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Car Tech Spotlight: Touchscreen glare in the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

On Subaru's Premium trim, the navigation and radio head unit's screen is impossible to use in bright sunlight.

By Douglas Newcomb Apr 18, 2013 11:48AM

Subaru VX Crosstek. Photo by Subaru.Screens in automobiles wash out in bright sunlight to varying degrees, and some are worse than others, like the LCD instrument panel in the 2014 Kia Cadenza. But at least you don't need to touch it to access important features.

Immediately following that experience, I tested a 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek 2.0i Limited with a 6.1-inch touchscreen in the center of the dash. In sunlight, it was even harder to see than the Kia's -- and worse, the car's radio controls and other important features were left inoperable.

I live in Oregon, not exactly America's sunniest state. But for the first few days I drove the Crosstrek, we had bright blue skies. And I couldn’t see a thing on the screen in the Subaru the whole time.

Sure enough, the clouds returned within days and I could finally operate the head unit on the fly, although the touchscreen's tiny icons still made it a chore. The head unit has only three buttons (for audio, voice and map) and a large volume knob. The remaining controls are on the touchscreen – and they’re all really small. So hitting the correct one is a chore even when the screen isn’t washed out.

Maybe it’s not fair to judge a touchscreen on a bright sunny day, and with the sunroof open, like in the picture below. But if I paid $2,000 for the optional Moonroof and Navigation Package option on the 2.0i Limited or $1,200 on the 2.0i Premium (the moonroof is separate on that trim and costs $1,000), I’d want to be able to see and use the touchscreen -- rain or shine.

Subaru VX Crosstek

And I’d also want to use the backup camera, especially on a day when there’s a lot of glare. But you wouldn’t be able to see that, either.

Subaru VX Crosstek

Even with the sun not shining directly on the screen and the sunroof closed, it’s still difficult to read, as the picture below shot from the driver’s seat shows.

Subaru VX Crosstek

For a reference, below is a picture I shot in my carport, and you can see that the screen still is not the brightest.

Subaru VX CrosstekThat’s why it’s always a good idea to check out these things when test driving a car. And maybe wait for a sunny day.

Apr 18, 2013 11:56AM
Inexcusable. How do you not think about it's visibility when in the design phase? Of course, how many years did it take engineers to figure out not to make the tops of dashboards shiny due to the heavy reflection on the inside of the windshield???
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