NEW YORK – In the past few years, the humble dial has become an endangered species as automakers shift to touchscreens and other fingertip controls.
But Jaguar Land Rover is embracing the dial, showing knobs don’t have to be yester-tech and can coexist with fancy touchscreens.
“I love the rotaries because you can use them quickly and easily, which I think is so important in a car,” Ian Callum, design director for Jaguar, tells WardsAuto in an interview here. “I’m not a great lover of these giant touchscreens where you have to go through layers to find out how to move your seat around. I’ve been there, we’ve tried that. I think it’s much easier to push something, turn it and it’s done.”
Multifunction “dynamic dials,” with small screens inside the dial, are something Jaguar and Land Rover have been using and advancing on their center stacks for roughly five years, but in the brands’ newest models the dials get slicker.
In the ’18 Range Rover Velar and the ’19 Jaguar I-Pace all-electric CUV, the dials control various in-vehicle functions depending on the displayed menu section of the touchscreen on which they reside.
For instance, on the Velar, a 2018 Wards 10 Best Interiors winner, the dials morph to control various HVAC functions when the touchscreen is on its climate page, including cabin temperature, fan speed and heated seats. Changing to a drive-mode settings page on the touchscreen makes the dial closest to the driver a drive-mode selector.
The dials differ between Jaguar and Land Rover, with the Velar’s having an outer ring or doughnut, as Callum calls it, that moves independently of the center screen, whereas the Jaguar dials have screens within the knob controller itself.
Callum and Andy Wheel, chief designer at Land Rover, say if there is any joint goal for both brands’ interiors it is simplification, which the dials help them achieve.
A top priority is reducing the number of switches.
“It was in the 2012 Range Rover where we cut down the amount of switchgear by 50%, but how do we take that even further?” Wheel says.
While Callum says Jaguar too is simplifying its interiors by eliminating switches, it has a different philosophy on reductionism and sportiness in its cabins. As a Jaguar is first and foremost seen as a driver’s car, the brand does use more physical switchgear in its interiors than utility-vehicle specialist Land Rover.
“It’s all about tactility,” Callum says. “The sense of the cockpit, the sense of the mechanical interaction is quite important to us. Whereas the Land Rover/Range Rover (lineup) tends to be more about relaxation, so it’s a very different point of view.”
Wheel, who jokingly refers to Land Rover’s dynamic dials as “magic rings,” says dividing up the plethora of interior features to manage where a driver’s eyesight is directed is a safety challenge.
It’s why Land Rover has gone to a three-screen setup with its driver-facing TFT display in the gauge cluster, a top touchscreen on the center stack and a lower touchscreen in what it calls the “blade” area on the lower center stack. Many features and settings are redundant and can be accessed through two or more of those screens.
Wheel believes a single, large touchscreen is more distracting than Jaguar Land Rover’s 2-screen center stack, keeping driver’s eyes averted for longer period of time.
For safety and ease-of-use, Callum says large fonts and images on Jaguar’s touchscreens are necessary so features can be found and selected quickly.
“(What) I find with the younger designers is they make all the graphics too small, so I’m working hard to make sure they make the graphics bigger, because after a certain age you need that,” he says.
Jaguar and Land Rover share many interior components to save on engineering costs, including the dual-screen center stack. Beyond that, the two use some unique colors and materials to craft divergent brand looks inside their vehicles.
“The wood grains we choose independently – we don’t share any wood grains at all,” Callum says, with Wheel adding, “Stitch patterns and quilting patterns are all different.”
Ventilated-seat perforation patterns are another area of differentiation. While the Jaguar E-Pace and I-Pace CUVs have a standard perforation pattern of evenly spaced holes, the Velar uses triangles arranged in a broken diamond layout.
The Velar for now has rights to a wool-blend/recycled-suede seating material, but it will also be available in the I-Pace, with Callum and Wheel excited to see how buyers will react to what is being promoted as an alternative to ethically questionable leather.
Meanwhile, both designers bemoan the ability to be bolder with color in their interiors, noting it is particularly an issue in the U.S. where cars are sold from inventory on dealer lots.
“(Dealers) do tend to buy the safe combinations,” says Callum, referring to standard interior colorways of black, beige and gray.
“I have a point of view that if you don’t make it visible to a lot of people, they won’t buy it because they don’t know about it,” he continues.
While it is an exterior color, Callum notes dealers initially recoiled at a French Blue available on the Jaguar XKR-S, until a photo of the car in that color was used on the cover of a car-enthusiast magazine. It generated buzz and customers wanted to buy the car in French Blue.
“I have to be honest: It hugely frustrates me that we can’t get synchronization amongst the designers, the dealers and the potential customers,” Callum says. “Designers have no lack of color imagination.”