Ask the Best and Brightest: Who Has the Best HVAC Controls?

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

You may recall that TTAC reacted to the plethora of top ten automotve lists proliferating on the web by running a list of the ten best cupholders. Now that Forbes Autos has gone to the big cache in the sky, the number of top ten lists-makers has dropped significantly. But they’re still out there, somewhere. And they’re still annoying. All-Stars? Pretty much says it all. So we turn again, from the ridiculous to the sublimely ridiculous. We ask you, our Best and Brightest to name the best Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) controls of any car sold in America as new. Please send an email with a jpeg to Put “HVAC” in the subject bar. In the body of the email, please write your screen nic, which car’s climate controls I’m gazing upon and why they deserve to be honored as one of the ten best HVACuees. The winners will be chosen by Eddy and myself through the usual arbitrary process. Thanks for your help.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Tsofting Tsofting on Jan 07, 2009

    My vote goes to the (my) 2005 BMW E60 with the dual-zone HVAC! It is extremely intuitive and capable; 1) Buy the car, 2) Press the Auto-button, 3) Enjoy! Seriously, even here in Scandinavia, where temperatures may vary from -20 Celsius to +30 Celsius, I never feel the need for manual fiddling!

  • Noreserve Noreserve on Jan 07, 2009
    John Horner : January 7th, 2009 at 1:09 am I hate the “automatic” HVAC controls on our two Honda products Which Honda models? Why do you hate them? V6 2. a/c that automatically turns on when you change to windscreen demist & systems that don’t allow you to turn off the a/c when on windscreen demist AC is used to dehumidify the interior (it shouldn't be a noticeable source of cold air). It's commonly on in the winter with auto HVAC systems in order to keep it this way. I'm surprised at the number of responses that prefer manual control of HVAC. That is something that I've never missed. Every auto HVAC system I've used, even when not ergonomically the best designed, has still been preferable to having to fiddle with those controls. Better to concentrate on driving. A pet peeve of mine is being a passenger in a vehicle driven by someone who doesn't have a clue about keeping air flowing through the cabin and/or keeps the fan too high/low for conditions. Auto is usually a lot smarter than these drivers.
  • Davey49 Davey49 on Jan 07, 2009

    I sent my vote in for the Dodge Dakota but really all the manual systems with 3 knobs and 1 or 2 buttons. I also prefer when you grab the outside of the knob to turn it instead of the middle. Any love for the classic GM slider controls? I was going to pick that just because there's so many cars I've driven with it. (even Volvos)

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Jan 12, 2009

    I think I'd like auto HVAC controls if I regularly drove on trips where the temps varied such as driving from a valley (45 degrees) to a mountain top for snow skiing (below freezing) or if i drove hundreds of miles where the day's temp climb or decline would occur. But we don't. Most of our trips are 30 mins this way or that and the start and end temps are the same. I dislike the old controls with slider knobs on the dash from the 70s and 80s. Seems most of the old Detroit cars I have driven have had cranky slider controls. The first time I drove a car with rotary knobs I found the "perfect" design for me. I think that car was either an Opel, a VW, or a Peugeot an Italian friend owned. My current daily drivers are favorites. They are the 1st gen CR-V controls and the MKIII VW Golf/Cabrio controls. Both have a rotary knob for fan speeds. The Honda has about 30 different increments and the VW has three. Both have rotary knobs to direct the air to the vents of your choice. The VW wins here because the controls are "analog" (cable driven) and any increment between one setting and another can be chosen. The Honda has a motor actuated system so no in between but it's been good for 170K miles. Any temp you like in either car. And finally a separate compressor on/off and recirc button. The cars which automatically switch on the compressor with no option for turning it off get a black mark from me. I wish my Honda did not turn the compressor on when the defroster was chosen even though I can turn it off. I understand why - just wish it did not come on. On a side comment I REALLY like the variable displacment compressor my VW Cabrio came with. The clutch locks in and it stays locked. Something in the compressor changes to allow the compressor to not cycle. Excellent with a small engine. The a/c is COLD in that car. In the Honda not as much which is a shame because there is so much interior space. It cools well when the vehicle is moving. The tough times are when we get into the CR-V when it has been parked in the summer sun and then have to idle in traffic for several minutes before we can really move. Yeah, its full of freon. Never leaked since new. I too will nominate the aircooled VW vans for having complicated controls. We also have a '78 VW Westfalia. It has one lever for opening the cowl vent. That vent often leaks cold air in the winter. Fixed it, we'll see how it works soon. One lever controls air to/from defrost. As I recall this same lever also controls the front/back seat mix. Another lever controls temp (air volume). It would work fine but the air volume is too low. I do like having the vent windows and being able to open the cowl vent while the heater is on. On our Beetle the volume/temp is fine but the driver has to manually open and close the front floor vents to get defrost. One lever between the seats controls volume (temp) and the other lever controls the mix front to back. Coasting down a mountain the heaters cool off. Climbing up a mountain they heat way, way up. At low rpms gotta open the volume lever way up and once up to speed on the highway gotta close them way down. Its good in a really basic way. I can drive and adjust without much thought. The Porsche 911 had a similar system that automatically adjusted itself. No booster fan on the Beetle and the bus has one - almost. Not enough boost to be helpful. Am going to upgrade both vehicle fan systems. Am waiting to see how much implanting a Corvair engine has helped the bus and the Beetle now has a larger 2.0L Type IV (think bus/Porsche 914) engine with 911 style cooling...