Buttons? Not Really. - 2012 Ford Explorer Long-Term Road Test

2012 Ford Explorer Long Term Road Test

2012 Ford Explorer XLT EcoBoost: Buttons? Not Really.

September 30, 2011


See those things? They're not buttons. And here's something I never thought I'd say: I wish they were. You see, I'd prefer a knob over either of these choices, but a conventional button is better than Ford's new touch pads.

Here's the deal: Buttons require a precise tap to change whatever it is you're trying to change (temperature, volume, etc) and they require mulitple inputs to arrive at your desired goal. Knobs are easier to find by feel and -- if done right -- offer tactile feedback on where you are in the range be it for temperature or volume. Buttons do not.

This non-button thing Ford has cooked up is, well...


Awkward. There are multiple problems.

The first is that these touch pads offer only a minor protrusion from the center stack which makes them hard to find by feel. Also, once you find the touch pads, it's difficult to know which one does what without looking -- conventional buttons share both these problems.

Second -- and this is unique to touch pads -- they offer no definitive feedback when they're "pushed." In this regard they're worse than actual buttons. Any time you "push" a touch pad it's impossible to know if the request you've made is actually registering without looking at the temperature display which is a few inches above and to the right of driver's temperature touch pads.

The touch pad experience increases the frequency with which I need to look at the center stack. And that, I'd guess, is exactly the opposite of what Ford was hoping to achieve.

Is this a deal breaker? Probably not for most people. However, I am surprised that this is the final result -- especially given the energy spent on marketing this interface.


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