December 10, 2002

New VW Phaeton wins award for seat comfort

VW Phaeten
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Wolfsburg, Germany – The new VW Phaeton luxury sedan is the first car to receive the AGR seal of quality for its complete seat system, including the rear seats. The award, which is very seldom granted to a motor vehicle, acknowledges the exceptionally good support for the occupant’s back provided by all the Phaeton’s seats. The abbreviation “AGR” stands for the respected independent commission which assesses seat quality on behalf of the German “Healthy Back Campaign” non profit-making organisation. Among the AGR’s international partners is the German “Professional Physicians’ Orthopaedic Association”. The quality seal is intended as a guide for potential buyers of all kinds of seating, from office furniture to motor-vehicle seats.

The Phaeton is available as a standard version with 5 seats and as an optional extra with four seats only, in other words with two individual rear seats. The front seats in the 5-seat version have a 12-way electrical position adjustment system as standard equipment (Phaeton V6). The system has no fewer than 18 adjustments in the Phaeton W12. If the Phaeton is ordered with individual rear seats, these are also provided with 6-way or 10-way electrical adjustment.

In its reasons for awarding the seal of quality, the independent AGR commission praised not only the properties of these particular seats but also Volkswagen’s overall dedication to quality in this area: “Whereas certain automobile manufacturers seem to find it almost impossible to supply a seat that is entirely suitable for the occupant’s back, Volkswagen has with its Phaeton developed a car that provides all its occupants with correct back support during the journey.”

On the strength of its analyses, the AGR reminds us that a comfortable car seat does not necessarily mean soft upholstery or a pleasant fabric: “The occupants’ well-being has more to do with firm foam material and a well-constructed seat structure.” In addition, according to the award commission which is made up of experts from several disciplines, the ability to adjust both the seat base and the seat back individually is of decisive importance. The seat height, seat angle and above all the length of the seat cushion must be adjustable to suit the occupant’s stature. “Without this, the pressure of the occupant’s body on the seat, his or her comfort and visibility out of the car will not be correct.”

It is for these reasons that Volkswagen has adopted seats with a wide range of electrical adjustment for the Phaeton and also uses innovative materials, for instance multiple-zone foam. The 12-way basic system is a good example of this: the movements – each in either direction – are forward-and-back, height and angle, seat back angle and lumbar support extension/retraction. An interesting feature is that the seat slows as it approaches the limit of each movement, since an electronically controlled retarding action takes effect before the mechanical limit stop is reached.

The 18-way seat adjustment system in the Phaeton W12 has the same movements as the 12-way system, together with separate electrical control of the upper section of the seat back, the head restraint and the length of the seat cushion (by moving the front thigh-support section). The steering wheel also moves to a neutral position in order to offer the driver an “easy entry” function when entering and leaving the car; this is an optional extra on cars with the 12-way seat adjustment system.

Also integrated: a position memory for three different drivers’ preferred seat, seat belt, inside and outside mirror and steering wheel settings, a seat climate control system using ventilator fans and an adjustable massage function for the occupant’s back based on the lumbar support mechanism. This ventilation and massage package is a clear interpretation of the ideal requirements put forward by the AGR for a good seated ‘climate’ and optimum ergonomics at all seats. The Phaeton is one of very few cars worldwide that also offers this system for the rear seats.

Seat climate control is provided by axial fans located under the seat cushion and seat back upholstery. These fans pass air through the inside of the car after it has been cooled as necessary by the air conditioning; the volume of air is limited to a physiologically unobjectionable amount. In contrast to existing systems of this kind the air is not simply cooled but can if necessary be passed over the seat heating, which is a standard feature if seat climate control is specified. The airflow is then adjusted to a pleasant temperature in accordance with an intelligent control algorithm and emerges uniformly through the air-permeable upholstery of sandwich construction and the perforated material with which the seats are covered.

The ‘massage’ version of the seats makes use of the electrically controlled 4-way lumbar support, which is moved up and down automatically for several minutes at an interval which gradually alters the position of the seat occupant’s spine and has a relaxing effect on the back muscles. The intensity of this function can be varied individually at the lumbar support control knob.

The rear seats of the Phaeton are of some complexity; available options include a fixed bench seat for up to three occupants is standard equipment. As an optional extra, the next stage is for this seat to be equipped with 6-way position adjustment and with the climate control and massage function. In the most exclusive version, the Volkswagen Phaeton is available with two individual rear seats that have 10-way position adjustment including a memory function. For this version of the car an ‘easy entry’ function has also been provided for the rear seats: when the doors are opened the seats run back by up to 10 centimetres, depending on the previously selected position, so that the occupants can get in or out more easily. In conjunction with 10-way rear seat adjustment it is also possible for the occupant of the rear seat to move the front passenger’s seat forward and back.

In this case the electrical adjustment controls are situated at the rear end of the full-length centre console. The front seats have their controls on the outside of the seat base: the switches are laid out to match the seat base and seat back, so that the driver or front passenger can reposition the seat intuitively.

Active head restraints are also standard on the front seats. They retain the full standard of comfort and ergonomics for the seat occupant, but enhance safety in the event of a rear-end collision: the inertial force exerted by the front seat occupant’s body causes the head restraint to move forward and upward by means of a mechanical linkage in the seat back. This action, which is reversible, reduces the gap between the occupant’s head and the head restraint and therefore minimises the risk of the familiar ‘whiplash effect’, with the possibility of injuries to the spinal vertebrae. To complete the technical safety features incorporated into the seats, there are integral side airbags at the front and rear as a complement to the front and head-level side airbags.

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