Getting Used to Volkswagen Controls - 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI Long-Term Road Test

2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI Long-Term Road Test

2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI: Getting Used to Volkswagen Controls

December 26, 2013

2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI

I like our long-term 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI's interior. It stays quiet on the highway, the seats are comfortable, and the switchgear is made from dense, high-quality materials.

The controls on the gear lever, instrument stalks, steering wheel and radio feel good to touch and are pleasant to look at, but ultimately, I find them all a bit frustrating to use.

Mind you, I cycle through several different test cars every week, so I know it takes some time to get used to the various locations of controls. With the Passat it takes me twice as long as any other car.

Things don't feel as intuitive or easy to use as they do in some other cars. Even after a few days in the Volkswagen, I have difficulty performing most secondary tasks like adjusting the climate control while driving. The infotainment screen and climate control are located fairly low on the center stack, causing me to look away from the road if I'm adjusting any settings or selecting a new song. Also controls are on both sides of the touchscreen as well and I can never remember which side to go to first. Maybe after a few weeks or months of ownership I'd know my way around the interior, but it's difficult to acclimate.

Travis Langness, Associate Editor


  • reminder reminder Posts:

    I have about 800 miles on a 2014 Jetta. The controls are similar I expect. The most confusing and difficult to use is the one on the end of the wiper stalk. Two buttons that move between MPH/MPG/ Trip 1 & 2/ Temperature/real-time MPG. Too much crap on one set of buttons. Have to get the manual back out to get the hang of all the options.

  • vvk vvk Posts:

    Interesting. I have a 2012 Passat and I love its controls and ergonomics. Everything is so well thought out. They also have a quality feel. My other cars are 325i, 550i and SLK350, so I might be just used to German ergonomics. I hate how my Passat drives but I cannot fault it for features and interior. I am perfectly comfortable and feel very much at home when I drive it.

  • cx7lover cx7lover Posts:

    The Passat's switchgear is nice.. but the plastics are cheap and the doors are almost early 2000's Korean in the weight they have, although they still close with a nice no longer solid thunk.

  • emajor emajor Posts:

    cx7lover, It's a shame VW lost that bank vault feeling in the new Passat and Jetta. It sounds OCD weirdo, but opening and closing the door used to be a little auditory and tactile delight on these cars.

  • rwatson rwatson Posts:

    reminder, I suspect your Jetta's wiper stalk controls are similar to my 97 GLX, and I do remember that it was confusing in the beginning for me. Later, they moved the same information controls to the steering wheel on certain trims, like my 06 GLI. After studying the pictures of the controls, they appear similar to my GLI, though your "infotainment" ( I use parenthesis since this is a dork made up word I hate) system is different than mine. Mine reminds me of a car, where yours reminds me of dollar-store products for the masses. I, too, have buttons on both sides of my basic LCD screen, but have no problem figuring it out. You're duped into thinking that you must rely on touch screen icons in a car. You've forgotten what it's like to use knobs, switches and buttons. At least VW remembers this is a car and not a waiting room with an IPad on your lap. Also, what can be confusing about VW's climate control? Theirs are the simplest I've ever seen. Oh, that's right, they aren't icons on a color touch screen. I guess my next car may be another VW if they keep up this good work.

  • dgcamero dgcamero Posts:

    For climate control, don't you just dial in the temperature and hit "auto?" That's how it works with every one I've used --- unless I need to use defrost. Sometimes I adjust the temperature a degree or two if I'm cold, hot, or want to reduce or increase the fan (with its logic)...but the Passat has one of the more straightforward methods of doing that.

  • Our SE has the very simple, and in some ways preferable "climate control"--turn left for cooler, right for warmer, fan speed dial in the middle and vent control on the right. It is low on the dash to be sure, but only the air direction controls, adjustable in ways other cars aren't, really require any work. I actually like the buttons and the touch screen on the audio unit, much much more than fiddling with an idrive system which I tried out on a 328i. The biggest adjustment I had, no longer a problem but it was an adjustment, is surprisingly to me one you don't mention--the steering wheel alignment a bit to the right. The stalks are busy, and I say that having owned two BMWs and a Mercedes. That said, there are redundant controls for the trip functions which are easy to use through the steering wheel controls. We just picked up a 2012 EOS with the prior generation VW interior trimming, which I mean to say is higher quality and more detailed. Between the two, the EOS is clearly better finished inside, though the Passat isn't off-putting, just cheaper in places. You notice it in the doors, like posters above mentioned, though part of that is due to the combination of a little cost cutting and a large set of doors. Closure is still solid, as is everything in the car so far. I hear the beginning of a rattle over sharp bumps in the headliner/sunroof console, which I'll get fixed in the 10K service next month.

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