As a long time car dealer, I get to look at the elements of car design all day long.
Thousands of cars. Tens of thousands of cars. In person. Online. Sometimes even in my sleep. While most of you get the luxury of admiring the varying shapes and sizes of cars you see in your commutes, I get the automotive version of Wall Street.
My goal in the car business is to buy low, sell high, repair the ones I can retail, and find people who will love that car and my personalized service so much, that they will become loyal long-time customers with a care-free ride. Yes, there is plenty of art on top of those four wheels. But the money issue is never far behind.
I guess you can say that I run the automotive version of a dating service. I like ‘coupling’ these cars with owners who often times buy with their eyes, which brings on a selfish question.
What about me?
What car should I have for myself? I travel over 30,000 miles a year and with that, I have a unique list of priorities that are far different than the average new car buyer.
It begins with this…
This is the most important part of the car for me. Whatever car I drive, it comes with a seat that has a sizable impact on my health and well-being due to all those miles I travel.
This seat here I recently sat in for nearly 17 hours on a trip from Long Island, New York to Atlanta, Georgia.
I woke up at 6:00 A.M., was on the road by 6:10 A.M. and didn’t make it home until 11:20 P.M. That’s an awful lot of time to contract pain and discomfort.
As we say in the auction business, this seat, “didn’t miss a lick.” In fact, I was so comfortable and well-positioned, that I managed to wake up early the next day, walk my son to the school bus, and mowed my lawn for the next 3 hours straight. Ill effects? None, and I happen to be a 40 year old guy who has a compressed and calcified spine in my L5 region.
So color me impressed with the seats in the Avalon. In the real world that is driving through interstates, traffic jams, and suburbia, I would argue that the seat you sit on, and the dashboard you look at, are far more important than those varying shapes and silhouettes of modern exterior car design.
This is another way of me saying that with today’s design constraints, I rarely fall in love with the surface of a car. It’s what happens between opening and exiting that driver’s door which matters the most in my playbook.
There have been other seats that have given me comparable support over the course of years.
My daily driver at the moment is a 15 year old forest green Volvo wagon that I bought for $1000; specifically because the seats in it offer a near perfect combination of posture, safety and support. I was able to duplicate the 17 hour drive with a 16 hour one with family in tow back in 2007; thanks to the indefatigable qualities of that Volvo driver seat.
Seats are obviously a big deal for me. But how about you? What are the best and worst seats you have ever sampled in your travels. For the few motorheads among the brethren, feel free to include motorcycle seats into the mix as well.
I’m on my third Volvo and I have worked with car preparation so I have driven quite a few different makes and models.
Maybe the 300 series were a bit worse but other than that all the Volvos I have driven (practically all models from the 200’s onward) are about equally good.
2013 Fiesta is the best so far, in my 30 years of (licensed) driving, and I’m doing 160 miles a day, with no back issues.
Worst was the ’64 Cadillac, but only due to wear and tear of the seats and springs. For that matter, the 5 gallon bucket I temporarily used in my ’46 Willys was worse, but obviously not stock.
A rented first-gen Neon had abominable seats that put my legs to sleep. It will be hard for any seat to be worse than that.
I loved my 66 Fury III, but its bench seat was not a pleasant place to spend long stretches of time. It was not worn out, as it was a very low mile car. I made a 10 hour drive from Indianapolis to Philadelphia in that car, and kept having to periodically stick a pillow under the small of my back, then take it out once the pillow became uncomfortable. And I was a healthy 28 year old guy.
The best car seat I ever owned was in my 77 New Yorker Brougham. A nice long bottom cushion that did not end mid-thigh, firm yet soft padding, and multiple power adjustments. Add the telescoping steering wheel to vary my arm positions, and it was a winner.
The seat and hip point are numero uno. After I’m happy, I look at the rest of what I want. I have two cars with great seats. 2010 Prius and 2012 Buick LaCrosse — both leather. I like to sit “in” the seat not on it and both work. The worst seats were all of my Dad’s 1950’s panel trucks. All springs and zero padding.
To be honest, I never paid much attention to seating comfort until I turned 60. Seating wasn’t even on the radar when I was grinding my way through the gears on my Grandfathers early 60’s Hillman Minx.
I have a 60s Hillman Minx and no its not very comfortable on long trips the gears are sweet though.
Worst= 97 Buick Lesabre custom…no thigh support caused major pain in my knees
Best= 89 6000 STE firm, supportive and impossible to not find a great position with the 12 way power seat.
Completely agree. Buick in general, no support. Pontiac, firm and supportive. I never thought of seats until I got aches and pains in this Buick. JUNK seats.
That’s a shame because Buick, when it was a separate division, went to extraordinary lengths to make sure seats were comfortable without pressure points, and tested with real humans of various stature.
I haven’t driven any, but the “new Buick” seats are supposedly pretty good (Verano anyway). The Lucerne’s are just awful. There’s no lower back or butt support whatsoever. I’m rather young, but stepping out of it makes me feel a hundred years old. I have to swing my left leg damn near 90 degrees to crawl out of it.
They did even on the 97’s, I remember the video, the catch was that the best seats were in the LeSabre Limited and up models, the Park Avenues and Rivieras, along with the last couple of years of Roadmaster Limited had the special seats.
With current cars, the size of the console area is becoming an influence on seat comfort. While I didn’t drive them, just yesterday I sat in a new Taurus, Focus, and Fiesta. In all three, particularly the Fiesta, the console interfered with comfort and getting my foot on the go pedal. A new Mustang was the best of the four. From what I sat in, I’d go with the F-150 as it had no peripheral seat issues.
For simply the seat itself, the worst I’ve experienced is the GM G-20 vans and any model of Ford Escape. An ’08 Escape I had at work was quite deceptive; it appears comfortable yet back problems quickly set in. When it went away, so did the back pain.
The goods would be any Panther, ’75 Thunderbird, the Dodge Dynasty (truly), and an E-150 I have currently, however it does have aftermarket seats built by Flex-Steel.
All the goods tend to be overlooked due to the quality of the bads.
That’s so true about the consoles interfering with leg room. Even for someone like me who’s only 5’7” it can be a problem. From my experience, BMWs are among the worst when it comes to obtrusive consoles, especially the passenger’s side.
What drives me mad are the front-wheel drive automatics that *still* have to have a big honking console. My old Avalon had a split-bench front seat and no console, and was a joy to sit in. When I went to replace it, I couldn’t find anything like it in any of the newer model years. I just can’t figure it out. Who makes these decisions?
Best-1999 Saab 9-5 nicest seats of any car I have ever owned.
Worst-2006 Dodge Charger or Dodge Stratus. Cheap material, awful driving position and dash layout.
I am with you on this. Seat comfort is far and away most important. I recently sat in a 2013 Altima which features “NASA Inspired Zero Gravity Seats”. The seat was amazingly comfortable and the owner said that it is wonderful. If these seats are available in the Rogue that will be our next car.
Here is some technical info:http://www.sae.org/mags/sve/11073/
Isn’t it amazing how much science and R&D go into a seat?
I just got a 2013 Altima as a daily driver a couple weeks ago, and the seats were high on the list of reasons why I chose it. It replaces an older Subaru with some too firm leather seats. I also have a P2 Volvo V70R, and agree with the above sentiments about their seats being superlative. The Altima’s are like floating on a cushion of clouds, insanely comfortable in all respects, but lacking in lateral grip. The V70R’s are that comfortable, but with all the lateral, and upper shoulder grip to keep you that comfortable through the hardest turns.
The seats in the Altima suit it to a T though, combined with the ultrasmooth CVT (I’m a full-on convert), it is a very comfortable, quiet and capable cruiser. Plus I can easily hit 40 mpg on the highway, which is great for its size and power.
For a taller guy a long enough seat cushion and cushion tilt are the most important things. I like a lot of thigh support and tend to tilt the cushion at an extreme angle to get that.
Too long seat cushions can be uncomfortable for shorter people so the best combination of features is cushion tilt + thigh extension. To me these features are more important than power seat controls.
The very worst is a fixed seat cushion that feels like it’s sloping downhill.
When seats are good I rarely notice them. When they are bad I notice them immediately. I’ve heard the same thing about the Altima seats, you notice them right away.
The only time seats struck me as unusually comfortable was in a late 80s Volvo 760. They were so broad and strong it felt like you were being cradled in the hand of God.
Anyone who commutes regularly in traffic will relate to this article. Whenever people whine about boring appliance cars I automatically assume they don’t spend much time in traffic. Nice seats, a quiet smooth ride, pleasant interior with good ergonomics – these are the things you appreciate every time you get in your car, for the entire ride.
I recognized those S70 seats instantly, very comfortable. Best seats I ever had were the Recaros in my 1990 GLI, although my first gen Avalon is overall far more comfortable with its smooth ride and leather barcalounger thrones. Worst would have to be a very late model regular cab Ranger with vinyl seats, but that’s hardly a fair comparison.
I get a real kick when I read gearheads scream about apexes and handling in the twisties, replete a gearshift that falls readily to hand.
Try spending a Vancouver rush-hour commute with your manual transmission BRZ. That’s why the humble Camry flies out of the stores so well. Comfortable, reliable, good ergonomics.
If car companies catered to gearheads on web boards, they would never make a cent of profit.
If people knew how to drive a car like gearheads do, there would be less time stuck in traffic. Nothing like a ***** in a CamCord holding up the flow of traffic in the fast lane.
Fast lane? What is that? We don’t have those. We have the slow and slower lane.
While I admit that AT is a great tool to beat heavy and chaotic city traffic… MT is perfectly OK too, provided the right setup, good low torque and skill.
I do not consider myself a very good driver, but I successfully lived through the mayhem of Moscow traffic for nearly 10 years – the last 3 were packed full with bottlenecks-turn-racetrack situations. My 3 SAAB-9000s were totally unstressful, relaxing even.
Oh, and their seats, especially the Recaros in Aero, were next to none.
My 1990 Jetta had not only the best seats, but the entire interior/relation of controls, pedals, etc. were as if I was measured for the car. It was as comfortable at 275,000 miles as it was when I bought it at 70,000.
We won’t discuss the rest of the car here.
Those Volvo seats are the best I’ve experienced as well. In fact, they’re one of the reasons why I’m currently driving an ’04 XC70. Yes, it looks like a soccer mom car, but those seats…
The worst I’ve had to endure? Aside from the Citroën 2CV I used to drive in Europe, which is sort of an “hors catégorie” car, it has to be my friend’s 1999 Honda Civic that I drove from MA to NY on one occasion. Not only were the seat cushions too short for me, the backrest had such pronounced lumbar support that it actually hurt my back and forced me to sit in a very uncomfortable position. Never, ever again.
Up until a year or so ago, I was in a similar situation to Mr Lang: often I would leave home at 7:30 am and not return to 11:00 pm. My seat time could easily be six hours and this in what is now rated the worst traffic in North America. At the time I had my 2008 Honda Fit. The Fit excelled at carrying samples and it was easy to drive in traffic but after an hour the seat gave me serious back pain. Anyone who has had the misfortune of such pain knows it won’t go away when are sitting in the posture that gave you the pain to begin with.
This is the reason I had to get rid of the Fit. I needed a car with all day comfort. In the fall of 2010 I drove an Acura TL to Saskatoon for my buddy’s wife to drive. That car had an all day seat and handled very well, so I went looking for one. I wanted to keep the Fit, but there was no way my wife was going to drive a standard.
A year after buying the TL, I sold one of my companies. Now I am driving maybe 30 minutes a day. Sometimes I lament not having the Fit, as it was cheap to fun but the fact is, the bigger car is just a lot more comfortable.
Agree 100%. The Fit seats are fine for shorter drives, but all day in it and my middle-aged body starts to protest.
I also need to mention another great seat that I omitted earlier – my 94 Ford Club Wagon Chateau. The captain’s chair with the twin flip-down armrests was the place to be, no matter how long the drive. It even had a power lumbar support.
Im 5’6″, and the Fit “fits” me perfectly. The reason it may be optimum for shorter drivers is because it is really a JDM car adapted to this market, unlike models sold only in North America.
Im also 60 years old, but can drive most modern vehicles all day without too much discomfort. What does get me is when the seat cushion and floor relationship cut off circulation. Again, this is probably a short vs tall driver issue.
One final note on the Fit. While the center stack is a nightmare, I found the Fiesta worse. Straight ahead, he very traditional-looking instrument cluster is very good, since that is what I am looking at all day.
I’m 5 11 and legroom is a bit short in my Fit. However, the biggest problem on a long (3 hour) drive is that the seat bottom somehow turns into granite after about 2 hours. People tell me that I may be just a mite overweight, but maybe I need to put on 100 pounds or so to up my natural padding a bit. Ice cream anyone? 🙂
Subarus are sometimes considered to be the Swedish car of Japanese cars – quirky, fun, practical. But if my 02 Outback is any indication they miss the mark seat-wise. Thighs too short, too much lumbar etc.
Still miles better than the old Chevette Scooter that I once rode in from Norfolk VA to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, straight through.
Agreed about Volvo. The best I’ve sat in were the “thrones” in an XC90. I’m sure the standard ones are great too, but I got the luxury of the upgraded “Sovereign Leather” design. They were some incredible seats.
The worst probably an ’06 Chevy Silverado. Way too firm and absolutely no body contour at all. Made my shoulder blades very uncomfortable.
The best: 2003 Subaru Legacy SE wagon, our current older car. Cloth seats with no height or lumbar adjustment, but nonetheless ideal for me and my 6-inch-shorter wife (likewise a sibling who also owned one for a few years).
The worst: GM X-cars of the early 1980s, specifically an Olds Omega and a Buick Skylark that I drove MN-to-NJ via Auto Driveaway. Utterly unsupportive. (The Olds belonged to Herman Cain and his wife, back when he was at Burger King, then owned by Pillsbury Co. when it was still independent.)
Honorable bench-seat mention: my long-gone ’66 Bonneville convertible, leather & Morrokide with 6-way power adjustment. Wonderful for amour on back-country dirt roads when parked, not so much for driving.
“The best: 2003 Subaru Legacy SE wagon…”
We had a 2002 Subaru Legacy SE wagon until last year. Although the car had many good points, both my wife and I found the seats uncomfortable for long trips – and ours had a power drivers seat with height and lumbar adjustments. I think the seat cushion was just too hard and too short to be comfortable on long drives.
I’ve just come back from a 2000 km+ trip in our new Forester, and while the seats are not perfect they are a big step up from the Legacy seats.
I guess seats are like shoes – what fits one person may not work for another.
Best seats for long trips that I’ve experienced: our old Plymouth Voyager that we owned in the late ’90s.
I drive among other things a Citroen Xsara very comfortable for long journeys excellent seats and the Scania I drove last night would rival any car for sheer comfort those are designed for 12 hour comfort with infinite air adjustment.
Best seat ever was one I pulled out of a Monza to fit in my Vega. It resembled a recaro seat, and kept you firmly in place regardless how much hoonery was going on at the time. Was also quite comfortable on long trips.
I find the seats in our gen 4 Town & Country to be very tiring on long trips…
@Jason Shafer: I think I share your reservations about the Escape. The front seats look like they should be great, and never bother me for shorter runs, but I secretly enjoy taking a *long* drive in the older Taurus.
I have a faint memory of (late-1980s) VW Rabbit/Cabrio cars having nicely supportive seats (maybe shared with GTI?)–anyone have a long-term experience with those?
Never owned one, but I’ve driven and been a passenger in everything from base model late-80s Golfs to decked out Quantums and all of them had pretty great seats. Never took a long drive in one, though.
Best – 1995 Chrysler LHS
Worst – 1969 VW Beetle – I was too young to notice
Worst – Chevette
Pretty good – 1996 Buick Regal Olympic Gold Edition
Bad – Back seat of 1997 Camry on a long drive
Not as good as you would expect – 1989 Delta 88
Not bad for an economy car – 1983 Subaru GL
You make a great point, one that I would think would get made more often. The population is aging, and the young people are broke. Not only seat comfort and space, but ingress and egress matter more than the way the sheet metal is bent when one starts to get arthritic. A few years ago, when I couldn’t find a comfortable Avalon to replace my old one, I thought I’d have to get a van just so I could get in and out!
Best seats for comfort was the Jaguar S-Type R. Good bolstering, and extremely comfortable.
My current ride is a Focus ST with the Recaro seats. Great for keeping you in place, but I haven’t done a long distance drive in them yet. I’m a thin guy ( 6’1″, 160 lbs ) so they aren’t that constrictive on my frame.
Worst that I’ve experienced was my 06 Honda Civic coupe. After just an hour or so I’d have to get out of the car to walk around a bit. Truly painful!
Audi and Volvo seats are usually a cut above…..
Surprisingly the best seats in any car I’ve ever owned were the ones in a 1978 VW Rabbit. There was just something about them that permitted me to adjust them to a perfect driving position. Even when the car had 115k miles the driver’s seat was still comfortable, although the “Leatherette” was starting to wear through.
Hard to say what was the worst, when I started driving nearly all cars had bench seats that, mostly, only slid back and forth. It was up to the driver to make the needed adjustments with his body. Of course this is much easier to do when you’re 17 years old.
I think the ass- seat interface is one of the most personal things a human will encounter. What I like I can generally be certain my wife will hate while our son usually comes down somewhere completely different. Her favorite car in the past 25 years is still an Audi 100 we had for 6 months while restoring an old Pontiac convertible. I hated that damn car. Had I known I’d hear about it for the next few decades, I would have kept it. Hindsight. Always 20-20.
None of these are as bad as a long flight in a narrow-body Boeing coach seat, where the airline has jammed in as many as possible and restricted recline. The 757 is popular for mainland-Hawaii flights and is almost universally hated by passengers.
Back in the old days (before 9/11), many airlines sent widebody jets (747,DC10,L1011) to Hawaii. Also, widebody jets used to travel between the West Coast (San Francisco, Los Angeles) to the East Coast (New York, Boston, Washington DC). Now, we have 737s,757s and various Airbus narrowbodies.
Best seats were in my 1983 Rabbit GTI. Great in the twisties but also comfortable on long drives. The short 5th gear, revving at 4,000 rpm at freeway speeds wasn’t so comfortable.
Worst seats were the vinyl bench seats in a 1990 Toyota Pickup that I borrowed for a few weeks. The car had about 250k miles on it and I could feel the individual springs in my butt.
Steven, You and I are on the same page with this. My first concern is my comfort/safety. The Volvo you mention and the S80 are hard ones to beat. Being a big fan of Lexus and a customer for ten years and five vehicles I can say Lexus has finally gotten the message on seats. For years they seemed to be designed for a person 5.5. With their addition of cushions extensions and more lumbar support they have made my world much more comfortable.
The first car I remember having an outstanding comfortable driver’s seat was the 1995-2001 BMW 7 Series, next came the generation Volvo you speak of.
When I was younger the back seat of the early 80’s Fleetwood’s were so comfortable, then age robbed me of the freedom of lumbar support.
Of the cars I have owned:
– Worst: 1989 Taurus SHO. Squishy seat bottom, like sitting on a giant marshmallow. Intrusive seat-back bolsters. Unbelievably cheap materials, especially so-called ‘leather’ trim, which showed signs of wear within weeks.
– Best: 1993 Mazda MX-6. Fit like a glove, excellent under-thigh and lumbar support. Somehow managed to be relatively softly padded, but never lost its shape or support.
– Second best: Current car, 2009 Infiniti EX-35. Firm but perfectly shaped for driving all day. Passengers have commented positively about the seats.
– Rant: I wish we were not forced to accept leather seats with higher trim / (near-) luxury vehicles. I just don’t understand why seats that are hot/sticky/sweaty in the summer, and rock-hard and cold in the winter are considered a ‘luxury’ upgrade. (Yes, I know that the EX35 is available with cloth seats in the U.S., in the base model. We don’t get even that limited option in Canada.) And don’t get me started on ‘plastic leather’ seats in M-B’s and BMW’s. End rant.
Louis, I completely agree with your last paragraph. This mess they call leather today is terrible. I have heard many explanations but the most convincing was one I heard at a national car club workshop where the person conducting the workshop said hides are being cut super thin today. I have a current year car and cars that were born in the 60’s that still have their original leather. I can tell you my new car’s interior will never last 50 years. And like you I still enjoy the option of cloth seating.
Re: Rant The Queen of England rides on cloth seats. Probably some wonderful silk or something. The chauffeur rides on leather.
I love the side bolsters on the SHO/SuperCoupe seats, that’s my favorate part about them! I agree about the bottom cushion(pillow) and materials quality though. The base cloth and tweed versions hold up way better than the full leather. I’d also add that I find the notchy seatback adjustment makes it impossible to get fully comfortable(despite the array of slow electric adjustments) and I can never get the headrests positioned anywhere near my head (the opposite of most newer Fords)
The side bolsters were certainly effective. They just got in the way each time I entered/exited the car.
I’m totally with Steven on this one. Having gone through back surgery in the past seat comfort is important and I’ve always has a thing for the attractiveness of the gauge cluster.
My 88 BMW 325ix had the best seats of any car I’ve owned. They were heated and the driver’s seat had an extender in the front for additional leg support. Car was a machine on the interstate but not so happy on broken city streets. The red gauge cluster was awesome and reminded me of a plane cockpit at night.
Worst? The seats in my 2000 Honda CRV were like hard cardboard, just a notch below the cloth ones in my 2000 Outback.
My general experience is that replacing cloth with seats with leather of the same variety adds additional padding and comfort.
My next will hopefully be a 2005-2008 Outback Limited. The leather seats are great and I love the look of the gauge cluster, not to mention the need to never have to chain up.
Here’s my experience with cars I’ve been in and owned:
’65 Olds F-85, bench – Thick and comfortable, can really sink in for being a bench, a little weak on lumbar but nice on upper back
’70 El Camino, bench – Comfortable but not that supportive, lacking lumbar support
’83 Bonneville, bench – Supportive and comfortable but a bit short under thighs and behind back
’83 Olds 98 Regency Brougham, split bench – Very soft but weak lumbar
’87 Caprice, split bench – Best yet, have driven for 7 hours and was still comfortable, supportive all around and cradles your back
’93 Caravan, bucket – Moderate support, not bad
’98 Sentra, bucket – Supportive but a little hard, wouldn’t want a long trip in one
’11 Kia Soul – Too hard, barely any cushioning
Best seat- my Citroen AX GT. It was like it was designed around my arse and was a surprisingly good quality velour. However I’m not particularly tall and anyone who weighed much more than me would have found the cushioning too soft.
Worst? A toss up between early 1970s Holden Kingswood bench seats which always seemed to want to roll you off the edge and my 1984 Honda Civic. The Civic- flat, hard, unsupportive, with vinyl bolsters guaranteed to burn you thighs in summer.
Add me to people who don’t see the point of leather as a ” luxury” worth paying for!
I’m surprised to read these seats were comfortable. I looked at pictures of the Avalon online this week and I thought they looked cheap because there didn’t appear to be much support on the sides/thigh area.
These days most seats are at least OK. Lots of good ones. Still, domestics more often than others remind of a haystack. Or a sack of wool. Japanese are sometimes short in squab (e.g. 03-08 Acura TL) and have poor back profile, Euros usually are good with Swedes leading. That said, I could not get myself totally comfortable in a XC90, nor in the new XC70.
Loved seats, both front and rear, in all 7 SAABs that I had/have, Aero being the best of the best.
I usually don’t have bad luck with car seats, but I have a few favorites that stand out. I drove a Lincoln Town Car limo for a few years with my neighbor, and I could spend all day in that car and hardly feel it when I finished my runs. Of the rentals I’ve driven over the years, I really liked the VW Passat I got once last year. I’ve also found the Toyota Camry to be a very comfortable long-distance ride, though it doesn’t handle anywhere near as well as the Passat. I rented a Mazda 5 for our vacation a few weeks ago, and I found the seats to be just firm enough and quite comfortable for the week we had it. As for the least-comfortable seats I’ve had, the worst in recent memory would be the Corolla my wife and I drove from Toronto, Ontario to Orlando a few years ago. The trip down wasn’t bad, but the trip back was quite uncomfortable, especially the final day’s drive from Tennessee to Toronto. I just couldn’t get into a comfortable position and I limped for two days after we got home. For shorter trips they’re OK, but if I know that I’ll have a longer drive, I’ll gladly spend the extra cash for a larger car, or get something like a Sentra or Sonata – the seats are more comfortable, and the slight extra legroom makes a big difference on a long trip.
Best seats: 1984 Saab 900S, 1972 Volvo 142S. Lord love the Swedes, they sure know how to make car seats.
2007Infiniti M45S. I drove the M45S today for five hours straight, then another 2.5 hours later in the day. No problems. Seats are heated and cooled: a fantastic feature!.
2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD. Very nice ventilated leather seats, but it is the “hip point” that makes them super-comfortable. Very good driving position.
Worst seats: 1993 Mercury Sable Wagon with manual adjustments. This car gave me sciatic pain like crazy. I had to use an orthopedic seat supporter to be able to stand driving it. And yet our 1990 Taurus wagon with power seats was just fine.
2007 Kia Amanti. The driver’s seat seemed fine in test driving, but later, after I would be driving over an hour, I experienced right-sided sciatic pain and right leg spasms. The seat could not be adjusted back far enough, and the thigh support was terrible. I traded in that car mainly because of that driver’s seat.
I spent a day recently driving a buddy’s CTS from Portland to Berkeley. The seat was very comfortable, but the center console dug into my leg so hard it left a bruise. That center console problem is on a huge number of new cars, and it leads me to believe that I may not be able to find a new car that will be comfortable. Hence my current ride, a TTAC approved Panther platform.
Best so far: Saab 9000, save for some center console bite, the seats are fantastic.
Worst so far: 1978 Datsun 620 baby-king cab, those seats were so worn out, It would have been more comfortable to replace them with a milk crate.
Neat topic. Why blow off an otherwise good vehicle just because the driver’s seat doesn’t fit your body? Assuming the ride is OK, an aftermarket seat may be the ticket. Recaro, for example, has an excellent reputation, and they offer a line of product built specifically for comfort. I am sure there must be other worthy brands. Even a wrecking yard transplant might work in some cases.
In my situation with the Kia Amanti, I did look into getting an after-market seat installed, but I was also frustrated with the ride quality of the car. When new the car had a nice Buick-like ride. After the first year and a half, the limitations of the suspension design became apparent. I made Kia replace the shocks and struts under warranty, but it only helped a little. Ride was now wallowly rather than soft, and harsh going over road imperfections. I even tried replacing the springs with H&R sport springs, but the ones that were sent did not fit the 2007 version. No aftermarket shocks were available at that time. Taken all together, I was ready to move on. The Infiniti I replaced it with is a fantastic car and I have no regrets. I hope Kia has hired a German engineer to help them improve their suspensions.
Guy who parks in our lot has a new 2014 Impala and he says the seats are 100% great. Has anyone tried one? I know Paul covered the new Impala recently.
My 1958 Plymouth convertible had the worst seat ever. Driving it to Lake Tahoe and back in 1978 gave me a week’s backache. It also made me think that it may have been the reason my wife and I argued so much when we drove the car to Ohio and back in 1968, and being ten years younger and having driven fewer cars with really good seats at that time didn’t think about how bad the Plymouth’s seat was.
One thing I like a lot about power seats nowadays is that on a long trip you can adjust them just a little bit in several different directions, thus not be stuck in one position the whole way.
This will surprise you: I found one of the most comfortable long-day-of-driving cars was a 1989 Chevy Celebrity station wagon with bench seats. The secret: it was ordered with the heavy-duty seats offered for police and taxicab use. Nice and firm, quality fabric, good lumbar support and no “hot spots.” Obviously, I wasn’t driving it in gymkhanas.
Leather is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. I too wish cloth seats could be found in more vehicles.
I agree with you about the seat, Steven. The seat, dash layout and overall ergonomics are prime considerations for me. Three of the cars of my past that were great in regard to road trips were my 1973 Dodge Charger Rallye, 1980 Dodge Mirada and 1986 Chrysler Laser. The 1979 Plymouth Sapporo was quite good, also. What I liked sitting in in the showroom and also test-driving was the now discontinued Suzuki Kizashi. For me, it was one of the best of the current crop of cars. At a big new car auto show, sitting in lots of cars, I anticipated that I’d like the Focus. The seat felt less than ideal. I then went over to a Fiesta and found the seat to be far better, and really just right. At another auto show in the past 10 years, I sat in as many cars as I could and found one of the Saabs to have a really great seat.
My 2005 Mazda6 was the worst. It took the first two years of ownership for me to find a position I could live with that didn’t make me hurt. The seat back was too concave for 5’7” me. There was way too much support at shoulder height and I always felt like my shoulders were being pushed forward unnaturally. Eventually I discovered that slouching in the seat brought my shoulders under the ridiculously over-supportive top of the seat, and made the car quite bearable for long journeys. Probably wasn’t good for my back mind you…!
It’s hard to say what the best was. My current Nissan has great seats but too little side bolstering. Actually, I lie, it has no side bolstering. The seats are soft and comfy, but a bit too close to the floor. Perfect headrests though – which brings me to my pet peeve about too many modern seats: the strongly forward-thrusting headrests which force my head forward at an unnatural and pain-inducing angle. Those stupid headrests would make or break my car buying decisions.
Because there is such a wide range of differences in height and weight among drivers, what is a horrible seat for one person may be a just right seat for another. And vice versa. This is one time trusting a road tester/reviewer would not be wise for anyone. Sometimes you just gotta find out for yourself.
I think Peugeot used to be known for having comfortable seats…not sure if it is still true, since they haven’t sold new ones in the US for more than 20 years now…..we rented a 505, and the seats were very nice; my Father also used to have a Renault R10, though an inexpensive car, also had very nice seats (though pre-1969, they had no head restraints).
+1 on the leather. I possess two 1-owner (me) ’96 Volvos with very similar miles and histories, one cloth, one faux-suede plus leather. While the seats are as comfortable as everyone has been saying, the faux-suede plus leather combo is starting to look like Mad Max’s ride, while the cloth looks like it did when I picked it up at the port in Baltimore 17 years ago – it wears like iron only better.
Right on with the Peugeot seats too – I drove a mid-Seventies 504 in the late 70’s; car suspension plus seats were incredible comfort-wise. If I recall correctly, the seats were all high-quality foam; no springs.
My 1992 Legacy had weirdly wonderful seats: just a couple adjustments, yet perfect for me. The seat cushion was long, the bolstering was surprisingly aggressive for a family sedan, and the lumbar bulge was well-positioned.
Among our newer cars, the 2006 Passat had magnificent all-day seats.
I know that leather has extreme-temp problems, but for those of us with pets, it’s way better! When cat hair migrated to the (cloth) seats of our Accord, it would slowly transfer to our clothes for months afterwards. We had to keep a lint roller in the car. A good vinyl upholstery (like our Passat) is actually my favorite: cat-hair repellent and maximum durability!
A word about leather: back in the days you sat on leather. Nowadays you sit on polyurethane. Even though these are leather seats the top layer of this leather is a plastic material.
When shopping for a couch I learned about “bonded leather” this stuff is made of tiny leather bits that has been bonded = glued together with polyurethane. When you buy shoes, coats even briefcases, purses or wallets made of real leather you will find the ubiquitous logo that shows an animal skin and the words “real leather”.
I know my Ford Windstar has leather seats. But I doubt it deserves this “real leather” logo. How about your leather seats?