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Car Tech Spotlight: Toyota Avalon’s capacitive-touch infotainment controls

Touch-sensitive controls are combined with traditional knobs in the center stack. But how well do they work?

By Douglas Newcomb Jan 18, 2013 7:41AM

Toyota AvalonFord tried it with MyFord Touch, and Chevy with the Volt. Now it’s Toyota’s turn to use capacitive-touch controls for the infotainment system. Capacitive-touch controls are buttons that don’t click, and they do give the center stack of the Avalon Limited I test-drove a sleek look.

But like the capacitive-touch controls in MyFord Touch and the Volt, the ones in the Avalon don’t provide haptic feedback --

a tactile confirmation, or a push-back -- as confirmation of a command. (The touch screen in the Cadillac Cue system is the only automotive infotainment system that now provides haptic feedback.)

Problem is, most people hated capacitive-touch controls in Ford vehicles and in the Volt, and they’ll probably hate them in the Avalon. But the Avalon has a saving grace or two.

As you can see in the photo above, the Avalon’s capacitive-touch controls are used to select the audio source, eject a disc and skip a track or seek-tune the radio up and down. Below it is a big ol’ knob for volume. On the opposite side of the in-dash display are four more capacitive-touch controls for play/pause, phone, system info and setup, and below is a second big ol’ traditional tune/scroll knob.

Toyota AvalonLike many, while driving the Avalon I found the capacitive-touch controls a bit clumsy compared with traditional buttons and switches, which are easier to use without looking. At least some of the functions are duplicated on the steering wheel so that you don’t even have to reach for the radio.

Thank goodness Toyota gives you the best of both worlds: capacitive-touch controls and traditional knobs. Let’s hope that this is not the start of a trend.

Jan 18, 2013 10:35AM
I am not a fan of the capacitive touch controls either. The controls in my SUV have large switches, very neatly lined up, that are easy to use and don't require taking your eyes off the road for more than a second. The tuning and volume knobs are large as well and operate very smoothly. One of my favorite things about this car is it's ease of use, there was obviously a lot of thought put into it.
  If use selector switches that are small, like the above photos, they are hard to find and like the author stated, give you no feed back as to whether or not you achieved anything by pushing them.

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