TTAC's Top Ten HVAC Controls 2009

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

The Truth About Cars: they’re hideously complicated devices that must be able to serve duty in every sort of meteorological condition. The controls required to help keep their owners comfortable in this huge and ever-changing range of temperatures and climatic conditions are subject to neglect, abuse and constant use. Not to mention simple human nature, which is simple, but not so easy to satisfy in any meaningful bio-mechanical way. So hats off to the designers, engineers and assembly workers who delivered unto us, the driving public, a sane, sensible way to control our own personal micro-climate. I present to you, gentle readers and humble auto industry-types, TTAC’s Top Ten HVAC controls 2009, with comments by our very own Best and Brightest. [Gallery below. Printed list and comments after the jump.]

ttac s top ten hvac controls 2009

10. 2008 Can-Am Spyder – Tavert– “HVAC? Who needs HVAC when you’ve got a sea breeze?”

9. Toyota Camry – Denis Favro – “You can, effectively, be blind and a double-arm amputee and still use the HVAC and radio controls. They’re big, distinct, well (but not obnoxiously) illuminated. This is true of any Toyota (and most Lexuses, which is amazing, given how awful the average luxury car’s ergonomics are). But the Camry is the standard-bearer.”

8. Ford Mustang – Alex Nunez– “The HVAC controls on the current-generation Ford Mustang (I drive an ’06) are completely straightforward: dials for temp, fan speed and vent selection. The A/C on/off button is also in an obvious, easy-to-reach spot.”

7. Dodge Dakota and just about every Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep – Davy49 – “Simple, glove-friendly three-knob design”

6. Audi TT/Audi R8 – Howler – “The HVAC controls are straightforward and an easy finger’s length from the shift knob. Once you understand that the right dial indicates airflow direction, and that the circular icon represents defrost, the design is easy to follow. The design also mimics the triplex configuration of the vents themselves, which is a nice touch.”

5. Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coup – sean362880 – “Behold the pair of bejeweled silver fan speed controls. Admire the dual electroluminescent thermostats. Bask in the glitter from the chromed window and roof retract switches. All set in a dash hewn from the rarest and most endangered species of tropical rainforest rosewood; surely the finest HVAC controls money can buy.”

4. Hyundai Accent – bumpy – “What temperature would you like? One dial. What speed would you like? One dial. Where would you like it? One dial. Would you like A/C? One button. Would you like recirculation? One button. If you can’t figure this out in less than ten seconds, you probably shouldn’t be driving.”

3. Ferrari 575 M Maranello – Edward Niedermeyer – “Ferrari tried to bring some Teutonic practicality to the 575M’s HVAC controls– and succeeded. I’m not sure if the dials are actually connected to anything, or how effective the whirring bits are, but the Fezza’s big rubber knobs are perfectly proportioned and ergonomically sound. And sexy.”

2. Honda Accord – noreserve – “Honda’s reputation for keeping things simple endures. That up/down lever is the most logical, easiest-to-use that I’ve come in contact with. When lit, the DUAL button indicates that there are dual or independent temps in use for driver and passenger. Turn it off and it syncs the passenger temp to the driver temp. No holding of any button for several seconds a la Audi. The MODE button toggles through the expected face, floor, floor/defrost type modes using an icon representation on the screen above. The Rear defrost/heated outside mirror button does exactly what it claims, as does the front defrost button. Simple stuff all.”

1. 1998-2007 Volvo S80 Volvo – TEXN3 – “Simple and intuitive design. Rotary fan speed with lighting for each speed, rotary temp control with numerical settings for both driver and passenger, first use of the Volvo vent setting showing the seating position with airflow on the relevant button. Large ‘auto’ button placed in center for those in a hurry and for those that don’t mess with their fan and temp settings too often. Defroster buttons grouped together like they should be.”

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2 of 45 comments
  • Fabric Fabric on Jan 10, 2009

    Wow, you guys have it all wrong. The hands down winner of best HVAC was the ACC in the GM900/9-3 Saab. You guys are all talking about which has the best ergonomics. The Saab's, all you had to do was occasionally adjust the temp. That's it. It would turn on the A/C when it needed to cool down the car *or* dehumidify the air to get rid of condensation on the windows. It always picked an appropriate mix for the air, so you weren't fiddling with the controls. If it was hot, the A/C came on full blast, you didn't need to tell it. It just worked. 2nd best - Lincoln Mark VII. I occasionally had to hit the max A/C. By comparison, the ACC in my '03 5 series needs constant attention. My feet are cold in the winter, you have to tell it when to use A/C. I sure do miss the Saab's ACC.

  • Durishin Durishin on Jan 10, 2009

    Oh! The Saab's controls were great! My then girlfriend had one (convertible). It was just that the windows would freeze in the down position and the alarm would go off every time a squirrel farted. About the time we got tired of each other, she got tired of that car and retired us both. Of course Saab had a frequent buyers program so she got another one of those.

  • KOKing I'm in an emissions check only state, and I'd trade that away for a safety check all day.
  • Bd2 The hybrid powertrain in the Sportage and Tucson are the ones to get.H/K should discontinue the base NA 2.5L powertrain and just build more of the hybrid.In the future, maybe offer a 2nd, more powerful hybrid (the hybrid 2.5) which will first arrive with the next Telluride/Palisade.Kia also needs to redo the front fascia for the Sportage's refresh.
  • The Oracle I say let the clunkers stay on the roads.
  • Jpolicke Twenty-three grand for a basket case? And it has '66 wheel covers and gas cap so who knows what else isn't original?
  • Scott Can't be a real 1965 Stang as all of those are nothing but a pile of rust that MIGHT be car shaped by now.