Nobody seems to gush about the power seats in their car. Powered car seats take, well, a back seat to flashier car features like high-powered engines, cloud-based infotainment systems and exotic wheel rims. Funny thing is, the ability to adjust your seating is a major comfort detail. Especially if you spend a lot of time in your car, comfortable seats are quite important. Fortunately, many car manufacturers are paying more attention to that fact these days.
Let’s start with a little history. Early car seats were pretty basic affairs: springs and padding covered with fabric or vinyl. The only movement possible was fore/aft to compensate for those with shorter legs. Furthermore, seats were designed for “average” people. There was no adjustment for those that varied significantly from the norm. Realizing this, Ford designed a four-way seat adjustment mechanism and offered it on their 1955 Thunderbirds. The range of motion was simple: fore/aft and up/down. Ford customers absolutely loved it and in just a few years Ford offered the first six-way seat. Today, most seats are six- or eight-way.
As power seats became commonplace, an issue arose. Many drivers needed to adjust their seats back and down simply to get out of the car. Then, the next time they used the car, they had to do all the adjustments over again. Instead of it being a convenience, power seats had become a nuisance for some drivers. Again, Ford came up with a solution. In 1957, Ford introduced their “Dial-a-Matic” seat system in the Thunderbird and Mercury Cruiser models. Instead of plain switches, the Dial-a-Matic seat used a letter-and-numerical dial to adjust the seats fore/aft and up/down. When the ignition was switched off, the seat moved back to the rearmost, lowest position to allow easy exit and entry. When the car was started up again, the seat moved back to the last “dialed” position. Hoffman GM of Hagerstown, MD, a Chevrolet, Cadillac dealer says the first “push button” memory seat appeared in the 1981 model Cadillacs. Today we have all sorts of internal options for seating comfort. Once you give the go-ahead to automotive design engineers, you are bound to see some interesting things. Here are a few seat options that you will find on cars today:
Not surprisingly, some pretty exotic seats can be found in Bentleys. The 2017 Bentley Bentayga SUV, for example, offers a 22-way adjustable driver’s seat. The headrest moves up, down, forward and back and features “ears to pull around your head. The seat cushion can extend forward for better thigh support and you can also pump up the seat bolsters for more comfort. And, what about those drivers that occasionally like a good massage once in a while? Well, the Bentley driver’s seat can help you out with with massage mechanisms for your shoulders and back – with soft and hard settings to boot.
In the U.S., the Ford Motor Company’s 2017 Lincoln Continental features a 30-way driver’s seat. Like the Bentley, it offers full massage functions and both heating and cooling functions. Not only that, it is designed unlike any previous car seat. Ford employed biomechanical specialists to create support in key areas and eliminate so-called “hard points” that restrict blood flow and create fatigue in the neck, shoulder and thighs.
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