As someone who enjoys paying a lot of attention to detail and user experience, I’m always delighted by “they thought of that” moments when I come across it. This one took me 9 years to notice.
A couple of days ago I was in a 2005 BMW 3-series and I noticed something different about the climate system. It’s winter here in Australia so the temperature was set to the highest and the car was obviously warm, but there wasn’t any hot air blowing out of the face vents.
I was slightly puzzled, did a blower stop working? I toggled the face vent override button and it definitely blew hot air from the face vents, so I was slightly relieved it wasn’t broken, but turning off the button defaulting to automatic distribution definitely stops the air coming out of the face vents.
In this car, the air distribution can be independently fine-tuned to provide about 5-degrees of intensity for each of the windscreen, face and feet vents.
Looking at the air distribution configuration screen, it confirmed that the face vents were indeed off for some reason. At 28C (82.4F), some air went to the windscreen and most air went to the feet.
This was extremely odd because I was very confident the car used to blow air onto my face with the default setting.
After a bit of experimentation, I then noticed when I turned down the driver-side temperature, the air distribution changed along with the temperature. Huh?
At 16C (60.8F), most air went to the face and some went to the feet. This was what I had remembered to be normal.
Changing the temperature more confirmed this behavior.
But now I was curious, why does it do this? Unfortunately neither the BMW user manual or website made any references to this.
I then come across several anecdotal forum posts. According to those people, this is actually a subtle BMW safety feature to ensure hot air is not constantly blown on the driver’s face which might lead to driver fatigue and increases the likelihood of falling asleep at the wheel.
Although I’ve tried to get in touch with someone at BMW to confirm this, I’ve yet to hear anything back. (Note: If anyone knows someone at BMW, please pass this on.)
In the meantime, I’m inclined to believe this because I know just how much attention to detail BMW engineers put into their cars and this sounds like something they would have thought of.