Heated and Cooled Cupholders Put to the Test

By Joe Bruzek  on June 17, 2011

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Long gone are days when the only heating and cooling inside a car came from the heater and air conditioning. Nowadays, seats, steering wheels, mirrors and even cupholders are all capable of warming or chilling. Though some may seem gimmicky, the heated and cooled cupholders in the 2011 Chrysler 300C caught our attention by being hot or cold to the touch almost immediately after we turned them on.
 
To see how well the 300’s cupholders do their job, we gathered a cold bottle of water and a freshly poured cup of coffee from a favorite breakfast vendor, and we brought along an infrared thermometer. Without any drink in place, the surface temperature inside the cooled and heated holders showed promise. The cool side registered 48 degrees Fahrenheit, while the hot cupholder measured 113.1 degrees. 

After an hour with the cooler on and water bottle in place, the bottle’s temperature near the base was much cooler than its top: 48.2 degrees, compared with the top’s 61.8 degrees. The water itself measured 66.3 degrees at the mouth of the bottle, less chilly than the 55.7 degrees at the start. This wasn’t a complete shocker because less than half of the bottle sits in the cupholder. I spent a weekend using the 300C’s cooled cupholders with bottled water and saw similar results where the water was definitely colder at the bottom than the top.
 
The small cup of coffee seemed a more appropriately sized beverage for the heated cupholder. Except for its lid, the cup fit completely inside. The temperature difference was much closer after an hour in the holder. The cup’s base was 107.4 degrees, and the top was 105.9 degrees. Pointing the thermometer directly at the coffee resulted in a liquid temperature of 98.7 degrees at the end, down from 126.5 degrees at the beginning. Of course we'd doubt anyone would leave a full cup of coffee in the holder for an hour.
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What may be more important than how hot or cool the cupholders get is the material of the container. We chose a paper coffee cup and plastic bottled water because they are extremely popular on-the-go items, not because of their insulation properties. A different container could make a difference in the effectiveness of the cooling and heating effects. We smell an opportunity for Chrysler's accessory business.

Chrysler Chrysler 300


Road Test Editor Joe Bruzek covers Cars.com’s short-and long-term fleet of test cars and drives a 1998 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.  Email Joe