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WTF-SPORT, Pt. III: In Defense of Lexus Remote Touch

Sections: Infotainment

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2013 Lexus RX350 F-SPORT Photo Shoot 021

The Lexus Remote Touch controller gets a lot of hate, but not from this reviewer. (Lyndon Johnson photo)

While driving our Lexus RX350 F-SPORT tester, I read a lot of hate on the internet about the Lexus Remote Touch controller. I don’t get the hate. In fact, I rather like the “mouse” controller.

Some autojourno types lambaste the control interface, saying it’s more distracting to use than a traditional touchscreen. Balderdash, say I.

The haptic feedback of the Remote Touch controller makes it less distracting by allowing me to feel my way around the menu interface without having to look at the screen much at all, now that I’ve gotten used to where Lexus places many of the commands on each screen. I know sliding to the upper-rightmost notch will almost always take me back to the previous screen, for instance. No need to look at the screen and orient my finger toward the “back” arrow. Getting back to the main menu requires only a touch of the button residing below my index finger, while getting to the map display requires a similar touch from my middle finger. Scrolling lengthier menus is facilitated by an up/down rocker switch between the former buttons.

That being said, I don’t find the Lexus Enform infotainment system flawless. For starters, I like the “Map” and “Menu” buttons so well that I’d almost like a “Back” button as well, to make it even easier to navigate to the previous screen.

Secondly, I think I’d find the main menu easier to navigate if its choices were presented in a square pattern instead of two long rows stacked on top of one another– that way each option would be situated in a directional press. Pushing up on the Remote Touch controller might take me to the radio controls, while down might take me to climate control settings and a 45-degree up-right press would take me to the USB media device control screen, and so on. Finally, the menu structure needs to be simplified all the way around. Applying that same directional press method to sub-menus might help here, as well.

Coupled with the haptic feedback of the Remote Touch control, I think that kind of simplified menu structure would hush a lot of critics and open their eyes to the revelation of feeling your way through menus without taking your eyes off the road– kind of like feeling for a pen in the center console, or feeling for a button on the center stack. Screens don’t provide that type of tactile feedback, even when the “buttons” push back when pressed. I commend Lexus for at least trying to make a safer, more intuitive system for getting around a feature-heavy infotainment system. I look forward to how they will improve it in the future.

Disclosure: Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.

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