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VW Is Putting Buttons Back in Cars Because People Complained Enough

Customers and critics alike have raked VW over the coals for its "frustrating" interiors.

Whether you’ve driven a new Volkswagen or not, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about its interiors. People who care about the German everyman brand have been extremely opinionated about the cars’ lack of physical buttons. Customers’ cries have even reached VW CEO Thomas Schäfer’s ears, as he said the “frustrating” touchscreen controls “definitely did a lot of damage.” Now, VW interior designer Darius Watola is reported as saying that the brand is going back to buttons on all new cars.

The news comes from Autocar, which quotes Watola as saying the ID.2All concept and its buttons “showed a new approach for all models.” Like Schäfer, he referenced the public’s feedback. There are still touchscreens, to be sure—the infotainment display is large and in charge, and there’s also a digital gauge cluster. But instead of all the controls being hidden behind menus in these displays, they’re toggled via switches on the center stack.

The ID.2All Concept still looks pretty sparse inside, but at least it has physical controls for the HVAC and all four windows. The production ID.4 can’t even say that. VW

This is reassuring for the simple fact that actual buttons just work. The touch sliders and whatnot in the Mk8 Golf and ID.4 are finicky, only operating like they should some of the time. They also aren’t backlit, making them difficult to find and use in the dark. Owners and professional critics alike have been tough on modern VWs for these exact reasons; my co-worker Jerry Perez went as far as saying the ID.4’s tech “ruined” what was an otherwise practical and livable EV.

Speaking on the car’s infotainment, Jerry said:

“It’s awful, likely the worst I’ve ever come across. I was never able to find a channel list for the XM satellite radio because there isn’t an option to do such a thing—at least not one you can find in under 30 minutes of poking around. Then there’s a climate system on/off icon on the screen that you must click to turn the AC or heater on. You can’t just push the fan speed icon and expect it to turn on. No, you must tap the “on” button and then adjust the temperature or fan speed separately. This extra step makes no sense—and to add insult to injury, I couldn’t turn the heater on countless times because the climate portion of the OS was unresponsive. Other times, it would simply say that the function couldn’t be performed at the time. Why? No idea.”

As you can tell based on that blurb, actual buttons will be welcomed back with open arms.

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