Brisk driving stimulates three of the five senses. Visual and auditory cues provide data needed by the tactile sense for input and change of direction. Tactile also provides the visceral, behind-the-wheel motoring experience. Hands gripping the wheel provide feedback on how well the suspension is working, The right foot knows how well the brakes are working-or not working as the case may be. Acceleration, both linear and lateral is felt in the seat of the pants, an experience also known as the "butt dyno," a traditional and subjective measure of vehicle performance. Taste and smell hopefully never enter into the driving equation.
Performance car enthusiasts have come to expect a certain physical experience when driving, be it commuting or on-track driving. It's much easier to control a car when one is firmly ensconced in a form-fitting seat and strapped in for the ride. Most new cars have pretty good seats, certainly when compared to their ancestors but much can be gained through selecting a sport seat.
A recent project car, one that had seating incrementally better than a 3-year-old rental Neon, was unnecessarily difficult to drive, owing to its improved suspension and wheel/tire combo that left the motorist clamoring to stay planted.
As a follow-up to the racing seat guide (ec May 2004,) we put in a call to Raffi at Eurosport Accessories who took us through an installation of a Corbeau CR1 seat and 2-in. street harness system.
In its product line, Eurosport offers a number of seats by UK-based Corbeau, a company that has been around for over 30 years, building seats for sports cars and race cars alike. The company came to prominence in the heyday of the very popular 2.0-liter British Touring Car Championship, a series that rejuvenated touring car racing during a conspicuous worldwide slump. With its hard-hitting, door-bashing action, the BTCC was a favorite among fans for its close racing action.
Choosing a SeatWhile a four-door car doesn't require a forward-flipping seat to accommodate rear passengers, for all but the most aggressive drivers, you'll want to select a seat that's adjustable and reclines. Racing seats are cool, for race cars. The CR1 is available is two different versions, standard, which is suitable for those with waists up to 36 in. and a wide version for drivers with waists up to 40 in. Its sibling, the Corbeau A4, was found by a majority of our race-seat judges to be "just right."
The CR1 is available in five cloth colors (black, red, yellow, blue and gray) with black leather as an option. The seat is constructed with leatherette wear patches in seven areas, the areas one scuffs when entering, exiting and driving a car (except for the one on top. I can't figure that one out). Owing to its sporty aspirations, the CR1 features harness cutouts in the seat back, as well as the obligatory kidney, thigh and shoulder supports.
At $798 a pair, the CR1 is a bargain compared to some other brands, but significantly more than the cheapest products in the marketplace. The wide version commands a slight premium, as does the addition of air lumbar support.
Choosing a Seat MountJust as a chain is only as good as its weakest link, a seat is only as good as its mounting. Having visited DIY wrecking yards, I can attest to the number of irresponsibly dangerous installations using materials and methods not even worthy of a high-school shop project.
Owing to the VW marque's popularity in Europe, Corbeau offers ready-to-use mounting brackets with slide rails. Whether you're a Porsche 996 owner or a die-hard Renault Alliance fan (part number D752NS,) Corbeau has a ready-to-install bracket. According to the company's U.S. Web site, it can accommodate 99% of the cars on the road today.
Maintaining a seatbelt mount is an important issue for some cars. In the VW application we sampled, the slider and bracket came with a provision for mounting O.E. or harness-type replacement belts. Although specializing in VW, Audi and Focus cars, Raffi can set you up with anything in the Corbeau line, including a belt.
For this application, we chose to enhance the race-like experience with a set of Corbeau 2-in. street harnesses. The harnesses, available in the same colors as the seats minus gray, feature military-grade nylon webbing, waist pads and a push-button release. As this is a street harness, the release is not racing spec, nor is there an anti-submarine strap.
The harnesses can be mounted with snap-in ends, double release, retractors or bolt-in. The easiest is bolt-in as there's no question it will fit the allotted space.