Or if that doesn’t work for you: “The seats. You can’t talk about a Volvo without championing the seats as probably the industry’s most comfortable. You gotta wonder why all other automakers don’t simply copy ‘em,” said James Healey, USA Today in his C30 review.
I guess that says it all. Besides being known for safety, we make the best seats (that’s true – notice I left out ‘one of’) in the industry. It wasn’t always that way. The seats in my first Volvo, 1958 PV444, were terrible. No lumbar support and seat back reclining was a 10mm screw under the seat back frame. Painful was an understatement. At our office in Torrance, Ca. someone was scrapping a 164, I think a ’69. Nice tan leather seats. I shoe horned them into my PV, but I had to slam the doors because the bolsters stuck out an inch or two. BUT, they were comfortable.
Our seats were so bad our Gunner Engellau President, asked Nils Bohlin, a Volvo engineer who invented 3-point seat belts, to sheppard in a new seat design. We couldn’t make seats to save our souls, so we wanted Nils and outside expertise for this project. Since seats should cradle people, and people have bad backs, we used orthopedic surgeons to help design seats.
Some cars have rock hard seats (like that’s suppose to keep you awake). Some are like sofas to keep you comfortable. We design our seats to help reduce driver fatigue. A tired driver is dangerous.
Our first advancement was the world’s first adjustable lumbar support. In 1964, all 122 sedans and 220 wagons came with this feature. Ok, the adjustment must have been really buried because it took a screwdriver to tweak it. A few years later we used a turn knob, much like we do today. The support was two rubber strips, each about 1 ¼” wide to provide a ‘give’ while driving. Also our seats were sprung not with metal coil springs but the same rubber strips, made by Pirelli. So, instead of pressure spots on your bottom, the strips created even pressure everywhere. I just called Irv Gordon, 2.7 million miles on his P1800, and asked how many times he’s had to replace those strips. “Only three times,” He said.
As we moved along, we added perforations to our seats, to make them more comfortable in hot climates, increased side bolsters for better lateral support and made the bottom seat frontal area from softer foam, to aid in thigh support without hurting blood circulation.
Check this photo of Nils Bohlin (1959), not much whiplash protection – none. Around 1967-8 we added a headrest that probably helped in rear impact, but was certainly better than nothing.
As we moved into 240 series (1975) our head restraints got bigger, much better head/whiplash protection during rear impacts even though we had to deal with customer complaints about how it messed quaffed hair. In 1982, with our 240 series we introduced anti-submarining seat design for front and rear occupants. This, when used with seat belts, would help keep occupants from sliding under the belt.
In 1994, we achieved another world’s first with standard fitting side impact air bags in our cars. Rather than delete lumbar support because it’s adjustment knob was smack in the center of our airbag, we moved it to inboard of each seat. Amazing how many never notice this location and never adjust their lumbar support.
Our 1998 S80 featured whiplash protection technology for front seats. We also resisted temptation to have the rear seat head restraints retract into the rear seat back. Once down, no one puts them back up. In our cars, the head restraint tips forward, has good rear visibility AND it had to be popped back for anyone to sit there. Best sport was to pop them forward while my kids were sitting there.
Today, including the XC60, we stand behind, I mean sit on, seats with over 40 years of design perfection – sorry, couldn’t resist.