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Volkswagen Will Bring Back Some Buttons in Lieu of Touch Commands

Volkswagen ID.4, steering wheel controls
Photo: D.Boshouwers
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Daniel Rufiange
It seems the barrage of criticism VW received for its new steering-wheel touch controls had an effect

•    Faced with criticism of its touch-sensitive steering-wheel controls, Volkswagen has promised a return to traditional buttons, at least for some function.

•    The new Golf GTI and Golf R, as well as the Tiguan and Jetta, all feature touch-sensitive steering-wheel commands.

•    Touch controls are a major source of distraction. Other manufacturers will have to look at this as well.

If there's one consistent criticism that's been leveled at Volkswagen's most recent models, it's over the placement of touch-sensitive commands on the centre console and steering wheel. Many of the controls that were once easily accessible with buttons are now usable only via touch-sensitive commands. 

Given the general consensus that things worked just fine with physical buttons, especially when their layout was intelligent and user-friendly, may have wondered, fairly, why VW should change everything, in the name of technology or else de-cluttering.
Why indeed. Now, Volkswagen appears to have taken to heart the criticism leveled by its customers. The company has promised to bring at least some traditional steering-wheel controls. Thomas Schäfer, the head of the VW brand, explained on Linkedln: 

“We are sharpening our portfolio and our design, plus creating a new simplicity in operating our vehicles. For example, we are bringing back the push-button steering wheel! That's what customers want from VW.”

- Thomas Schäfer, CEO Volkswagen Passenger Cars

The European Golf, due for renewal in 2023, could be the first to get rid of the touchpads introduced by the brand. Late last month, a test model was spotted with a huge touchscreen for the multimedia system, but also with a steering wheel adorned with actual buttons. 

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Volkswagen Touch Controls
Volkswagen Touch Controls
Photo: Volkswagen

These changes will only address some of the problems with the cabin's touch controls. Indeed, under the multimedia system screen sits a touch-control section with haptic commands to adjust the temperature, for example. The irony is that there’s a button called Clima, which takes users directly to the car's climate menu... on the touch screen. 

Why make it simple when you can make it complicated? We can only hope the steering-wheel changes eventually reach the centre console. 

It’s wait-and-see to learn which new models offered in North America get the changes, and when. It’S not clear right now if VW plans to make those changes to all of its models or not. 

There is a message in this for all other manufacturers: keep things simple in your vehicles.

Daniel Rufiange
Daniel Rufiange
Automotive expert
  • Over 17 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 75 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 250 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists