Apparently this is a Volvo thing and not unique to the XC40, but the auto HVAC fan speed control may well be a deal breaker on another Volvo once my lease is up. Here in the upper midwest, the temperature can swing greatly within the course of a day... Most days there's an average difference of 20 degrees between the day's high and low temps. A fast 20 degree drop during a late summer afternoon storm is not uncommon. And these days, it's not all that uncommon for it to be 70 one week and 30 the next. All that to say, automatic climate control has become something that is very important to me in a car.
In the XC40, setting the climate control to Auto still requires you to set the Auto fan speed between Auto 1 and Auto 5. The idea is that the system will automatically control the fan speed within the selected range. So, if you have it set to Auto 3, the fan speed will automatically vary as needed, but never higher than the Auto 3 max. Conceivably, at Auto 5, you're allowing for the greatest range of fan speeds.
So, I assumed that if the needed fan speed for present conditions was, say, somewhere below the max speed allowed by Auto 3, there shouldn't be a difference in the fan speed whether you have it set to Auto 3, Auto 4 or Auto 5. I also assumed that, when set to Auto 5, the fan would blow at max speed until the desired temperature is reached, and then slow down as needed. Following this logic, when starting the car on a very cold day, setting the system to Auto 5 would mean that the fan would wait for the engine to warm up, then blow on max speed until the desired temperature was approaching, and then slow down to a more comfortable fan speed as needed to maintain the set temperature.
But that's not how it works. The higher the Auto fan setting, the higher the overall speed of the fan irrespective of conditions, including the "resting" fan speed, which I mean to be the fan speed that is maintained once the car has reached the desired temperature. So today, for example, it was in the upper 20's this morning. I started the car and selected Auto 5. The car warmed up as I drove and, indeed, the fan really started blowing. But 25 minutes later, the inside of the car was toasty, and the fan was still blowing at what seemed to be the max fan speed.. certainly a very high fan and unnecessarily so, as evidenced by the fact that the system had considerably lowered the temp of the air it was blowing and it almost felt cool.
So why not just set the fan down to Auto 3, you ask? Well, that's what you have to do. But then when you park your car at your destination and it cools off, when you start it back up again you have to turn the fan speed back up because Auto 3 isn't cutting it. The same issue happens on hot days. The average/"resting" fan speed and overall fan behavior is very different between the different Auto fan settings.
I find it very aggravating. I thought I'd get used to it, but after 4 months, I haven't. Today was the first sub-30 day driving the car, and the Auto system proved to be an impractical design. I appreciate that some people may want their "average/resting" fan speed to be higher or lower than others, so in that sense the system makes sense. But that's just not how it works in practice. I can't stand having to fumble through multiple layers of touchscreens to manually raise and lower the HVAC fan numerous times per trip, especially in a $48,000 car.
Thanks for reading this long post. I hope it makes sense. I'd appreciate your thoughts on this, especially if you've moved into a Volvo after having become accustomed to the typical automatic climate control operation of other manufacturers.