Hate It Or Love It? Infotainment Touchscreens That Looked Tacked On

There’s a new trend in the automotive industry that’s taking off like one of SpaceX’s intelligent rockets – touchscreens that are tacked onto the center console.

Nearly every automaker in the industry is moving towards the new layout. From luxury brands like Mercedes-Benz to more affordable ones like Kia, it’s become a large part of nearly every new vehicle. But is that a good thing?

To get a good idea of the placement of a modern touchscreen, take a look at Mercedes-Benz’s current lineup. The lower-end models, like the CLA, C-Class, GLA, and GLC have a 7.0-inch or 8.0-inch touchscreen that the brand calls “freestanding.” On these vehicles, it kind of looks like the screen’s floating above the rest of the center console.

2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA

The design is a stark contrast to what Mercedes offers in its more expensive and luxurious machines. A higher price tag isn’t the only thing that separates the E-Class and S-Class from other offerings in the lineup, as the automaker offers those vehicles with a different screen layout. Forgetting for a moment that those vehicles have two massive screens, the S-Class’s 12.3-inch touchscreen is physically built into the dashboard.

Mercedes S Class

Mercedes isn’t the only luxury automaker to be integrating “freestanding” touchscreens into its vehicles. Nearly all of BMW’s cars have a similar touchscreen layout. The German automaker even offers its range-topping 7-Series sedan with a screen that looks like it’s been placed on the dashboard instead of in it.

BMW 740e

The layout goes beyond German automakers, as well. Kia and Hyundai both offers their vehicles with a touchscreen that’s similarly styled. Both the Kia Forte and Hyundai Elantra GT have floating center screens. I think Kia’s done a better job with its screen, though, as Hyundai’s comes off as an afterthought.

2019 Kia Forte

That’s why we’re bringing this question to you guys. Personally, I think “freestanding” screens look cheap. When I was growing up, cars were much simpler and had bare center consoles. The new Audi TT family is a great example of what center consoles used to look like, as it lacks a center screen and has a tidy, uncluttered look.

Back in the day, when you had enough money to opt for the optional navigation package, you got a center screen that was nuzzled into the dashboard. It was a way of remembering that you had made it. It also meant that didn’t need to use one of those pesky Garmins anymore.

Audi TT RS Coupe

I’m a fan of screens that are built directly into the dashboard. To me, it makes it look like the designers actually took the time to find a creative way to integrate the center screen into the cabin. “Freestanding” screens look cheap and almost like a last-minute effort.

What do you think? Are you a fan of floating touchscreens or do you think automakers should ditch the idea?

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  • Galaxium

    I really like the floating screens. I think it looks better than having it squished in with the rest of the dashboard.

    Also, it’s much better to see when you’re driving.

    • eb110americana

      Same. I kind of thought I was the only one, as many complain about them–I think it’s the idea that it looks like it should be removable (or adjustable), yet it’s not. Given the two Mercedes layouts above, I don’t care for the screen which passes behind the steering wheel–something about that and the very flat looking gauges doesn’t look good to me. The dashboard also gets very heavy on the driver’s side due to this. Likewise, I don’t care for the new Audi dash with the giant black screen in the middle.

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1bee7472fbff98fd2c4dd85fd742fa3821d2129bee391a996a1eeff6ef48a46d.jpg

      If you’re going to do the floating screen though, you’ve got to do it right. It should be thin with slim edges and narrow bezels, otherwise it just looks clunky. I will say that the widescreen look appeals to me, plus it also helps it look less like a tablet.

  • Emoto

    I prefer the look of the built-in screens. Having said that, if you’re going to go for the tacked on look, at least set it up on a mount that allows one to pivot and point the screen toward the user a little. Do any of them do that?

    • Nordschleife

      Amazingly no. But it would be a good ideal. Maybe it a safety issue but I doubt that.

      • eb110americana

        I suspect that they wouldn’t make particularly good touchscreens and might even wiggle on bumpy roads if automakers built articulation into them. Most cell phone mounts suffer from those issues, regardless of price.

        • Nordschleife

          Very true. Ok that makes sense.

    • Six_Tymes

      Spot On

  • filetx

    This was the trend years ago and I liked it a lot more than the massive unnecessary screens we have now.

  • Belthronding

    Appearently touch screens looking cool, but no useful.
    While driving, touching real buttons give me confidence and no need to look at it, on the other hand touch pad and screens waaaay far from that feeling.

    • brn

      Yea, but you’d need a LOT of buttons to replicate the screen functionality.

      I do agree that some are absurd. Really common functions should have real buttons. Less common functions should have voice control alternatives).

  • BlackPegasus

    “Back in the day, when you had enough money to opt for the optional navigation package, you got a center screen that was nuzzled into the dashboard. It was a way of remembering that you had made it. It also meant that didn’t need to use one of those pesky Garmins anymore.”
    _______________
    ^ this…. 👌🏽

  • Mind Synthetic

    i got no problem with them if they would offe an option to buy the car without one all together

  • Loquacious Borborygmus

    I wonder if anyone’s doing research into accident rates in cars with touchscreen controlled HVAC/ICE and those without?

  • Thunderbolt

    I like HUD along with the screen that Audi has.
    BMW has the worst interior design.

  • Christian Wimmer

    I have no problems with the “tacked-on” screen. It is all about getting used to it. People complain about all sorts of things and I find it extremely annoying. Don’t like it? Then don’t buy it. 😉

    Another advantage of the tacked-on screen is – if something were to break I can imagine it would be easier to service (remove and replace). Now imagine if the screen or something behind your integrated-into-the-dashboard-infotainment-screen broke…

    • Nordschleife

      I think they are complaining because they are running out of options. Like people who like manual transmissions. They can’t get what they want (carwise) because they are a dying breed but I completely agree with you.

  • TheToadPrince..~~ToadSquad

    im on board..i hate those pop up screens..it looks cheap and rushed…i like mine indash screen

    • brn

      I’m with you. Tacked on screens look like an afterthought. Luxury automakers need to do better.

  • Nordschleife

    Lord a whole article to lambaste these screens. I personally like them and I do think they look cheap. Do I think some people do them better than other…ABSOLUTELY. But you never made mention as to why they exist as they bring down the overall height of the dashboard thereby making the dash space less claustrophobic but keeping the infotainment screen in the line of sight.

    Just like how people despise them, I remember being in my cousins 2004 7-Series and being rather annoyed at those two massive humps (one for the instruments and the other for infotainment) and thought it made the dash look heavy and unattractive IMO.

    While we all have different tastes, I don’t equate seeing a freestanding screen mounted on top of the dash as a tacked on tablet. I see it as a way to give me the space I need while keeping the information in my line of sight.

    • NissLover

      Exactly what I was thinking. I don’t think it is a trend anymore… it just makes more sense and thats why everyone seems to be doing it. At first I didn’t like it, but the implementations have gotten better. And yes, BMWs of yore with those two humps in the dash are a prime example of why these make more sense.They’re in the line of sight and allows for lower, less bulky dashes.

    • eb110americana

      I remember those BMW models. They looked like two huge waves crashing over the top of the dashboard.

  • salamOOn

    i have no problem with it….. its in drivers field of view, so its safer.
    thats why i dont like a new design of vw/audi dashboards. (touareg, a6-a8)

  • Barry Thomas

    I agree, I hate the “stuck on” look. There must be a way to integrate the screen, no matter the car’s size. A built in screen looks finished, not like an afterthought.

  • Marshall Boyce

    I think it really depends on the integration of the screen with the rest of the interior. Hyundai is the worst as the trim surrounding the screen is shiny black even if the rest of the interior is matte. I do like that it lowers the cowl hight. The Accords screen is an example of good integration. I believe Toyota uses different trim surrounding the screen to match the interior.

  • haudit

    If the VW Group can fully integrate infotainment touchscreens and manage to keep it directly in the driver’s eye line, on the same plane as the dials in a car as reasonably priced as the Volkwagen Polo, other manufacturers really have no excuse for not doing so. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/348a6753daff77f1d4b75d61b1f1c7de9530fa8ecbc4776d72a97a3c51b0baf9.jpg

  • LeStori

    Looks like you could not afford to get the integrated unit.

  • SteersUright

    I have yet to see a well done floating screen. The nicest of all infotainments I’ve seen yet has to be Tesla’s giant screen which is integrated, not floating .

  • ChicagoBlah

    I have to say, I wish more vehicled has the a3 approach, if you arent using or need the screen make it go away. While i like my indash screen, i find it annoying during night driving.

  • Wolverine350R

    Agree with the article, if I wanted this look I would stick an iPad on one of those janky vent mounts. It looks like a huge afterthought and half the cars that have them don’t have a true need for them and therefore shouldn’t have them. It is sad when Pimp My Ride can integrate a screen better than a huge luxury automaker.

    • rodriguez256

      I wish I could hook up an iPad like this with no movement from bumps and such. My car doesn’t even have an auxiliary input. I like the look of the units tacked onto the top, it’s more at eye level and usually slims down the dash. However what I don’t like regardless of the kind of mounting position is fingerprints.

  • Dariush

    Its not a last minute effort, nor It look like…

  • brn

    CS need a polling feature if they’re going to do polls.

  • Dave

    Audi TT is the best example. Only floating screens with minimal bezel are good. The bnz floating panel has a massive bezel and looks tacky…(eg last gen A-class, c-class)

  • VW SEEMS TO BE ABLE TO CLEANLY INTEGRATE THE SCREEN INTO THE DASH.

  • klowik

    The floating screen design looks like a 3rd party addon. I prefer it being integrated into the dash.

  • JB-ZR1

    I really despise the “floating computer monitor with thick bezel” approach Benz has in its lower models. While they are solid, I think they make it look like a cheap, showy add-on. I’ve heard more than one story of someone knocking the screen while trying to enter/exit via the passenger side. In one case it was a mother-in-law climbing down into a CLA with a big purse in one hand and large shopping bags in the other.

    The way BMW has done it is not as bad, and some of the Audi’s previously had the screen popping up out of the dash. I’ve owned both brands and dealt with the early days of the much maligned iDrive system. It’s much better these days.

    My vote is to build the screen into the dash (and add a HUD) and figure out a way to make it look nice and functional. As an example, and don’t shoot me, the way Lincoln is doing their Infotainment display flows very nicely. I’ve used it and for the first time, Ford’s Sync system (version 3+) is fast, logical, ergonomic and overall pleasant to use.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/60cde34a1f47ff18cbac1ce9597b488ac486df90273b1353c9ddfbb2a70285eb.jpg

    Lexus builds their display into the dash as well. If they would just replace or tone-down their front end grill/mouth I might consider them.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/15d2de6491fa8b71f9c4cebeefae79643dc1e8c33c015e08738fc46a1e540af2.jpg

    So in summary, I don’t like the floating display in most cases and would prefer something that looks like a designed-in, OEM feature rather than a JC Whitney or Pep Boys bolt-on. your mileage may vary….

  • An Existing Person

    Personally, I like them and don’t think they particularly look cheap. However, some manufacturers execute the screen much better than others.

  • fathornyblackandjoe

    I like the floating screens. They’re more practical from a design and a maintenance perspective, they centralize the presentation of (usually non-critical) information, and they allow for a lot more flexibility in dashboard design and layout.

    People want larger and larger displays in order to see navigation, entertainment, and vehicle information. With today’s technology, the most affordable way to provide this is with flat screens. If you try to stick a large flat surface on the dash, you end up with some awkward designs–Tesla’s Model S, for example, or Audi’s 2 screen design, or the upcoming VW Touareg–they’re just giant flat slabs of glass that take over the entire dash, and there’s only so much you can do to work around them. The Touareg designers put air vents under the screen, for example…that’s not an effective place to put air vents, but their choices are limited because there’s a giant flat screen in the middle of the dash.

    Again, I’m not criticizing Audi or VW designers…I think their solutions are great, for the requirements and constraints that they were given…but removing all buttons and putting air vents where no air vents should go is an example of the design and usability compromises that integrating the screen into the dash requires.

  • KareKakk

    The main point of the floaters is they don’t mess with a classic dashboard design… imagine the dash without it, and you will see a nice and unobtrusive dash as it should be. Integrating the screen(s) in the dash means bigger dash less easy on the eyes.

  • FoxJ30

    Free floating screens only make sense to me if manufacturers come out with updates/upgrades. Imagine: you have a 2014 iPad bolted to your car? Well, for $500 you can buy the 2018 iPad, with a higher resolution, faster processor, updated maps/CarPlay/Android Auto, more offline storage.

    But nope, haven’t seen that happen.

  • allison burgueno

    I am driving a loaner 2019 C class. The display is TERRIBLE. It basically looks very aftermarket. the steering wheel controls look incredibly cheap. The fonts are incredibly thin, the text small, and interface is not intuitive. I cannot imagine the older target market enjoying this interface at all. All I could think when I entered the car is that this was extremely bad. I believe the floating screens should somehow disappear into the dash when you want them to…however, the new interface design had massive usability issues. If you’re parked, maybe you could spend time to figure it you, but you shouldn’t HAVE TO! I do have a 2016 GLC 300 and it is much better because of the larger font and higher contrast. The 2019 is not an improvement.

  • MeGene

    Butt ugly, and that was the only reason my wife did NOT buy a MBZ GLC! I bought a 2017 BMW X3 when I found out the new 2018 was gonna go away with the integrated-look screen and join the fuss with this “free-standing” type of screen!

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