The Six Best Driver Seats for 2012
Six driver seats you won’t want to get out of.
by By Josh Sadlier
For most driver seats, the best-case scenario is that they’re simply not noticed at all. You sit down, do your thing, hop out, and…nothing. No aches from a lame lumbar cushion, no bruises from intrusive seams, no crick in your neck from hunching forward to escape the looming headrest. Good seats draw zero attention to themselves, letting you concentrate on more important stuff, like driving.
Great seats are another story. Great seats are memorable. Delightful. You plop down in one and involuntarily start whistling “We Belong Together.” Well, maybe that’s just us. But in any case, there’s a select group of driver seats out there that are notable for their awesomeness, and it’s time we gave them some love. In order from attainable to aspirational, here are the cars with the top thrones for 2012.
Okay, so Honda’s sub-$20,000, Prius-fighting hybrid hatchback isn’t exactly a stimulating drive, but at least Honda’s F1 team seems to have designed the front seats. We’re not entirely kidding. The Insight’s driver seat is firm yet accommodating on long trips, and its lateral bolstering wouldn’t be out of place in a sports car. If you remember the late-‘80s Prelude, yeah, the Insight’s seats are kind of like that, including modest rib-hugging wings on the seatback. We prefer the Prius in most respects, but we’d swap out the Toyota’s indifferent chairs for these in a heartbeat.
Honda Civic Si
Honda’s been losing more of its formerly definitive sporting character with each passing year, but the seating department apparently hasn’t gotten the memo. To wit, the new Civic Si
is arguably a regressive product overall, yet its seats—largely unchanged from the previous generation—continue to be models of ergonomic sportiness. No concessions have been made to expanding American physiques here: the Civic’s driver seat hugs you from shoulder to thigh with some of the most satisfying side bolsters this side of a Recaro. Unlike a Recaro, though, the Civic Si seat will happily serve daily-driver duty as well. Not bad for a car whose price tag ducks under $25,000.
BMW 1 Series
The compact 1 Series coupe
is a tale of two driver seats. The base version is the worst BMW chair in recent memory, but the driver’s share of the optional sport seats is outstanding. Its manual adjustments in 128i trim may be surprisingly Spartan, but you won’t care once you get everything dialed in—the lateral support is phenomenal, and in what we believe to be an industry exclusive, the seatback wings are manually adjustable for the perfect squeeze. Those adjustments are power-actuated in the turbocharged 135i, but the seat itself is basically the same. The entire chair also tilts forward and back for fine-tuning, and BMW’s distinctive slide-out thigh extension is present as well. The ultimate driving seat may well be found in the company’s cheapest car.
Volkswagen Golf R
It’s easy to dismiss the Golf R
as just an all-wheel-drive GTI
, and indeed, the extra weight of the AWD system blunts the power edge of the R’s hopped-up turbo inline-four. But that’s before you sit in the thing. Aside from AWD, which works wonders for the handling, the R’s exclusive front seats might be the most significant upgrade vis-à-vis the standard GTI. Not that the GTI’s seats are chopped liver, exactly, but the R takes it to a new level with no-nonsense sport seats that provide robust support in all the right places.
You didn’t think we’d get through this list without mentioning a Swede, did you? Saab and Volvo seemed to lose their former seating superiority while the Americans (GM and Ford, respectively) were at the corporate helm, but the recently redesigned S60
marks a decisive return to form. For straight-line cruising comfort, the S60’s driver seat is up there with the best at any price. It’s less impressive while cornering, as there’s not enough rigidity in the side bolsters to hold you firmly in place. But if we could pick any seat for a cross-country road trip, the S60’s would probably be the one. Well, unless we could finagle an S-Class seat…
Mercedes offers an array of sophisticated seats these days, but the winning team is the S-Class’s incomparable “active multicontour front seats with massage.” There are no fewer than four massage settings, plus power side bolsters on the seatback and the bottom cushion. Moreover, those side bolsters are dynamic, which means they can process g-force changes instantaneously and beef up the bolstering where your body needs it most. It’s an odd sensation; don’t worry, you can turn it off. There’s also a crazy interactive touchscreen diagram with X/Y axes for the infinitely adjustable lumbar support. From where we sit, this is the best driver seat of 2012.