Ever wonder if you could turn your car’s interior into a full-on light show? Well, that’s now possible because many modern vehicles offer cool ambient lighting, even on non-luxury cars. Keep reading to find out what ambient lighting is, as well as what cars have the best ambient lighting systems.
What Is Ambient Lighting?
The feature utilizes interior lights mounted around the cabin to enhance the design and maybe even soothing driver and passenger. In addition to the foot wells, some ambient lighting systems often illuminate the door and dash trim, cupholders, climate control vents, and speaker surrounds. Some cars provide the option to tailor the color of the ambient lighting and a few even allow the lighting to pulsate in time with the audio system for added customizability.
Every automaker does ambient lighting differently. Some are subtle like in certain Nissan, Infiniti, Honda, and Acura products. On the other end of the spectrum are systems that can get very bright, like in new Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Porsche models. Pricier vehicles even have the capability to illuminate the cabin in two colors at the same time, a main one and a second that acts like piping on certain parts of the interior. Then there are newer Mercedes cars, which can slowly change the cabin’s color as you drive.
Why Did Ambient Lighting Only Recently Become Common?
For a long time, incandescent lights were the prominent choice for in-vehicle illumination. While it worked, the element size was limited and the bulbs didn’t last long. LED technology changed that and enables automakers to use a solid-state electronic light source that can support multiple colors from one diode. That enabled automakers to create all the cool interior lighting patterns you see in vehicles today because LEDs are more configurable. They last longer than an incandescent bulb, too.
What Cars Have the Best Ambient Lighting?
Among mainstream cars, the Kia Soul was one of the first to have ambient lighting. The last two generations featured multi-colored lights around the speakers that pulse to the music. The current Soul adds new themes and illuminated interior trim, giving the car a more inviting cabin. You can choose everything from a dance floor to a calm coffee shop-like vibe to tailor the atmosphere to your mood. Kia’s flagship K900 sedan takes things up a notch with 64-color ambient lighting, including seven custom themes developed with the Pantone Color Institute. Sports cars like the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro also feature ambient lighting to brighten up the interior, with the former even allowing you to change the gauge cluster colors.
Luxury brands like Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and BMW have some of the most vibrant ambient lighting on modern cars. High-end automakers like Bentley and Rolls-Royce take opulence up a few notches by using ambient lighting to create beautiful visual effects. Rolls-Royce, for instance, turns the headliner into a gorgeous night sky using fiber optic strands installed into the headliner. In Bentleys, the door speakers of high-end sound systems are illuminated to highlight intricate (and beautiful) details.
What to Look for In Ambient Lighting
- Know which trim offers ambient lighting as an option or a standard feature .
- Determine whether you can change color or brightness and how to access this feature.
Cars with the Best Ambient Lighting
Mainstream Cars and SUVs: Kia Soul (GT-Line Turbo only), Mini Hardtop, Chevrolet Camaro, Volkswagen Jetta, Hyundai Sonata and Palisade
Luxury Cars and SUVs: Mercedes-Maybach S-Class, BMW X7, Lincoln Navigator, Audi A7/S7, Lexus LS, Mercedes-AMG GT Four-Door Coupe