Home » The Passenger Seat Is The One That Should Be Powered: Prove Me Wrong

The Passenger Seat Is The One That Should Be Powered: Prove Me Wrong

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There are certain automotive conceits that we all take for granted — silent agreements among carmakers that persist despite no legal requirements. I mean things like how pretty much every car now has passenger side mirrors or how every carmaker agrees to not put the rear window defogger switch in the same place on any car’s dash. One of these conceits is that if a car is designed to only have power adjustment controls on one seat, that seat that gets blessed with all all the little motors and switches and stuff is always the driver’s seat. I think this is absolutely backwards.

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I know everyone is used to the idea that somehow the driver – the emperor of the car – deserves to have these electrical servants moving their ass back and forth, up and down. But think about it: if this is your car, your daily driver; how often are you moving that seat? Hardly ever! But the passenger seat? That’s the seat that gets adjusted more! You’re out there with an active, vigorous life, picking up friends and colleagues and dynamic, exciting people of all shapes and sizes, and when they happily enter your car, they, not you, need to adjust that seat!

That’s why the passenger’s seat is the one that both demands and deserves the power assist, in situations where the installation of seat motors are dictated by the Highlander rule of There Can Be Only One. That’s how automakers save money, you see, by invoking Highlander law. (Note: once again, David doesn’t know what this reference is. And he’s trying to convince me that nobody will get this reference. This is what I deal with, people.)

Now, our own Thomas disagrees, citing cases where, say, the car is shared between multiple people, and I suppose in that case, perhaps that’s valid. And yet, even in the worst-case scenario, where every single trip in the car requires a full and slow seat adjustment, the only real balm to that pain is a power seat with memory options, and any car that has that has both seats powered. So it’s kinda moot, right?

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But, really, let’s be honest here: The reason that the driver’s seat is always the powered one is because that’s where you’re sitting when you’re testing out cars that you might want to buy, and those cunning car-sellers know your lizard-brain will be swayed by the decadent luxury of a seat that moves by the power of electrons, as though gently pushed by angels themselves. Will you even check to see if the passenger seat is so blessed? Maybe not!

So really, the thinking is cynical: carmakers will make cars where only the seat that’s powered is the one that’s most likely to get you to give them cash, instead of the seat that really should be powered.

Am I wrong here? Is there a compelling reason to do it the way it currently is, or is it time to shake this shit up, and start a revolution? Let’s hash this out in the comments, and whatever we decide, I’ll send a Letter of Demand to the King of Automobiles and get this settled, stat.

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Keon R
Keon R
1 year ago

No seats should be powered. They’re all too slow and end up broken in some way or another.

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
1 year ago
Reply to  Keon R

Amen. Plus weight savings.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
1 year ago
Reply to  Keon R

I tend to think everything should be powered/automatic/no-touch, but I agree with you on this. My husband’s truck has memory setting for the driver’s seat, which is nice. Except that I get in, press the “2” memory button … and then wait (and wait, and wait) while the seat moves comically slowly until my foot makes contact with the brake pedal so I can start the car.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
1 year ago

But wouldn’t they then break way more often from all the extra use and therefore cost the automakers, and possibly society, way more after the butterfly effect? By this I mean that it would require more robust motors and gears and wires and fuses and framing for the extra weight and more crash protection meaning overall larger cars and where does it end? In fact it might just be the thing that tips us into runaway climate change. My God man, are you trying to kill all of us? Is that what you do with that genius brain with the funny hair on top of it? Do you sit in that basement or on the porcelain throne and come up with these evil plans? I always knew you were up to no good, but thankfully everyone else now knows it too after sharing this insidious scheme of yours to destroy life as we know it.

However you are in fact not wrong. They should indeed be on the right side. There, my verdict has been rendered. You’re welcome.

Luxobarge
Luxobarge
1 year ago

Torch, I feel the need to summarize and emphaisze points made elsewhere in this thread:

  1. The driver gets the best seat and controls because that’s the one seat that’s always occupied.
  2. Comfortable driving usually requires a specific distance from the pedals and wheel (and a comfortable angle of the seat back). Unless I’m a valet, I’m going to adjust those before a drive of more than a minute’s duration. By comparison, as long as the passenger seat has enough legroom for me, I could care less about where it is.
  3. For couples of disparate heights that share a car, power seat controls are a significant convenience. Sure, some cars come with adjustable presets, but these are a premiuim option above and beyond the regular power seat controls. Yes, it’s irritating having to adjust the seat and mirrors after my (much shorter) wife has been driving our car, but it would be a lot more irritating if I had to use muscle power to do so.
Ohgodwhyme
Ohgodwhyme
1 year ago

Damn you Jason. I tried to remain just a lurker but I cannot pass up my favorite thing in the whole wide world – telling people just how wrong they are.

“the only real balm to that pain is a power seat with memory options, and any car that has that has both seats powered. So it’s kinda moot, right?”

Wrong!!! I have a Mazda CX-30 Premium. You know what it has? It has “8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support and 2-position memory”. You know what it doesn’t have? A power seat on the passenger side. No siree Bob! Not an option on any trim level. 

Jason, I know you are hungover but no excuses, okay bud?  But kudos for finally making me a commenter and not just a lurker. Hope you feel better soon.

Ottomottopean
Ottomottopean
1 year ago

Jason, I truly do love your writing and devotion to so many lesser known automotive minutia but, and I hesitate to make blanket statements here, this is short person reasoning.
There are a few things others mention below but I’ll add a few more: many many cars offer additional adjustment settings to the driver’s seat, not just power. You may see a passenger with power forward/back and recline but not tilt for the seat height or thigh-tilt as the driver side offers. Many Japanese makes don’t offer the option for the passenger to adjust as much as the driver and I’d join you in the fight to right this wrong. I’ve avoided many good Subaru and Acura purchases for this reason (why do you not want passengers to have the option to be more comfortable if I’m willing to give you money to make it happen!!!???!!!).

But if you are going to have a level of comfort available it should be for the driver. Many cars only ever have a single occupant for most of the service time so thats where it should be; with the one who can only adjust their seating position so much due to the need to keep all the feet at the same position to operate all the pedals. Just my 2¢.

Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
1 year ago

Manual adjustment is better, full stop. It’s very fast and always ends up precisely where you want. Why do we have powered seats at all??

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
1 year ago

Counterpoint: Lincoln’s “Perfect Position” 30-ish way seats.

Yes, it takes a bit of time and effort to get it precisely where you want, but oh my goodness are they fantastic, especially on road trips. That’s coming from a Volvo owner who is treated to some of the best mass-market seats available. I’m contemplating a Lincoln for my next vehicle and the seats are a huge draw.

Steve Harris
Steve Harris
1 year ago

Yes, if there’s no memory, but for different reasons, I can adjust a drivers seat from my wife’s seating position to wine much quicker with a manual seat.

I rarely bother moving a passenger seat.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago

Eh, power seats are one of those extraneous features, like passenger side mirrors, air bags, and backup cameras, which I’d gladly delete in exchange for knocking a few bucks off the MSRP. Every car I’ve had, I’ve adjusted it to a comfortable position and then never touched it again for the rest of my ownership period, for something that gets used so infrequently, I don’t need extra electronics and buttons.

MegaVan
MegaVan
1 year ago

& it should have lumbar. Manual. Power. I don’t care.

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
1 year ago

The real rule should be, “if there is a powered seat, it must have at least two presets”. I can’t even get into the driver seat if my spouse has it set to their position.

Tommy Helios
Tommy Helios
1 year ago
Reply to  Knowonelse

Feel you there. We have never owned a strictly power seat car but me being 6’2″ and my wife being 5’6″ and sharing driving duties of the “family” car it is a pain.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
1 year ago

There’s a mechanism. Just pull it and throw your body weight.
If you want the legroom, SAY you want the legroom. DON’T BLAME THE MECHANISM!

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago

Weird! I was literally thinking about ‘The Highlander’ movies this morning.
I was trying to remember why there could only be one, specifically as to why they had to fight others all the time instead of just living their immortal lives in peace.
I don’t remember why but it seems stupid.
It’s not like I’m ever gonna watch them again, so I guess I’ll never know.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago

The last remaining mortal would become mortal, I believe. They viewed immortality as a curse and wanted free of it, last one left could live a normal life and die of natural causes

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Thanks. So pretty much classic vampire literature.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago

I think so, honestly, its been a long time and I barely followed the plot. Could Bing it, but I don’t know if its worth the effort.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Probably not.

Goblin
Goblin
1 year ago

What has this poor MB1000 done to be featured in such a fluff filler non-article ?

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago
Reply to  Goblin

(In a whisper) Keep it down, he’s till nursing that hangover.

Last edited 1 year ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Punkgoose
Punkgoose
1 year ago

You are correct. Also the Autopian should buy you a 1969-77 Skoda, so you can tell me how it is a perfect daily driver.

LTDScott
LTDScott
1 year ago

I agree for the most part. In fact I took the power seat track out of my ’85 Ford LTD and replaced it with a manual track because I never change it.

But every time I hop in my wife’s car I am thankful for power memory seats. I’m 6’3″ and she’s 5’11” yet we still like our seat settings pretty different, so just pressing one button and not having to reconfigure the seat to my preference is pretty damn nice.

Vicente Perez
Vicente Perez
1 year ago

100% agree.

And I add. Passenger windows should always be the powered ones, driver can just be a crank. You can crank down your window for the parking both; good luck cranking down any other window if you need extra ventilation.

OnceInAMillenia
OnceInAMillenia
1 year ago

“if this is your car, your daily driver; how often are you moving that seat?”

I’m 6’5″ and 36-37″ inseam; at 99th percentile, no car is made with me in mind, especially not for thigh support. This means my back angle, how far back from the dash, and/or seat height is going to have to vary a bit every time I need to drive longer than 2 hours for comfort.

Also, because I don’t expect anyone to sit behind me, I have a coupe, which requires I lean it or push it forward anytime I need access the space behind the seat

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago

People: “It must be nice being tall.”
Me: “Sure, sometimes. But it makes Miata not the answer for me (single tear)”.

You bring up a valid point with the coupe, I drive one for the same reason (+ others).
Any two door with regularly used rear storage makes an electrically controlled drivers seat a bit annoying.
I tend to just slide every seat back to the last notch on the track anyway. I don’t need a memory function.

Last edited 1 year ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Tommy Helios
Tommy Helios
1 year ago

I do not think JT has this particular experience.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago
Reply to  Tommy Helios

My wife tends to just slide every seat forward to the first notch on the track. I slide the same seats all the way back.
Slow, (key in ignition?) motorized seat controls would probably just give us enough time to lead to an argument about the seating position.
We’ll stick to plastic levers and a modicum physical ability thanks.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 year ago

You forget the other reason for power seats:
Manual seat fore-aft adjustments are always a fixed pawl on a toothed rail – meaning you can only set the seat in one of a handful of finite positions. You want to be between tooth 8 and 9? Too bad – you need to adapt to your low-cost choice. This same mechanism applies to most seat back and seat height adjustments too – other than those that have the little manual wheels at the base of the seat back like Volvo and Saab used to have (does anyone do it that way anymore?)
Whereas power seats are also on a toothed rail, but it’s adjusted by an electrically-driven geared wheel which can be set to any position at all. You want the seat a millimeter and a half closer to the pedals? You need to recline just a touch farther from the steering wheel? You need to be just a hair higher? Yes, you can have that!
My mother and my husband don’t need that kind of specific adjustment over on their side of the car (But they get it anyway because Mercedes-Benz)

LTDScott
LTDScott
1 year ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

The Ford Focus SVT I used to have used a crank wheel to adjust the seat recline angle and I hated it. Yes, it allowed for infinite adjustments but you couldn’t make quick adjustments. Reclining the seat was a 20 second process.

FuzzyPlushroom
FuzzyPlushroom
1 year ago
Reply to  LTDScott

Same with the Contour and New Beetle in which I grew up, and as Brian mentioned, the Volvos I’ve owned (I think my only Saab, an NG900, had power seats, but I don’t recall for sure as they were perfectly adjusted).

The Contour’s seats were the worst, because the knob was, well, contoured as well as sunken slightly into the seat cushions under the fuzzy cloth; the VW and especially the Volvo 240s and 740 (my 850 had a non-functional power seat stuck all the way, or half an inch too far, back…) were at least easy to grab and turn, if not yank-and-readjust GM-or-Japanese convenient.

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
1 year ago

Wrong, wrong, wrong! If you have a spouse, and you buy a car that specifically inconveniences them (and you when you’re the passenger) by not having dual power front seats, I submit that you may not have a spouse for much longer. If you don’t have a spouse, then you want to be able to adjust your seat at will, while you’re moving, because you’re the Car Emperor! If you want to start out driving bolt upright, and later in the day ease on back to a cool slope while blasting Low Rider by Eric Burdon and War, you MUST have a powered driver seat. And screw your friends – if they want to adjust YOUR passenger seat, they should have to work for it. So in any sane scenario, if there’s only one powered seat, it must be the driver’s.

Sgtyukon
Sgtyukon
1 year ago

The power seat allows for more adjustment than does the manual seat. In fact, when both front seats have powered adjustment, the driver’s seat usually allows more adjustments than the passenger seat does. If you are the passenger, you have more ability to move around without adjusting the seat than the driver does. It’s safer to adjust a power driver’s seat while the car is moving than it is to adjust a manual driver’s seat, but the safety level for adjusting the passenger seat remains the same whether it’s powered or manual.

I know some cars have memory seats, and I’m really sorry I didn’t hold out for those in my current vehicle. I’m almost a foot taller than my wife, I don’t drive that car as often as she does, so I usually just run the power seat forward and back. The only time I take advantage of all the adjustments of both the seat and steering wheel is when I’m driving on a long trip. On those, I almost always do all the driving.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 year ago
Reply to  Sgtyukon

Memory seats make all the difference in the world.
Because parking valets and carwash attendants will fuck with your seats to no end – but all I need to do is push one button and all is well with the world again.

Iain Delaney
Iain Delaney
1 year ago

David needs a crash course in popular culture, like the one Steve Rogers was working on in The Winter Soldier. (And he won’t get that reference, either.)

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 year ago

I agree with Jason for all the reasons he stated AND because the ejector seat mechanism requires power to operate.

Sincerely,

Q

A. Barth
A. Barth
1 year ago

that seat that gets blessed with all all the little motors and switches and stuff is always the driver’s seat

We can look at this in a slightly different way: when the car is being operated, the driver’s seat is the only one that is always occupied.

NewYorker In LA
NewYorker In LA
1 year ago

Like Thomas said, cars are often shared between people, probably more so now as cars get more expensive. Yes you’re supposed to adjust everything before you drive off, but there are times when even after all your pre-departure checklists you still have a steering wheel that’s not at the correct tilt or a seat that’s one click too forward. With power adjustment you can adjust the seat while moving pretty safely, while with manual adjustment you might get tossed all the way back as soon as you pull the seat adjustment lever. So you risk safety or have to pull over to make what would’ve been a very quick and minor adjustment using motors. The passenger just needs a good enough legroom and a comfy seat angle, they don’t need the perfect adjustment every time they sit in someone else’s car.

Last edited 1 year ago by NewYorker In LA
Sensual Bugling Elk
Sensual Bugling Elk
1 year ago

This is the correct answer. I shared a rental car on my last trip with three friends, which is to say every time I was behind the wheel, I spent the first half hour of the drive futzing with the driver’s seat adjustment.

I could’ve futzed equally long with a manual adjuster, I suppose. But that requires increased concentration and contortion, neither of which was available in spades while I was marshaling 100% of my physical and mental faculties trying not to hurtle us all off the edge of the hilariously narrow asphalt strips that pass for Scottish mountain roads.

D0nut
D0nut
1 year ago

A more puzzling question for me is why does the seat memory only adjust the seats and not the seats AND mirrors! I understand the rear-view mirror doesn’t have a motor, so that’s forgiven (probably the only good thing about those new screen based mirrors).

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 year ago
Reply to  D0nut

You haven’t driven a Mercedes-Benz in the past 15-20 years, have you?

Drew
Drew
1 year ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

It’s a feature that has taken too long to trickle down to the masses.

Jack Beckman
Jack Beckman
1 year ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

Or a Buick even.

Goblin
Goblin
1 year ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

Or a Huyndai in the past 10 years 🙂

(MBenz – since the late 80’s or so).

Last edited 1 year ago by Goblin
LTDScott
LTDScott
1 year ago
Reply to  D0nut

Yeah, that’s the gripe I have with my wife’s Mazda CX-9 but as others have said this feature absolutely does exist on some cars.

Steve Harris
Steve Harris
1 year ago
Reply to  D0nut

Didn’t one of the 80s or 90s Mercs have powered rear-view mirrors for that reason?

Could have misremembered.

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