ONE of the great things about 4X4OTY testing is being able to spend so much time in the year’s best new four-wheel drives. It allows us to find the good and bad points of the cars, as well as any niggles that might drive you nuts if you owned one of them. But it also leaves me wondering if the boffins that design the cars and their components actually test them in the field to see if they perform as intended.

For instance, which gurus decided it was a good idea to put chrome and silver around the vents at the ends of vehicles’ dash panels? When you look to the external rear view mirrors, all you get is a reflection in the glass of those damn vents. I remember years ago criticising an early Mercedes-Benz M-Class for this and now it seems other manufacturers have followed Benz’s lead.

How about the genius at Toyota who did away with the knob that controls stereo volume? In the Hilux and Fortuner there is now a touchscreen with up-and-down buttons on silly-looking, tabletstyle stereo units. I wonder if anyone at Toyota has ever tried to operate those touchscreen buttons while driving over a bumpy track, which should be the terrain of choice for such 4x4 vehicles.

The dash on the PXII Ford Ranger and new Everest is a big improvement on that in the original Ranger, but has anyone at Ford tried to use the HVAC controls?

There are a million tiny buttons stowed so low on the centre stack that they are in the dark and out of sight, making simple temperature control adjustments on the run a hazardous task. At least the Mazda BT-50 has nice, big dials for individual temperature controls.

The dial for the Multi- Terrain System in the Everest is stupid as well. The dial has four selections on it but, rather than having a corresponding number of positions on the switch so you can blindly operate it, it spins indefinitely, so you have to look at the dash or the dial to know what mode is selected.

We’re sure the engineers and designers of these great cars are clever, talented and passionate people, but sometimes I really do wonder if they use these products in the field they are made for.