By Markus Unread
The environmental control panel of the 2004 Subaru Forester has three pseudo-knobs, each with two pushbuttons in the center. The knobs and buttons talk to a processor: okay so far. It has an “Auto” mode and a “Manual” mode. It turns out that Manual means “a little less Automatic.”
Unlike old mechanical temperature-settings, if the cabin temp is lower than the set point, the heating system blows maximum-temperature air out the vents. In other words, it’s completely binary in operation. I can understand that as well.
Here’s where the controller starts getting smartly stupid, in what they call Manual mode. Imagine a cold and rainy day. An old-style analog environmental control would let you defog by having the heat and air-conditioning on at the same time. Not so here. When they wrote the controller’s FW, they put down “If it’s above the temperature set point, then run the AC. If below, turn off AC and maybe apply heat - no matter what.” This results in a dangerously fogged-up
car. To compensate for their broken FW, it automatically switches to outside air, which fails slightly less.
The controller also does fun things like:
- You turn up the heat, it switches the airflow to “feet only.”
- You turn on the AC and it switches from Re-circulate to External.
- On Re-circulate, changing the Temperature, or venting, will cause it to switch to External air.
- Pushing the Defog button changes the vent to the windshield, but also switches to External and turns the blower all the way up.
I’ll stop there. It has so many “Manual” mode gremlins that I could go on all day. The worst part is that every time it goes off and does something stupid, it takes my attention off the road. Specified and designed by monkeys.