At the moment, I have a 2023 Volkswagen ID.4 press car in my driveway. This is actually the second time I’ve had an ID.4 as a press car, as I reviewed it for the Old Site a couple of years ago. Generally, I like the car – it’s reasonably practical (it needs a frunk, but we’ll get into that again another time), I think it looks good, drives well, has a nice interior, good range, all that stuff. But it does have some Achilles’ heels, and most of those heels are in the interior of the car, lurking in many of the controls that your hands must interact with to make the car do things.
When the ID.4 first came out, one set of these controls in particular was singled out for scorn and contempt: the driver’s side power window controls in the door. Instead of the expected four up/down switches for the four windows, with each window being commanded by one switch, there are only two switches, and a toggle to change the modality of those switches from front to rear. Almost everybody hated these switches with most reviews bitching about them, at least a bit. I did it, too. Our own David Tracy, though, doesn’t think the two-switch-plus-mode approach is that bad, and encouraged me to give this most maligned detail another look, with fresh, untainted eyes. Okay, fair enough. Let’s re-evaluate the VW ID.4’s power window controls!
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In case, somehow, you’ve forgotten what these controls look like, allow me to refresh your memory:
So, we have two conventional rocker-type push down/pull up switches for the left and right sides of the car, and those switches activate the front or rear windows depending on the state of that touch sensor in front of them. If the word REAR is illuminated in yellow (as opposed to a bluish-white, which is how it looks with the lights on) then the switches are active on the rear windows. If the letters are not illuminated in yellow, the switches are active on the front. The switch will retain whatever its last state was, and defaults to front when the car is on.
It’s not a haptic switch or anything like that, but a pleasant thonk sound is played when the switch’s mode is changed.
There are a few advantages of this two-switch setup. Well, maybe two advantages. First, there’s the obvious cost savings to the carmaker, since they don’t need two extra switches and related wiring. Of course, there’s also the addition of that touch switch and light and related hardware, so you’re really only saving one switch, but it must be something for VW to bother doing this at all. The other possible advantage could be that the most common use case is to open and close the front row windows, so if you just ignore the mode switch, it’s pretty much impossible to hit the wrong window switches. I’m sure at some point all of us have accidentally rolled down the rear windows when we meant to roll down the front windows, and this setup can help eliminate that.
This advantage has even been noted on some owner’s forums, and I think it’s valid. Conceptually, I don’t think what VW’s doing is a bad idea at all; it’s the execution I have problems with. Specifically, the use of a touch button for the mode switching.
For this type of setup to work, there needs to be a very obvious and easily discernible indicator of the state of the controls, front or rear. You should be able to feel the state of the mode and know, by touch, if the switches are active on the front or rear. A physical button that can be felt to be either up or down, or a rocker that is obviously switched forward or aft would work. Having to stop and look at this little word on the armrest isn’t good, and even if you just test by hitting a switch, you have to raise or lower the wrong windows if the mode wasn’t the one you wanted, then find and touch the mode switch, then do what you wanted to do in the first place.
Making this all even worse is the fact that the touch switch isn’t even responsive in a consistent or expected way. Here, look:
Still don’t believe me? You can watch me get genuinely frustrated, if that helps:
Why don’t those taps work? They were decisive and clear! That should be enough! What’s it trying to detect that I don’t seem to have enough of? Body heat? A soul?
The slight linger it seems to want is vague and difficult to get just right, and there’s no tactile feedback at all. If you have the radio on or a window actually down you can’t even hear the little acknowledgement sound well or sometimes even at all. It’s just overall kinda crappy!
Again, it’s less the concept, which I can see the arguments for, and more the execution. A touch button is simply the wrong hardware for the job.
So, David, I hope you’re happy. Sure, I arrived at basically the same conclusion – this particular window switch setup is an annoying blight on an otherwise good car – but I came to this conclusion from a completely new way! I rethought the basic idea and I can definitely see the value in it! Too bad VW made such a poor choice on how they implemented it.
If you have thoughts or opinions or rants about these important window switches, please share in the comments!
All if my previous cars with power windows had four window switches. The only times I used them was by mistake when actually I intended to operate the front windows. Really, there’s hardly ever an occasion to open the rears except to clear out an excessively foul fart . . . and how often does that happen? Face it. The Krauts knew this when they designed the ID4. ID is for “intelligent design.
Well that looks unnecessary and awful – in other words, perfectly German (automaker).
It seems like they’re trying to out ‘decontent’ another certain automaker. This needs to stop, physical buttons work and are easy and if you don’t want to pay for fancy unique ones just buy a bunch of generic dorman units.
These designers/engineers obviously never had a spoiled ass dog riding in the back seat. I use the back window switches more than the front because of that.
I used to feel strongly that cars should have the power window controls in the center console so that the passenger could roll up / down the driver side window while the driver was rowing through the gears after paying a toll. That, kids, was before EZ Pass.
Oof. At first I was like, what’s the problem. But they made the switch a capacitive button. WTF. If it were a switch like the switch to adjust driver or passengar mirrors, but NOOOOOO must be a touch button. Who makes these decisions? Like honestly. Who are all these bullies forcing everyone to make shit products?
If I may quote a cartoon horse, “No sir, I don’t like it.”
Have you got any rubber walrus protectors?
It’s the same issue I have with so many apps and computer programs now. When did “adding additional steps or clicks into the process of doing something” become an improvement? Now that I’ve said that, I’m going to go yell at some kids that are on my lawn.
Folks, this is how we learn. Somebody had to make this so that everybody else, hopefully, will understand that it’s a bad idea. Rumor has it, though, you can do a long touch on the “REAR” spot and it will roll both rear windows down at the same time. I don’t have an ID.4 so can’t confirm. I’ve not had any window issues with the 8 VWs I’ve owned over the last 20 years.
Just put 4 switches in the centre console like the Volvo 850
Another “problem” is these switch seems to be the same since the Golf mk4, 25 years ago, it’s not that they are bad, but I’ve seen them soooo many times in every VW’s group car that i’m tired of them.
They might as well double down on the concept, how about a single up/down switch attached to a joystick? push the entire contraption up and left for the driver’s window, up right for passenger window, down and left/right for the rear windows, then operate the selected window up and down? Better yet, put it in the rear, so that kids can play with it for hours on end
I had the same thought. Why, you could even find uses for the fore/aft positions, to release the tailgate or…I don’t know. Raise and lower the steering column? Think of the possibilities.
At least they didnt put the controls in the infotainment system.
No, everyone was right in their first assessment. It’s a dumb solution to a problem that doesn’t exist
It’s the Yoke all over again. “Hey look, we changed it.”
“A touch button is simply the wrong hardware for the job”
This should be inscribed on the desk/monitor of every automotive interior designer. Touch sensitive buttons are crap in cars, period. Ford learned this when the refreshed the Fusion years ago, but apparently it’s a lesson that still needs to be taught.
Touch sensitive lights are kind of neat, such as those found in a Lexus. But only because it’s a big target.
Lexus also put capacitive buttons on the steering wheel, and it’s fucking awful.
The three-leaf tree branch floating around the left eye like some Borg ocular implant trying to re-attach itself was an interesting artistic choice. I would say I liked it, but I was really interested in the intended content of the video and I couldn’t hear a word you were saying as I stared at the branch waiting to see what would happen so…maybe not a good thing? Idk, I’m torn.
you and me both 😀
second biggest peeve i have with my jetta is the chaotic responses of the driver’s rear window switches. four actual pull-buttons on the drivers armrest.
The rear, but not the front, rarely respond to simultaneous activation, and sometimes, but not always, the non-responsive one requires two or three pulls to raise the windows. No consistency between left/right responsiveness either. my poor dog has been well watered on surface streets, and well buffeted on freeway on-ramps.
I agree that the illuminated light toggle on the rear window switch is terrible, when driving I’m not gonna want to look down at the door to see if it’s engaged and I’m going to get frustrated when it doesn’t engage! A simple toggle switch would have done the job nicely.
I also have a habit of rolling down diagonally opposing windows in my CX5 to avoid the horrible buffeting that that car gets when both front windows are down.
Try dropping both windows on the passenger side an inch or two. It gives an amazing circular air flow with minimal noise.
This. I often don’t want to open both front windows because if I have something light sitting in the passenger seat it gets blown around, but I want the flowthrough ventilation so I open the opposite rear window. This is a bafflingly stupid design decision and if I were the boss at VW I’d be seriously considering firing everyone who signed off on it.
Leave it to VW to over complicate a freaking window switch. Is this supposed to sell more cars? Is it even cheaper to produce? Why would you even bother?
Is there a legal reason why a carmaker has not made window controls all touch? It’s the only thing I can think of. Stuff like logic and usability clearly wouldn’t stop them.
I think if a toddler is climbing around their foot could activate the ‘up’ switch and have a bad time.
Exactly. That’s why all window switches now require you to pull up to close them. It’s too easy to have a terrible accident if they’re just buttons.
Whatever money they saved on hardware was likely offset by the development cost that went into badly executing this “solution.”
You would think EVs would come with crank windows, y’know, to save electricity and all.
*Regenerative* crank windows.
This is genius! Imagine a budget-friendly EV (you’re going to have to imagine it because they won’t be on sale), where the hand-crank can be used to recharge the battery in an emergency, like those wind-up radios we were all told to buy in preparation for the apocalypse.
Granted, you might have to expend a few thousand calories and develop enormous biceps to get a couple of extra miles of range, but if that’s all you need to limp to the nearest outlet for a trickle-charge.
Is it too late to request this feature on the new JAM EV?
Coming soon in the 2025 ID.4: Regenerative Shake Weight!
“Excuse me sir, are you doing what I THINK you’re doing in your car? Ew.”
“Gotta do what I gotta do; I’m out of range!”
Yeah, the touch “button” is unfortunate. I have never been in an ID.4, so I don’t know this, but my first gripe would be with the switches operating the front windows being on the centre console at all. That’s not where they belong. Put two switches in the driver door (for both front windows), one each in the passenger and rear doors, and two more that the driver or passenger can reach in the centre console, for the rear windows. Done.
Bologna! Center console window switches are fantastic!
My last car, a Peugeot 206, had the window switches in the centre. I think that was partly because the original design used manual windows, and partly just to be French.
It took me a good six months after I scrapped it, to retrain my muscle memory to reach for the door to operate the windows.
“Why don’t those taps work? They were decisive and clear! That should be enough! What’s it trying to detect that I don’t seem to have enough of? Body heat? A soul?”
Man, I feel this hard! It seems to be a problem with pretty much all touch-sensitive interfaces, as far as I can tell. Heck, even my iPhone, which has one of the best touch-based UIs in the business, will regularly do the thing where I tap an onscreen button, and the button changes color for a split second to show that it’s been pressed, but the action I was asking for doesn’t happen. God dammit, you know I pushed that button! I saw you acknowledge my tap, you overpriced plastic rectangle, but I guess it just wasn’t satisfying enough for you? What the fuck is that bullshit?
This is why I miss the early days of smartphone design, where you could get one with a slide-out keyboard. Vastly superior to typing on a touchscreen.