It can sometimes feel like the arc of progress only moves in one direction and that it’s always making our lives worse. As car makers get turned on to technology—pushed by customers begging to see smartphone-like features in their cars—we’ve been foisted some clangers, like pure touchscreen interfaces or not-very-secure connected cars. Which is why it’s refreshing to see an OEM admit it got something wrong.
In this case, I’m talking about Volkswagen Group and its not-great multifunction steering wheel. First introduced with the Mk. 8 Golf, but also seen on the new electric ID.4 and ID. Buzz, VW kept basically the same control layout for the new wheel. But instead of having discrete buttons for each of those functions—adaptive cruise control on the left spoke, media playback on the right spoke—the controls are now capacitive touch panels with some haptic feedback.
Now, multifunction steering wheels are a good thing in the 21st century, because they let you control things like media playback or even the entire infotainment system without taking your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel. And in a car that uses a touchscreen infotainment system, that’s a huge boon.