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The Tachometer Is Slowly Going Away

No one really cares how fast their engine is spinning. This information might be important to enthusiasts, and it’s something you might want to know if you drive a car with a manual transmission to give you a better idea of the right times to shift — but to your average, everyday commuter, the rpms at which their crankshaft is spinning is information they care about as much as they care about how many Gs they’re pulling. In fact, it’s something that most people care about so little that it’s becoming more and more common for automakers to forego putting a tachometer in their cars at all.

The tachometer has been a very common staple in dashboards for most of the time that cars have existed. The four most common gauges are the speedometer, the fuel gauge, the coolant temperature gauge and the tachometer. The temperature gauge has been going out of style for a while — and now the tach is starting to go away with it. Historically, you might not have a tachometer if you drive a particularly cheap car, like my old Chevrolet Metro. But now, the cost of a car has little to do with whether or not it has a tach.

I was recently driving the new Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid — and instead of a tachometer taking up the left half of the gauge cluster, there was an eco gauge. It used my throttle input to gauge how economically I was driving, and it decided that information was more important to the driver than the engine’s RPM. This makes sense in a plug-in hybrid, since there were times I was driving it when the gas engine wasn’t on at all.

With so many automakers putting such heavy investments on plug-in hybrids and EVs, I think eco gauges like the one in the Crosstrek Hybrid will replace tachometers throughout the industry. We’re always going to need to know how fast we’re going — and the traditional fuel gauge will always be around, whether it’s telling us how much gas is in our tank or how much range is left in our battery. But I think the tach is reaching the end of its long road.

The tachometer is already the most useless gauge to most drivers, and few will notice or care if their next car doesn’t have a tach. But for those of us who like knowing what the engine is doing, it might become as rare as the manual transmission.

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