So half the mystery is solved then (outside temp) but Ford not documenting the threshold (or a way to modify it) seems half-baked.
Anybody have an idea of what the magical temperature threshold is? Anecdotally, from my experience it has to be cold since I was was bundled up and I was still cold but my Escape didn't think that was cold enough to pre-heat the seats or steering wheel.
It's 32 degrees F (per threads on other Ford forums (F150, Focus, Edge) -- as verified by personal experience).
Here's what I've been able to figure out based on trial and error:
1. If you set the applicable settings to "auto" in the IPC and then remote start with the key fob only
(not FordPass), and the outside temp is below 32F, the seat heaters will come on. However, the lights on the seat heater buttons on the dash will NOT illuminate (not sure why). After remote starting, the car has to be running for awhile for you to be able to tell the difference -- an unoccupied seat heats more slowly than an occupied one, due to compression of the padding -- so be sure your remote start time is set to something like 15 minutes not 5.
2. If you remote start with the FordPass app, it may
turn on the heated seats if the outside temp is below 32F the first time
-- there seems to be no rhyme or reason to whether this will work or not. However, after starting once with the FordPass app, the settings will erase and revert to "off" for the seat heaters for all future remote starts
(whether keyfob or FordPass initiated).
3. If equipped with heated steering wheel, and steering wheel heat on remote start is set to "auto" in IPC, heated steering wheel will come on if you start with the key fob regardless of outside temp.
Heated steering wheel light on dash button will
illuminate to show it's active.
4. If you remote start with the FordPass app, it may
turn on the heated steering wheel (regardless of outside temp) the first time
-- there seems to be no rhyme or reason to whether this will work or not. However, after starting once with the FordPass app, the settings will erase and revert to "off" for the heated steering wheel, just like the seat heaters.
5. If the car is running from remote start and you press the ignition button to actually turn it on and start driving, any of seat heaters or heated wheel that are on, will turn off when you press ignition button. You will have to turn them all on manually again.
Personally, I've resolved to not start with the FordPass app unless I can't start with the keyfob (due to distance, etc.) and moved my remote start run time up to the maximum.