Home » Volkswagen Used To Have The Best Sunroof Switch And Now I’m Sad It’s Gone

Volkswagen Used To Have The Best Sunroof Switch And Now I’m Sad It’s Gone

Vw Sunroof Switch Ts2
ADVERTISEMENT

If you live in a part of the northern hemisphere that gets snow, spring has finally sprung, which means it’s time to open up the glass and air things out. That’s easy enough to do in your home, but have you ever noticed how most sunroof switches aren’t great? Volkswagen used to have the best sunroof switch in the industry, but not anymore, and that ought to make everyone a bit sad. Here’s how it worked, and why it was such a great thing.

While a few hardcore apex hunters salivate over every ‘slicktop’ sunroof-less car out there due to less weight up high and a more rigid roof than sunroof-equipped cars, on the street, most people won’t be able to tell much of a difference. In typical driving conditions, you just won’t push a car hard enough to notice the benefits of going sunroof-less, but you’ll almost certainly be able to enjoy the thrill of a sunroof. There’s nothing quite like feeling the wind through your locks, and when the weather’s mild enough to not broil your dome, a little dopamine hit can bring a whole lot of good. However, not every sunroof works best when it’s wide open.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Unless your vehicle was specifically optimized to avoid sunroof wind buffeting, wide-open isn’t always the best setting for a sunroof. However, it’s often distracting to dial in sunroof retraction while on the move. While some automakers have a one-touch function for reduced wind buffeting, even that isn’t always optimal. Volkswagen’s old sunroof switch catered to the picky, all without requiring drivers to take their eyes off the road.

Volkswagen Sunroof Knob

Instead of a rocker switch with two automatic detents, Volkswagen used a knob. Rotate it clockwise, and the sunroof slides back a little with each click. Rotate it counterclockwise, and the sunroof closes a little with each click. Want it open all the way? Just hold the knob all the way clockwise and it’ll do its thing. Back in the day on say, Mk4 Jettas and Golfs, the tilt function was variable by rotating the knob counter-clockwise past the closed position, meaning it was incredibly easy to dial in exactly how far you want the sunroof open by feel alone. Want to open the sunroof just a little bit to let hot air out on a summer’s day? One flick of the wrist will let you do that without even looking up.

ADVERTISEMENT

Mk4 Gti

Sure, the sunroof control knob took up some serious real estate in the overhead console, but it had virtually no learning curve and allowed for finite control without visual distraction, exactly what you want at autobahn speeds. However, around the turn of the 2010s, Volkswagen started to move away from the knob.

2012 Volkswagen Jetta Sunroof Control

Here’s the sunroof control for the 2011 to 2017 Volkswagen Jetta. Sure, you still rotate it to slide the sunroof open, but the tilt function operates by tilting the knob like a more traditional sunroof switch. Is that needlessly reinventing the wheel when a solution already exists? Yes, and it was this switch that arguably marked the beginning of the end.

Now, if you get into a new Volkswagen vehicle, you’ll likely find a switch just like the ones almost all other manufacturers use, and that’s a shame. Sure, it takes up less space in the overhead console and will be instantly familiar to drivers moving over from other makes, but standardization doesn’t always build a superior product.

ADVERTISEMENT

2021 Volkswagen Jetta Sunroof Control

Just because everyone uses a certain design for controlling a non-essential function doesn’t make it automatically better. We’re seeing this phenomenon on a grander scale with every automaker chasing Tesla’s minimalism, neglecting user-friendliness in the process. If a difference isn’t an impediment to operation, it should be celebrated, because not only do differences make cars more distinct, but they can make cars better too.

Sadly, it doesn’t seem like innovative physical switchgear is about to make a massive comeback. Capacitive touch panels are cheap, consumers have proven they’ll put up with all sorts of insane decisions, and short of going to war against J.D. Power and his Associates, everyone sourcing parts from similar suppliers will fall into the quagmire of homogeny. Pity, that.

(Photo credits: Volkswagen, Amazon)

Support our mission of championing car culture by becoming an Official Autopian Member.

ADVERTISEMENT

Relatedbar

Got a hot tip? Send it to us here. Or check out the stories on our homepage.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
67 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
TAB 227
TAB 227
11 days ago

Oh right, my 2000 Golf (1.8t, ahem) had this! I can’t quite picture it but I can remember turning that dial. Goddamn that sun roof leaked like crazy.

Yes, eventually I understood the drains clogged, and needed to be unclogged, regularly, but only after hearing water sloshing around in the roof.

Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
14 days ago

Another great thing about them.. they still had the rocker built in, but it was an override to force the roof closed. Say the seal is kinda sticky or you need to grease the tracks (not me of course).. the glass wouldn’t close as a safety measure, assuming it was fingers or something. Push the switch forward and it would override the safety. Bing bam boom.

The sunroof drains probably still leak, though.

Healpop
Healpop
14 days ago

I couldn’t agree with your more. I remember when I first saw this switch in my buddy’s Jetta and it just made so much sense. This would be even better with the new panoramic roofs that are common these days as they usually need a power operated shade. You could use the same dial/rocker combo as the 2011, just add another series of detents past closed to operate the shade. This would be so much better than the separate arrows in my current car, which I still mix up all the time.

VW really used to have the best switchgear of any mass market brand, sad to see how far they’ve fallen.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
14 days ago

Wow, this was cool…yeah, when did switches become bad? I do understand and have heard it all including costs and demand…but the point is that it was always awesome to have a car like a plane cockpit like some from the 80’s/90’s etc including the sound equalizers, etc. It’s just funny what people will gripe at- to me the funniest is complaining about wires like the aux cables, phone chargers, even stereo wires (which- yes should be mostly hidden) but it’s hilarious when someone doesn’t like a wire or 2 hanging out while driving especially when it can be put away later. Oh no, a wire! When did wires, like switches become bad?

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
15 days ago

“…sunroof-less car out there due to less weight up high and a more rigid roof…”

Also more headroom.

Technosaur
Technosaur
13 days ago

So much this! As someone who is very much XL and likes small cars, I appreciate when manufacturers offer the slicktop.

Steven
Steven
15 days ago

That switch seems like overkill. I’m reminded that the seat heaters in my 2009 GTI had settings of 1 (just barely warm) through 10 (overcook a frozen pizza). Low/Medium/High is really more than sufficient for that function.

Wolfpack57
Wolfpack57
14 days ago
Reply to  Steven

’16 Siennas have a unlabeled knob with infinite levels of heating

Ron Bitter
Ron Bitter
14 days ago
Reply to  Wolfpack57

My 2012 4runner has this as well.

Autonerdery
Autonerdery
15 days ago

I will add to the chorus—from an ergonomic standpoint, this may be the best, but for pure fun the best I ever had was the manual crank in my ’73 Bavaria. I always thought it must look funny from other cars to see me (through all that glorious glass!) cranking away at the ceiling like a madman.

FlyingMonstera
FlyingMonstera
14 days ago
Reply to  Autonerdery

Hand cranks are always the best way to open a manual sunroof, though BMWs (at least E31s) from my experience were so low geared that the sun would have gone in and it started raining by the time you got the panel half-open. My other two data points (Rovers and Fords) were better in this respect.

Christo Arvanitis
Christo Arvanitis
14 days ago
Reply to  Autonerdery

I forgot about that. I had it on my 1984 320i. There was something anticipatory about cranking open the sunroof…

Last edited 14 days ago by Christo Arvanitis
Robert Sachs
Robert Sachs
15 days ago

Was just thinking about this while fiddling with the sunroof in my Mazda without success. My ’97 Audi A4 had the sunroof dial and yes, it was far, FAR superior to the switches that I’ve had in cars since then. And you hit the nail on the head – the best part was that you could do it by feel without looking and know exactly how open/closed the sunroof was going to be.

67
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x