You know what really chaps my backside? When cars have heated or ventilated seats, but you have to re-start the heating or cooling every time you stop the engine. Thankfully, the Lexus IS350 AWD I tested actually fired up the ventilated seat cushions automatically upon restart if I had left them turned on when the car was shut down.
How hard can it really be to get this detail right? Apparently it’s harder than I would be inclined to think it is, because legions of carmakers get it wrong. Stop the engine, even if it’s just to run in the post office for 10 seconds and drop a letter in the slot, and your seat heating or cooling settings will be forgotten when you restart the engine.
Maybe I’m a special case because of the peculiarities of my daytime gig working for a small newspaper. Every week, I deliver a sizable percentage of our total circulation to a baker’s dozen of newspaper racks and convenience stores. The job takes a while, and given our printing schedule, always happens in mid-afternoon. Summer temperatures being what they are in my part of the country, it’s a sweaty job this time of year.
Because the short driving time between stops generally does not give most cars’ HVAC systems adequate time to cool the cabin in 100-degree heat, I frequently lower all the windows and open the sunroof, if available, while running my route in an effort to achieve maximum ventilation. However, ventilated seats are a nice bonus that cools my backside and makes the heatsink effect of leather seats in hot summer sun less punishing, so I tend to run any seat ventilation system full-blast while I make my rounds. In the depths of winter, the opposite generally rings true: All windows closed, and while I may run the HVAC heater full-blast, it usually doesn’t really have time to warm up the cabin between stops. So if there are heated seats, better believe I’m using them.
It’s frustrating when this strategy is spoiled, somewhat, by a seat ventilation/heating system that can’t be bothered to remember what setting I was using when I turned off the car. I mean, no car turns off its heater or air conditioner upon restarting — because how maddening would that be? — so why should seat temperature control devices operate any differently? Same ends, different means, right?
As in-car technologies go, seat heating and, to a lesser extent, seat ventilation are not new, earth-shattering stuff. But it’s a simple technology that’s too-often ruined, in my opinion, by shoddy execution — especially the issue outlined here. Thankfully, our IS350 AWD test car’s execution was near-flawless. I’d turn on the car after every route stop, and the seat ventilation fans would audibly start whirring away at the maximum setting where I’d left them. I could hear them blowing air even before the car had settled to idle. Kudos to Lexus for that.
My only complaint: I’d love it if they could push about twice the amount of cool air out those perforated leather seats. This is a complaint I have with a lot of ventilated seats on the market today. Seat heating elements are generally hot enough to please all but the coldest rumps, but ventilation quality and capacity varies widely among brands and models in my experience. Lexus is better than most, especially in the IS, but I’d still like more cooling from the seats. Especially when I’m sweating it out as I make like All The Young Dudes and carry the news.
Disclosure: Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.