Home » It’s Time To Take A Fresh Look At The VW ID.4’s Most Controversial Feature: The Power Window Switches

It’s Time To Take A Fresh Look At The VW ID.4’s Most Controversial Feature: The Power Window Switches

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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:

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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.

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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?

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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!

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Matti Sillanpää
Matti Sillanpää
1 year ago

I must confess that I’ve never intentionally opened rear window of a car in my 25 years of driving. Accidently, many times but I don’t really need to open the fronts either more than few times a year. And with ID4 this is the least important think they’ve screwed up.

I got Skoda Enyaq 80x which is awd version of ID4 without capacitive stuff, bigger boot and more conservative looks. It’s still got the screen thing, but it’s not that bad these days, altough i wish it had more physical controls, atleast for the seat warmers. And the skoda app sucks ass. The defrost things have physical button and other vise I do not need to touch the aircon at all (it’s always in +20c, just like every car before it).

Othervise I would say it’s great vehicle with boring color selection. Silent, great seats, big boot and acceptable range. With home charging and second car that’s not issue either.

Dennis Birtcher
Dennis Birtcher
1 year ago

Pretty sure Torch had a better success rate accidentally activating the toggle versus when he was intentionally trying to activate it.

Still, could be worse. VW could have the window switches themselves capacitive touch too

Neil Hall
Neil Hall
1 year ago

I don’t think VW could have the window switches themselves capacitive touch too, or at least they couldn’t for all markets. For Europe, the window close must be a lift action, not a push. The regulations were changed after a child got their neck trapped by the window of a late-80s/early-90s Fiat Tipo when the window closed due to the child standing on the switch. This is the reason every car offered for sale in Europe now has essentially the same window switch design, and that those not offered in Europe often have the same switches due to component sharing.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 year ago

In principle this is fine. My acura has a single joystick to adjust both outside rearview mirrors. But the difference is the left/right switch is a nice slider with detents for left, disabled, and right. It goes click feels clicky when you switch modes.

This rear switch is stupid. Touch controls for mechanical actions in general are dumb.

JDE
JDE
1 year ago

still not really sure why the front switches are not shared in the center console. late 80’s Camaro’s saved money this way and it as fine for everyone up front.

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
1 year ago
Reply to  JDE

This. Hyundai has done that with the Ioniq 6 and I honestly don’t see any downside.

First Last
First Last
1 year ago

Later when we look back at this entire formative generation of EVs we’ll see a bunch of misguided engineers and product people who thought EVs needed to be different for the sake of being different. And we will agree that the only “innovations” that mattered were the ones directly related to the batteries and the charging of those batteries, and everything else is just different levels of peculiar and annoying.

Those Darn Etruscans
Those Darn Etruscans
1 year ago

So…do VW engineers not drive around with one front and one rear window open on a nice day to get a breeze going instead of using A/C, or is that just me? This is awful physical UX design.

Andrew M
Andrew M
1 year ago

Speaking as an ID.4 owner for 6 months now, these window controls are FUUUUUUUUUUUC*ING terrible. Like all the other capacitive controls in the ID.4. They’re all such a nightmare to deal with – you must take your eyes off the road to make sure you’re aiming for the right target (can’t just feel around for buttons but shape – you’ll definitely hit the wrong thing first) and for many you have look to verify you actually activated the thing you want.

I had a 2013 GTI before the ID4 and its controls were pretty much perfect. All real hard buttons so I could do pretty much anything without taking my eyes off the road. The climate-control mode knob (feet/face/windshield) could’ve used a little nub so you could tell where it was pointing without looking at it, but that was really the only room for improvement.

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
1 year ago

No window switch lockout? What would really rankle me is the apparent lack of a window switch lockout! I must be able to lockout the rear windows from being operated by the living beings in the rear. Our dogs would open the windows all the way requiring me to constantly be trying to close them! They frequently hit the door lock switch, but that doesn’t affect anything.

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
1 year ago
Reply to  Knowonelse

It’s probably buried in a touchscreen menu

ChrisGT
ChrisGT
1 year ago

I LOVED that the window switches in my 2012 Jetta TDI were ALL one touch up/down. Most cars do that for the driver window, but this was for all – even the rear. I could put my hand into a four-pointed-poker and effectively be driving a convertible a few seconds later.

Aaron Vienot
Aaron Vienot
1 year ago

The only design savings that makes sense is what Toyota did for the 00-05 Celica: a single window switch control set in the center console, accessible by driver and passenger. Cuts costs, cuts weight, simplifies wiring, and results in identical door trim panels for both LHD and RHD models. Generated some grousing early on, but once committed to muscle memory it was not an issue.

VW and their current not-button fetish is one more example of German auto engineers doing what German auto engineers always do when the crayons are plentiful and the adult supervision has left the room.

R Rr
R Rr
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron Vienot

One of my old Alfas had the window switches in the same control panel on the roof that had the sunroof buttons. These on the ID.4 are nothing in comparison 🙂

Charles Jack
Charles Jack
1 year ago

After waiting for far too long for my I.D.4 to be built, much less arrive, I gave up and bought a Chevy Bolt EUV Premiere off a dealer lot. Not only does it have four window switches but every other feature of the VW and more . . . for $10K less. The Bolt EV and EUV are magnificent engineering successes and a mystery why GM has decided to discontinue them. Do you suppose it’s because of too many “old-fashioned” window switches?

Chris D
Chris D
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Jack

I’m still holding out until VW comes up with real names for their electric vehicles. ID.# is not even phoning it in.
When the Chinese start making their unauthorized copies, they will all be fake IDs.

Wgn_luv
Wgn_luv
1 year ago

As someone who constantly rolls down the rear windows on their VW, I miiiight like them? Can’t be sure till I live with them
¯⁠\⁠_⁠(⁠ツ⁠)⁠_⁠/⁠¯

Also, the REAR button flashes when you long press it. When flashing, the switches control both front and rear windows.

Last edited 1 year ago by Wgn_luv
James Davidson
James Davidson
1 year ago
Reply to  Wgn_luv

That sounds great to look down at going 70 mph on a gently curving highway with some traffic in the other lanes. Go VW!

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
1 year ago
Reply to  Wgn_luv

I like the idea of being able to operate all the windows at once, but a flashing ‘rear’ graphic on the armrest does not strike me as intuitive.

As ChrisGT noted a couple of comments away, you can do that in an old Jetta if you shape your hand the right way, and just as importantly you can do it without looking, which should be a prerequisite for any function within reach of the driver.

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
1 year ago

There really only needs to be ONE button on the driver’s door with the door itself acting as a “mode switch”, especially with proximity keys.

Driver’s door open = window switch controls all four windows
Driver’s door closed = window switch controls driver’s window only.

Charles Jack
Charles Jack
1 year ago
Reply to  Nlpnt

Aaaa, nah.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 year ago
Reply to  Nlpnt

Huh? You have to open the driver door to open the rear windows? That seems dangerous at highway speeds.

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
1 year ago

No. If you were traveling alone in that case you would reach across or in back to adjust window position (still easier than doing so with cranks). Or adjust at the next stop.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago

Nope, this sucks on every possible level. Get rid of those stupid touch-switches for actual physical controls.

The idea would work so much better if it was just a simple, physical front/rear toggle that worked instantaneously. This slows down the process of dropping the rear windows and doesn’t always work. It sucks on every possible level that it can suck on.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
1 year ago

THIS

The window switch was the tipping point for me to not get an ID4, in addition to everything being touch controlled. VW did this with power windows on early 90s cars (Jettas, maybe more) where the front window switches were on the door but the rear window switches were on the dash. VW realised this was stupid and stopped doing it…. so now they are just not learning from their own mistakes? Why do car makers keep trying to reinvent something that does not need to change at ALL.

Give me a volume knob, regular switches where they should go, regular stalks where they should go, physical wiper controls I can use with my eyes closed, a physical glove box release, and sure put in some touch controls where they make sense (on the infotainment screen only).

It’s a shame because the AWD ID4 is overall a good EV.

Last edited 1 year ago by Bizness Comma Nunya
Jack Beckman
Jack Beckman
1 year ago

I have a similar setup in my 992-gen 911. But it’s even more crazy; the panel was obviously designed for 4 switches. The third switch is the one that toggles to the rear windows; it has a red backlight when it’s on, so you have to look at it. And there’s a blank where the 4th switch should be. This car is too expensive for that kind of crap.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 year ago
Reply to  Jack Beckman

Typical engineers ignoring the needs of blind drivers.

Timohb
Timohb
1 year ago

Why? Because they could? Not a fan.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 year ago

Obviously, the correct solution to this involves a chainsaw.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
1 year ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

COTD!!!

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
1 year ago

I’d prefer the good ol’ 4 switch setup but if they had gone with a physical button of some sort instead of a capacitive touch button, I don’t think I’d have an issue with it. I don’t think I’ve ever used a capacitive touch button that I thought felt good to use.

Ian McClure
Ian McClure
1 year ago

If it was a physical toggle, they might have had a leg to stand on. The actual design is basically designed to be obtuse and frustrating.

Sensual Bugling Elk
Sensual Bugling Elk
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian McClure

I’ll forgive anemic powertrains or uninspired styling if the interior doesn’t have any small annoyances that piss me off a little more every time I deal with them. Those small annoyances are what are) eventually drive you mad after years of ownership.

And it’s like the ID.4’s interior is literally nothing but small annoyances.

Droid
Droid
1 year ago

this seems like a solution looking for a problem.

Eric Gollihar
Eric Gollihar
1 year ago

We are nearly two years into 2021 ID.4 ownership. This is annoying, yes. And I’m CONSTANTLY rolling down the back windows by mistake (fat fingers accidentally hit the sensor). But it’s far from the worst feature of the car. The infotainment screen is awful and makes using the radio or climate control super difficult. An “over-the-air” update that was supposed to fix these issues was promised around the time we bought the car, but is just being implemented now…at the dealership. As part of a battery pack recall that’s kept our ID.4 out of our hands for more than a month…so far. Honestly, this is probably our last VW. We’ve tried several over the past few years, and they’ve all had annoying quality issues that we haven’t seen from any other manufacturer recently (closest was a late-90s Jeep Grand Cherokee that had nonstop reliability issues, and we don’t buy those anymore, either).

So I agree with Torch’s recommendations. And I hope future VW buyers don’t have any of these problems to deal with.

Citrus
Citrus
1 year ago
Reply to  Eric Gollihar

As an outsider, everything about the Id.4’s minor controls seems incredibly poorly designed, like nobody involved had ever actually seen a car before. Doesn’t also have controls that aren’t backlit at night? And inexplicably an optical illusion to demonstrate how the shifter works?

I don’t own one though so I don’t know if my theory is correct. It just seems to get all the details wrong.

Ana Osato
Ana Osato
1 year ago
Reply to  Eric Gollihar

What did you expect buying a VW? A quality product with proper service/after sales care?
It’s VW… smh

Eric Gollihar
Eric Gollihar
1 year ago
Reply to  Ana Osato

What happened is my very tall son needed a car with plenty of head room, and we stumbled into a used Tiguan. He liked it well enough, and it could hold our whole (very tall) family. Which sent us down a path where we had three VWs for a time, though we swapped a second Tiguan out for a Taos. Eventually (or quickly in some cases), all had issues. Some were minor but annoying (apparently unfixable minor oil leak in the second Tiguan). Some, like the failing battery and a minor engine repair to that first Tiguan that was super expensive because of how the engine is assembled, have been more serious. Gradually, all but the ID.4 have left the stable. We still like the ID.4 overall. But it’s the most expensive car we’ve ever purchased by a pretty wide margin. We really expected it to be of a quality that reflected that price difference. It is not. When it’s time, it will leave the stable.

Chris D
Chris D
1 year ago
Reply to  Eric Gollihar

And this is how new Toyota buyers are made.

Thomas Benham
Thomas Benham
1 year ago
Reply to  Eric Gollihar

So I agree with Torch’s recommendations. And I hope future VW buyers don’t have any of these problems to deal with.

Ha, VW ownership is one of the most Sisyphean acts out there. Volkswagen has had window and window regulator related problems since the 70’s

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 year ago

I guess my question here is, Why? Why bother? Window switches have worked and worked well for years. Why change it now? To be clear, I’m with Torch on this. It’s a waste of an engineers time.

Last edited 1 year ago by MATTinMKE
Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
1 year ago

Yeah, this solution is silly. It should be an actual toggle. Putting a capacitive button where you can’t easily see is always gonna be a mistake.

Vicente Perez
Vicente Perez
1 year ago

A physical toggle is exactly how many electric rearview mirrors have worked for years, and it would certainly work much better for this use.

So I fully agree with this. Not a bad idea at all, but VW is unnecessarily reinventing the wheel here.

Last edited 1 year ago by Vicente Perez
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