Anyone who wears polarized sunglasses should know that they can make things look a bit screwy once inside a car. Window tint can look like it has squares imprinted in it, colorful in-dash displays can get a little psychedelic and head-up displays can completely disappear.
Because of this, I avoided polarized sunglasses for years. As I was constantly testing different cars from different manufacturers, I couldn’t have my sunglasses throwing an unnecessary personal variable into reviewing a car. Besides, my non-polarized Oakleys were just fine for the California sun. I also didn’t want every other review I wrote to have a Con of “instruments disappear with polarized sunglasses” – something that always irked me when Patrick Bedard would review something for Car and Driver. And if memory serves me right, BMW was often in his crosshairs for radio displays that would disappear when wearing his polarized sunglasses.
Which is all why a PR pitch from BMW Eyewear caught my attention. Apparently, they have something called Vi/ON lenses that contain a special polarized filter produced by Dalloz Creations that supposedly prevents in-car displays from distorting or disappearing altogether. Sounds like a game changer, especially for head-up displays, which continue to suffer the most from polarized sunglasses despite all-digital gauge clusters and other interior displays being generally impervious nowadays. Indeed, I once drove a Kia Stinger for four hours before I took off my polarized sunglasses (yes, I eventually made the plunge) and discovered the thing had a HUD beaming info onto the windshield the entire time. Some HUDs are better than others in this regard, but all suffer to some extent with polarized sunglasses.
Well, most polarized sunglasses apparently. Let’s see how these BMW Eyewear Drop Collection sunglasses do, specifically the BW0005 “navigator frame” that markets for $219 when fitted with the Vi/ON lenses. There are two other design options available in the 2021 collection plus a third does not seem to be available with the Vi/ON lenses.
Since they are BMW-branded sunglasses, testing them in a new BMW was in order: a 2021 4 Series Convertible. I also checked them out in a pair of older BMWs, a 2013 BMW X5 and a 1998 BMW Z3. I also tested them in a 2021 Kia Telluride, since I already knew Kia’s HUD would present a challenge. As a control, I used a pair of Oakley Latch sunglasses with Prizm Sapphire Polarized lenses that I knew could distort certain interior displays and diminish HUDs.
BMW 4 Series Convertible
On the left is the view with the BMW Eyewear Vi/ON lenses. On the right are the Oakley Prizm Sapphire Polarized lenses. These photos are true to what I was seeing.
It is quite clear, literally, that the Vi/ON filter works and that the head-up display is more visible and easily read with the BMW Eyewear glasses. The HUD is a bit dimmer than without sunglasses on, but it is still perfectly readable.
This is a far more concrete result, once again proving that Kia’s HUD gets along worse with polarized sunglasses than those of other carmakers, including BMW.
On the left, is the view with the BMW Eyewear Vi/ON lens. On the right, is the view with the Oakleys. You can certainly see why I failed to see that Stinger’s HUD.
As for other vehicle displays, I didn’t notice any difference with any of the cars I tested. Both the BMW and Kia’s digital/animated instrument panels were always legible and undistorted regardless of glasses, as were other interior displays. I would be curious to see how they’d perform with the colorful, low-mounted displays found in upper-crust Bimmers like the 7 Series and current X5 as those can create some hippy-dippy distortions with the Oakleys. Unfortunately, I didn’t have one of those cars on hand.
I also didn’t notice any distortion in the various amber LCD displays in the 2013 BMW X5 and 1998 BMW Z3. Apparently, Mr. Bedard’s beef with BMW was isolated between those eras, which makes sense given that’s when those reviews were written.
So, how about that. A product delivers as promised. The Dalloz Creations Vi/ON polarized filter does indeed work better inside a car than those of at least Oakley and likely most other polarized sunglasses. As for the glasses themselves, BMW Eyewear is produced by the Marcolin Group, which produces eyewear for a diverse array of brands, including Ermenegildo Zegna, Harley-Davidson, Marciano, Skechers, Swarovski and Omega. In total, it sold about 14 million eyeglasses in 2019.
Fashion wise, I don’t think I’ll be giving up my Oakleys, but there’s no denying that BMW Eyewear is the better choice for driving. Especially, quite ironically, while driving a Kia.