Volkswagen signals the comeback of car buttons

Physical ID.2all concept car reveals a row of backlit buttons positioned beneath the main touchscreen infotainment display
An undated image of Volkswagen. — Volkswagen
An undated image of Volkswagen. — Volkswagen

Volkswagen seems to have taken a complete turnabout regarding its plan to eliminate physical buttons from its modern vehicle designs. According to Darius Watola, the company's interior designer, the recent unveiling of the ID.2all Concept signifies a new direction for all VW models, a response to recent customer feedback expressing frustration with touchscreen functionality.

In stark contrast to VW's earlier electric range models and the latest Golf generation, the physical ID.2all concept car reveals a row of backlit buttons positioned beneath the main touchscreen infotainment display. It also incorporates a central rotary dial enabling interaction with display menus.

This real-life concept goes beyond initial imagery by introducing more switches and dials into the vehicle's interior. The move aims to address recent criticisms faced by the brand. VW CEO Thomas Schäfer acknowledged the adverse impact of the reliance on touchscreens, admitting that it had negatively affected the brand image. Customers and journalists alike had voiced discontent over the decision to rely solely on displays or awkward touch surfaces and capacitive buttons.

The concept vehicle, previewed to a select few journalists, serves as the basis for a new production model positioned below the existing ID.3. Scheduled for a 2026 release, VW aims to offer it for less than €25,000, delivering a range of 280 miles from a larger 56kWh battery pack, with a rumoured more affordable 38kWh option also in the pipeline.

Despite the budget price, VW design chief Andreas Mindt highlighted the company's commitment to ensuring upcoming models incorporate a "stable and likeable design," acknowledging customers' expectations for physical switches and dials for essential functions.

The ID.2all concept features a row of buttons catering to crucial functionalities such as air conditioning, rear window de-mister, and hazard lights, meeting driver needs for quick and distraction-free access.

While VW doesn't seem fully committed to physical buttons just yet, this move signifies a significant step towards addressing concerns raised by those critical of purely touchscreen-based interfaces.