Low back pain can make for an agonizing driving experience. Fortunately, certain vehicle features can help minimize discomfort.
Smooth ride quality is important, since a rough or "bouncy" ride can exacerbate back pain. All other things being equal, larger vehicle models tend to offer smoother rides than smaller ones.
And the right seats can significantly enhance comfort. The best seats for sore backs are those that offer adequate lumbar support, leg support and a high degree of adjustability.
The following models excel in delivering ride comfort and seat features that support aching backs.
Within the luxury segment, the Lexus brand is known for unruffled ride quality that's especially back-friendly. Lexus sedans such as the GS 350 and flagship LS 460 also feature seats that have a wide range of adjustments.
The GS 350 features a standard 10-way power-adjustable driver seat, says Lexus spokesperson Allison Takahashi, and the LS 460 offers an even wider range of settings.
"The LS 460 features a standard 16-way power driver seat with fore/aft slide, up/down, seat cushion front-tilt up/down, seat cushion height up/down, seat cushion firmness, cushion length, lumbar support and fore/aft recline adjustments," she says.
"Our active multicontour seat features inflatable air chambers that allow a driver to adjust the seat to suit his or her physique," says Christian Bokich with Mercedes-Benz Product and Technology Communications. These seats come recommended by AGR, a German spinal health organization, he says.
Certain Mercedes-Benz models also feature massaging seats, Bokich says. Most notably, the S-Class offers a massage setting that incorporates the seat's heating elements to simulate hot-stone massage.
While BMW is known for building models that emphasize sportiness, certain choices in the lineup deliver this engaging driving experience without compromising ride comfort. The BMW 3 Series boasts a smooth ride quality and well-designed seats that feature a multitude of adjustments.
Volvo is perhaps best known for its achievements in the area of safety, but the manufacturer also has a reputation for crafting vehicles that boast supremely comfortable seats. The S60 sedan and XC60 SUV are just two examples of Volvos with back-coddling seating.
"Volvo seats have been praised by our owners for years," says Joe Haslem, Volvo brand manager. The seats in the S60 and XC60 were developed by orthopedic specialists to provide outstanding comfort and support during long drives, he says.
These seats provide continuous support from the pelvis to the chest to help reduce muscular and spinal loads, he says. "It's a design that fosters improved blood flow, thereby helping reduce fatigue during long periods behind the wheel."
Buick did extensive testing on the Enclave, says Lauren Indiveri, a Buick publicist. "Our engineering team tested the seats on people of all shapes, sizes, heights and weights" to help ensure driver comfort, she says.
While larger models travel the road in a smoother, more back-friendly way than smaller ones, there are choices in the compact segment that make good companions for drivers with back problems. The Chevrolet Sonic and Volkswagen Golf both provide composed ride quality and seats that can be angled and tilted for maximum comfort.
Another strong pick in the small-car segment is the Buick Verano, which has been praised for its comfort since its introduction, according to Indiveri. More than 1,000 hours of development were invested to design seats that remain comfortable even on long road trips, she says.
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