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“I love touchscreens, but please bring back buttons”

Editor-in-chief Steve Fowler laments the lack of physical buttons in almost all new cars

Opinion - touchscreens

When I lived with a Range Rover for six months last year, one of my favourite features was how the beautiful, large touchscreen was integrated alongside some delightful dials that – among other things – controlled the heating and ventilation. You could even push the dials in and they operated the heated seats – a fantastic piece of design and engineering.

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So imagine my disappointment when I jumped into the latest 2024 Model Year Range Rover Sport this week. The last version had the same beautifully designed dials, but not this one. The heating controls – and those for the drive and off-road settings – are now crammed into the menus of the touchscreen, leaving the cabin even more minimalist than before. Progress? Not in my book.

This desire to rid a car of buttons and dials is rife in the car business. The latest Ford Puma suffers the same fate. The touchscreen has become larger, but buttons have disappeared.

The marketing spin will always cite the desire for – in the case of Range Rover – reductionism. The cynic in me would cite the need to cut costs – another line of code in a touchscreen is much cheaper than buttons or dials, no matter how beautiful they are, or how easy to use.

My own disappointment is shared massively on social media. Sure, there are a few people who think I should be relying on voice control – but when has that ever worked reliably? Not yet. The general consensus is that the car industry has gone too far: touchscreens can be distracting. Surely there’s a balance to be found?

I love a big touchscreen, but more for the display than the endless prodding to work out how to change the radio station. JLR UK boss Patrick McGillycuddy told me that reaction to the latest interior tweaks to Range Rovers has been positive, but the company will listen to feedback. Volkswagen has done that already and is bringing back buttons. Let’s hope more makers do the same.

Do you agree with Steve? Let us know in the comments section...

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