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Massage seats

No time for a massage? Why not let your car help out?
Karla Pincott

7 Jul 2008 • 4 min read

And on the rare occasions CarsGuide has managed to organise one, we’ve always left the table vowing to do it more often.

But really, what with all the necessary undressing, redressing – and having to consider which parts of the wardrobe can be sacrificed to all the slick residue of oils and unguents the masseur is duty bound to baste you with — nobody can make the time and effort for even a regular weekly massage. Let alone a daily one that might stroke away all your workplace stress when your boss is giving you the shiatsus.

So here’s one solution: a massage during the daily commute. Quite a few carmakers offer vehicles with seats that will vibrate and knead the occupant, although there seems to be some disagreement about who should get the treatment. Some brands have massage function only on the driver, or driver and front passenger seats, while others have it only in the back row. And at least a couple of models we’ve come across offers it only on one position in the back. Which we imagine is not going to be helpful for the early morning school run bickering – even if it does shift the focus away from the front seat as the most prized pew.

Such vehicles are usually at the boardroom end of the price range … the uber-luxe segment populated by hand-polished wood and leather interiors.

Mercedes-Benz offers massage on the driver and front passenger seat in several models, with a system using air chambers in the seat backrests that fill up and empty out in patterns to knead your back.

Quite a few carmakers offer vehicles with seats that will vibrate and knead the occupant, although there seems to be some disagreement about who should get the treatment.

Lexus has a similar system that gives you the choice of shiatsu, should, back or stretch massage with heating, cooling and vibration options – although the LS600hL we were recently introduced to is one of the vehicles that only has it on one rear seat, obviously designed for indulged single child families. And at close to a quarter million price tag, you’d think Lexus would toss the function right around the car. However it does have a wine cooler, movie screen and electric blinds to shield you from the rude gaze of passing plebs, and the rear seat stretches out business-class style with an ottoman, but just like on most airlines there’s not really enough room for an adult to stretch out.

This particular car also has a self-parking system that lines up a parallel slot and does all the work of edging it in for you. And apparently it takes what will seem like several hours to shuffle into the parking spot, so perhaps the massage function is to give you something to amuse yourself with while it completes the task.

At the more affordable end of the market – although still corner office territory – Volvo will be offering massage on the front seats of next year’s S80, which is expected to add a $6000 premium to the model’s price (usually $72,000 to $90,000+).

Like the Merc and Lexus system, Volvo’s uses inflatable pockets that are pumped up and drained in sequence to massage you and – so the Swedish brand promises — “waft away feelings of tiredness and stiffness”.

There are cheaper ways to go about this of course (including persuading your partner to give you a back rub while you’re driving, with due warnings about what it might lead to, we suppose). Portable massage cushions that plug into the car’s lighter socket are available for as little as $70, but we can’t guarantee how good they are. However we can promise you that they look hideous.

Of course, once you get used to being pampered during your commute, you’ll be demanding something similar in the workplace. Short of the boss arranging to properly give you shiatsu, may we suggest a massaging office chair, perhaps with additional heating and cooling functions.

And if you really want to be relaxed at work, there are some chairs that offer musical accompaniment. The pinnacle of these is the Osim Isymphonic, which massages you in time to the music.

Osim offers a range of serene classical and similar easy listening. And there have been calls for a broader musical selection. But we think this might be a bit dangerous. Does anybody want to risk their boss gettting annoyed when the work rate slacks off and programming your chair with, say, a bit of AccaDacca to have it beat you to a pulp at his direction.


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