Buried in BMW's iDrive system is a feature that can cool down the car quickly on hot days. Parked Car Ventilation lives up to its name: It turns on fans that cool the car's interior when the car is parked and turned off.
I discovered the feature while test-driving the 2013 3 Series. Parked Car Ventilation allows you to set a time to begin cooling off the car's interior. It also can be turned on when you get into the car; the fans stay on for about 30 minutes.But does it work? It does, said Thomas Plucinsky, BMW North America's product and technology communications manager. "The interior of the car can be up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the exterior temperature due to sun load. Parked Car Ventilation will reduce the temperature inside the car to roughly the ambient exterior temperature."
The feature isn't new to BMW or the industry. Toyota's Prius has an optional solar-paneled roof that can power a fan to cool the cabin — saving on the fuel it uses to cool the Prius. BMW's Parked Car Ventilation feature is all about keeping drivers happy.
"It also helps the air-conditioning system cool the car more quickly once it has been started," Plucinsky said. "It doesn't need to overcome the sun-heated interior temperature." Even though this feature has been around for a while, it's only available on BMWs equipped with the iDrive multimedia system. IDrive was standard on my test car.
I like this feature for obvious reasons. Coming back to the car after a hot day at the zoo or park with two kids can be torturous when you get in a stiflingly hot car. Yes, I roll down the windows. Yes, I have water. But what would be even better is if the car's interior wasn't so hot and cooled even quicker from there.
Considering Parked Car Ventilation wasn't even listed on my test car's Monroney, it was a pleasant, under-the-radar surprise. Unlike many options, it's something everyone in the car can appreciate.