You might have seen a Virtual Cockpit display if you’ve driven or ridden in the front passenger seat of a current Audi car. The Virtual Cockpit is not some sort of phantom car interior that only exists in a VR headset, instead it’s Audi’s name for the digital dashboard display that it now fits to some models in place of conventional analogue dials. 

Virtual Cockpit first appeared on the 2014 Audi TT Mk3, although it was also used by the Lamborghini Huracan that was launched in the same year. Today, the system is standard on the TT, R8 supercar and most of Audi’s upmarket and RS-branded performance models. It’s usually optional on higher-spec trims (usually Sport, S line or Black Edition variants) for about £500 or as part of a Technology Pack. 

But how does Virtual Cockpit work? Essentially the Virtual Cockpit is a self-contained piece of electronics with a computer processor sourced from tech giant Nvidia. It features a digital display that can be programmed to show different information according to user preferences. The display is 12.3 inches across and designed to fit inside the conventional instrument binnacle, so it’s an easy extra to add if you’re upgrading a dashboard display.

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The Audi Virtual Cockpit has a number of settings that can be adjusted by the driver, and varies depending on the car you’re in. Changes are made via the multifunction steering wheel that is standard with models equipped with the Virtual Cockpit. You can program the display to show map information, including Google 3D mapping if you’ve specced that option, the advanced trip computer, phone book or audio information. Another button on the wheel can reduce or enlarge the dials to make more room for the additional information, too. 

Reliability was a bit of an issue when the Virtual Cockpit first appeared in Audi’s cars, with the display not working properly, maps freezing and strange read-outs on the screen when in operation. But thanks to the software that’s used, engineers have been able to iron out any bugs, so the current system is a lot more reliable. If you’re looking at a used car with the Virtual Cockpit, make sure it has the latest software updates to ensure the system works properly. 

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Older digital displays suffered from glare in sunlight, but with the current trend for heavily cowled dials, engineers have managed to make the Virtual Cockpit legible in all light conditions.

Audi debuted the Virtual Cockpit, but as mentioned, it’s also used by Lamborghini, while Volkswagen has also introduced its own version, called the Active Info Display. And the VW Group isn’t the only company to embrace digital display technology. Mercedes has its own high-resolution screens on cars like the E-Class and S-Class, while Renault, Volvo and PSA Peugeot Citroen use these displays, too.

Do you have Audi’s Virtual Cockpit in your car? Tell us about your experiences below…

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