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FWOTY 2017: Dashboard Overload- Button Explosion!

Posted in Events on December 15, 2016
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Photographers: Ken BrubakerRick Péwé

In the world of new truck and 4x4 manufacturers, there seems to be a push towards more and more buttons and switches for a driver to deal with. Even with the requisite touchscreen dominating the center console, the driver is still faced with a bewildering array of mechanical switches. While most instrument clusters have a variety of functions not related to engine instrumentation, the center stack is relegated to that touchscreen controlling navigation, HVAC, radio “media” and other convenience options. The single most item proliferating on a modern truck is the simple switch, and on our Four Wheeler Network SUV and Pickup Truck of the Year 2017 tests we had the chance to compare and contrast eight new offerings on a weeklong testing jaunt. While we appreciate a real button or switch compared to dealing with the touchscreen or other virtual controls, it seems the manufacturers have gone overboard on the amount of buttons and switches the driver needs to deal with. While we like to have the option of turning everything off, the button overload means there probably just too many options to begin with.

To find out who was the worst offender, we checked out each of our test vehicles to see who would win the button count-off. Each cockpit was separated into sections: overhead buttons; including visors and mirrors, doors including the passenger door, but not the rear doors. The steering wheel included its front and back, and column stalks including the shifter, if it was present. The center console and screen was one unit (and usually contained the most buttons and switches) while the rest of the dash picked up the remainder of the switches. None of the touchscreen controls were included since it isn’t a physical button, switch, knob, or slider to control any function. A special note was that if a switch had more than one position, it was still only counted as one switch; for instance, a rotating headlight knob with five different positions counted as one, but if it pushed or pulled for some other function it counted as two switches. We didn’t even count all the power seat buttons and switches as we were already overloaded! Here’s the lowdown on the winners and losers.

Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

11 - Roof and mirror
8 - Steering wheel
9 - Stalks
12 - Doors
26 - Center stack
3 - Dash
69 Total

Ram Power Wagon

8 - Roof and mirror
13 - Steering wheel
6 - Stalks
14 - Doors
32 - Center stack
5 - Dash
78 Total

Dodge Ram 2500 Off-Road Package

8 - Roof and mirror
13 - Steering wheel
4 - Stalks
14 - Doors
35 - Center stack
5 - Dash
79 Total

Nissan Titan XD PRO-4X

5 - Roof and mirror
9 - Steering wheel
6 - Stalks
13 - Doors
37 - Center stack
11 - Dash
81 Total

Nissan Titan PRO-4X

10 - Roof and mirror
8 - Steering wheel
6 - Stalks
12 - Doors
36 - Center stack
11 - Dash
83 Total

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk

17 - Roof
19 - Steering wheel
5 - Stalks
15 - Doors
29 - Center stack
5 - Dash
90 Total

Nissan Armada

8 - Roof and mirror
10 - Steering wheel
6 - Stalks
15 - Doors
54 - Center stack
13 - Dash
106 Total

Ford F150 Raptor

15 - Roof and mirror
20 - Steering wheel
4 - Stalks
17 - Doors
46 - Center stack
8 - Dash
110 Total

Ford F-250 Super Duty FX4

14 - Roof and mirror
20 - Steering wheel
8 - Stalks
19 - Doors
36 - Center Stack
18 - Dash
115 Total

Notice that the overhead console on the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk appears to have 12 buttons; the lights themselves are switches that operate when pushed. This gives the whole section a total of 14.
The Ram Power Wagon has a rotating knob with three positions, but is counted as one button. The sway bar disconnect below has two separate button and count as two. If it was a single rocker switch with two positions, it would have counted as one.
The F-250 has a 4WD control knob that has three positons, and also pulls out for the rear locker. This gives a count of two buttons, not just one. The radio and HVAC knobs receive similar treatment.
Note that there are many virtual buttons on the Power Wagon touchscreen, but we decided not to count them since they aren’t physical. You could double the buttons if every choice and menu were included.

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