Cars with remote start

Warm up your seats, or turn on the air conditioning before you get in, with these cars with remote start

James Mills
Oct 13, 2021

When the winter brings an icy chill, it’s tempting to nip out to the car and leave it running while you finish your bowl of cereal and get your things ready. Then you’ll have a defrosted car that’s nice and warm when you want to get in it.

But, of course, an unattended car that’s been left running is like taking candy from a baby for thieves - and no one wants to start their day by realising their car has been taken.

As connectivity technology has improved, some carmakers have started offering remote start on selected models. You’ll be able to set the climate control and, in some cases, turn the engine on from your phone, while keeping the car doors locked. If you’ve got a car with remote start, you can stay toasty inside while your car gets to the perfect temperature.

Or, on the flipside, you’ve probably got into a car in the summer and felt like it’s been parked in an oven. In which case, who wants to climb into a car’s interior when it could have reached temperatures of 50°C on a pleasant 25°C day? Instead, open an app on your phone, start the car and run the air con for a couple of minutes, so you can keep your cool when you hit the road.

Some car makers allow vehicle owners to do this and much more besides, using the latest generation of specially developed smartphone apps that give drivers access to a wide range of convenience features. Remote cabin preconditioning is particularly prevalent on electric cars such as the Volkswagen ID.3, ID.4, and Renault Zoe, and you can even preheat or precool the interior while the car is still on charge.

We've listed the vehicles that offer the technology (usually as an option) below. Scroll down for more details on the legality and insurance implications of remote start.

What is remote engine start and what do drivers use it for?

It’s easy to see why anyone might want to start their car’s engine on a hot or cold day. In fact, thousands of drivers already do, the old-fashioned way we mentioned above. And if a thief does take your idling vehicle while you’re not looking, you probably won’t be insured because it’s deemed careless.

Manufacturer-fitted remote start apps are a safer way of heating or cooling your car before you get in. They make it possible to start an engine from the comfort of the breakfast table, without unlocking the doors or having a key present. Even if the opportunist thief were to smash a window and climb in, they wouldn't be able to restart the car because the smart key is not present.

Most electric cars and plug-in hybrid cars are available with a similar system, which is useful when they are plugged in. Electricity from the charging point can be used to heat or cool the car without depleting the battery.

Limitations of remote vehicle operating apps

The cars that the apps work with require an automatic gearbox and owners will need to sign up to the service, and download the relevant app for their smartphone’s operating system.

The apps depend upon both the vehicle and the user’s smartphone having a connection to the mobile phone network. So if you left your car parked at the train station, and wanted to warm it before your return train arrives home, you won’t be able to do this if you're in a tunnel.

While many electric cars offer preconditioning, some only work when the vehicle is plugged in or charging.

Are car remote start systems legal in Britain?

Those who have access to private, off-street parking are legally able to use an app to remotely start a car’s engine and leave it running without being present.

However, the Department for Transport told BuyaCar that on the public road, use of such apps “would only be lawful where the driver was in close attendance and could take control of the vehicle if needed.” It’s an example of technology appearing to outpace the lawmakers.

Insurance implications of remotely starting an engine

The Association of British Insurers said it was unable to comment on the use of such technology, as individual insurers will assess each customer and vehicle on a case by case basis.

Direct Line Group, which includes the insurers Direct Line, Churchill and Privilege, told BuyaCar that it would honour a claim for the theft of a vehicle with remote starting if the doors were locked and the keys were not used to drive the vehicle away.

Luke Parker, head of motor and rescue underwriting at Direct Line said: "Motor manufacturers have taken steps to mitigate the risk of cars with [remote start] systems being stolen, so that it shouldn't be any higher than an equivalent model without this technology.

"A good quality system should ensure the doors are locked until the owner opens them and the car cannot be driven away without the key. Anyone considering after-market fitment of these systems should ensure this level of security is met."

Safety implications

There is a final, serious point surrounding the safety of using such systems with combustion-powered cars in a confined space, such as a garage.

In America, the New York Times reports that nearly 30 people have been killed by carbon monoxide poisoning, after parking and forgetting to switch off the engine of their petrol or plug-in hybrid car, and walking indoors with the smart key in their pocket, allowing fumes to build to potentially lethal levels.

Cars with remote start

Ford: FordPass Connect

Vehicles Focus 
Phone operating systems Android and iOS
Price £250 where not fitted as standard

FordPass Connect was introduced this year as an optional extra on the new generation Focus, with an automatic gearbox. Ford dealers connect the car’s onboard modem, and the driver needs to download the FordPass app, which also offers a wide range of convenience features, to use the engine starting feature.

As with all the systems here, it automatically locks the doors while in operation – in case you didn’t lock it on your driveway – and the car can’t be opened or driven without the smartkey being present.

Jaguar: InControl Remote Premium

Vehicles E-Pace, F-Pace, XE, XF, F-Type, XJ and I-Pace 
Phone operating systems Android and Apple iOS
Price From £445

Configure either of Jaguar’s big-selling E-Pace or XE models and you might be perplexed as to why you can’t add the Connect Pro upgrade, allowing the functionality of Jaguar’s Remote Premium service. It’s most likely because the model isn’t fitted with an automatic gearbox, a basic requirement of all such convenience features.

Choose the Connect Pro options pack and it will come with Remote Premium. This adds functionality over the standard Remote app, with adjustment and timing of the climate control, horn and headlight operation, remote locking and unlocking and the ability to reset the alarm should it have triggered.

Land Rover Remote Premium

Vehicles Discovery Sport, Range Rover Evoque, Discovery, Range Rover Sport, Range Rover Velar, Range Rover
Phone operating systems Android and Apple iOS 
Price from £310

Land Rover customers who choose to add the Connect or Connect Pro pack to their car (priced from £310) enjoy Remote Premium.

One tier above the standard Remote Essentials system, the app allows the driver to start the car’s engine and adjust the temperature in the interior to their liking, in addition to other features – such as beeping the horn and flashing the lights at a crowded airport car park, or folding down the seats of your Discovery so you can load up the contents of half a garden centre during a bank holiday gardening project.

Volvo On Call

Vehicles: XC40, V60, XC60, XC90, S90, V90
Phone operating systems Android and Apple iOS  Price free for first three years; £55 for two-year extension

Sign up to Volvo’s On Call app service and for many of its post-2016 models fitted with an automatic gearbox you can use Engine Remote Start (ERS).

This allows the engine to be started and run for between one and 15 minutes, over two successive periods. (After that the car has to be started in the normal fashion.) It means the climate control can be used to cool the cabin or raise the temperature on a winter’s day.

Other features include journey logging, locking and unlocking the doors remotely, sending a destination from a phone to the car and emergency assistance for breakdowns, accidents or theft. It also supports smartwatches, tablets and desktop computers.

Other cars with remote start

 

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