some work to do.

Dodge Viper:
See Corvette…

What may surprise you is that I do not feel Lotus needs to work in this department. Whether it’s cost-cutting or not, I cannot help but feel such is proper for the manufacturer. Mind you, that also means that I’d never consider buying an Elise or an Exige.

Now, before any of the fans of the above manufacturers burn me at the stake, it should be noted that all of the above is my personal opinion. I’m sure there are Enzo fans who wouldn’t have the car built any other way than it is. Or perhaps, those same people feel that sports cars do not necessarily need interiors. That’s all fine, I respect that. Obviously, many rhetorical questions have been asked – most of which can most likely only be answered by the companies themselves. I am merely offering some food for thought.

It’ll be interesting to see what the future years bring for some of the above companies who aren’t exactly going with the trend towards well-designed luxury interiors.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant.net – All Rights Reserved

Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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9 Comments

  1. I have suffered enough in the last 40 years in terms of driving sports cars with spartan interiors. I am finally ready to let go of my pride in toughing it out to admit that a little more luxury and some more conveniences would be great to go along with great handling, brakes and power.

    My next car is a loaded Porsche Cayman S. See you in the hills of New Hampshire.

  2. Just like with everything else in life, if the rest of the car is desirable or good enough, the buyers will come. A lovely interior is just icing on the cake. BTW:

    Ferrari Enzo = sold out at 400 cars
    Porsche Carrera GT = NOT sold out although they were shooting for 1500
    Chevrolet Corvette = best selling sports car in the US

  3. The Dodge Viper is a brute, plain and simple, and the interior of it more or less reflects that fact. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

  4. More or less, I agree with you. If you’re spending upward of $80k on a car, you’d expect to see a really nice interior; certainly better than the one in a $24k Honda Accord. The Corvette’s new 4LT package ($3,500 on top of the price of a 3LT) addresses most of its interior issues for those who want to spend the money with the leather wrapped dash, console lid, and armrests. With the leather Corvette interior, really the only things that bug me about it anymore are the sub-par integration of the center stack (when it COULD look as good as a CTS’s if GM wanted it to), and the carpet going too far vertically up the transmission tunnel next to the driver’s right leg.

    Personally, I’d be happy to own any Corvette, and it’s going to be tough enough for me to scrape together enough money for a base model, so at this point, a 4LT is a pipe dream.

  5. I drive a Viper, sometimes as a daily driver when the weather is nice, but more often than not I take my Lexus SUV.

    The Viper is what it is and most owners wouldn’t have it any other way. It is not a car for those that have one car, but it is about as close and raw as you can come to having an all out race car for the street.

  6. The Viper is a sledgehammer of a sportscar, and almost every owner is male. The car’s interior is probably matched just about perfectly to it’s customers needs/desires, and maybe they could get a few more buyers with more features inside, but then again, maybe they’d lose some buyers, too.

  7. Not sure why you focus on Ferrari regarding basic interiors and let the other makes off the hook so easily. Why are you picking on Ferrari?

  8. Lotus needs lots of work in this department and should not get a free pass! I own a Lotus Elise, and by lightweight, you mean pieces that fall off, than I guess that Lotus is holding true to their design ethos. I love driving the car, and it’s a great little go-kart, but the interior needs some serious work. Even if the work didn’t go towards luxury, even if it just went into quality control, it still needs work.

  9. Power, handling, performance, styling. A luxury interior is pretty far down the list.

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