By on June 26, 2011

The Freep’s Mark Phelan identifies yet another vanishing automotive phenomenon: the six-seater sedan. He notes

The Chevrolet Impala is the only six-person sedan you can buy. Other sedans — regardless of how big they are — have front bucket seats rather than the three-person front bench seat that was once common…

Chevrolet is weighing whether to build a six-seat version of the next Impala. Weighing against it, the car will probably be narrower than the current model. It’s based on GM’s Epsilon II global platform. It’s roomy, but probably not enough to fit three comfortably across up front.

About a quarter of Impalas sold last year were six-seaters…It probably makes sense for Chevrolet to concentrate on giving the next Impala a comfortable and attractive front seat that appeals to the other 75% of its buyers and wins some new customers.

I’m sure that front benches bring back a host of memories for TTAC’s Best and Brightest (mine is of grabbing the Hurst floor shifter in my dad’s 1966 F-100 with both hands and clunking from gear to gear on the way to the dump), and yet somehow I’m guessing that not many will agitate for its return. Like tape decks and carburetor tune-ups, the nostalgia of sitting between two other people in front seat might have a certain appeal in reminiscences, but anyone who actually transports six people regularly these days just buys a crossover. And guess what: the kids might be robbed of valuable future nostalgia (replaced by reruns of Spongebob Squarepants on the rear-seat entertainment system), but neither they nor their parents are likely to choose to go back. And so, we march onward, into an unfamiliar future…

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61 Comments on “Good Night Sweet Six-Seat Sedan...”


  • avatar
    plee

    I just rented a 2011 Buick Lucerne on a business trip and it had a 6th seat belt also but I think that car is about to be discontinued. It made me feel very old driving it, I think the turn signal/wiper stalk was from an early 80′s GM product.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    Bench seats with a manual on the floor never worked well, another reason to get rid of the bench. What? you said it’s 2011! What do you mean “what’s a manual transmission?”

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Back in 2003 my uncle ordered a Toyota Avalon what some would call Japan’s Buick. He specifically wanted a bench seat so he had to wait a few weeks longer for it. The current version of the Avalon no longer offers a bench.

    I think these few cars Impala, Lucerne, DTS, Town Car-CV that still offer the front bench not many families w/kids will have Jr. sit in the middle since there is no center airbag and they are not a wide 60′s-70′s full-size where a passenger can sit there. The fold down armrest has a storage compartment where you can out your phone, netbook etc. Also the folks buying these are either seniors or corporate fleets.

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    How many of those 25% of Impalas with a bench seat were fleet spec, taxi service, etc. I would suspect about 75% of them as a cost cutting measure on the option sheet. I doubt many go into retail markets.

    The front full bench seat has been long dead due to airbags and a better understanding that passengers in general are safer in the back. I would also guess that car companies eliminated them along the way to save money on having to design dashboards, seats, seatbelts and airbags to protect that middle passenger while making IIHS happy at the same time. Easier to go forget it, we’ll just engineer a center console.

    • 0 avatar
      potatobreath

      I think the Impala column shifter and bench seat is an extra cost option. I almost never see column shift Impalas where I work for car rentals. They’re almost all console shift. Same for the Buick Lucerne.

    • 0 avatar
      Scottdb

      “I would suspect about 75% of them as a cost cutting measure on the option sheet.”

      No, it’s actually a $200 (retail) extra cost option.

  • avatar
    amca

    The world really has changed.

    I remember my great uncle and aunt making me sit in the front seat of their ’68 Delta 88 with them, leaving the back seat empty. It was a cold evening, they explained.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I have hated front bench seats since my college days when I, at 6′ 2″ tall, was the center passenger in a ’51 Chevy driven by a 5′ 6″ guy who had the seat yarfed up next to the steering wheel.

    I left the bench seat in my 1969 Valiant though, because the 4-speed tranny had an L-shaped shifter to clear the seat, and that would have looked funny with bucket seats.

  • avatar
    geo

    The K-cars seated six (Americans), and so did the Citations . . . I doubt they were wider than the Malibu. I supposed the bench seat went away to the automakers could sell minivans. Plus, people are bigger, and kids need massive car seats. You cant just throw the extra five-year-old between the adults comfortably.

    Too bad. I love the idea of a front bench for the occasional extra kid.

    Come to think of it, our 1999 Taurus wagon had the front bench. We used to fit eight people into that car, with seatbelts. Nowadays, what would we use for this.. besides some 10mpg behemoth. Are there 8 pass minivans now that the Astro and Venture are gone

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      Nowadays, what would we use for this.. besides some 10mpg behemoth

      Chevrolet Traverse 17/24
      GMC Acadia 17/24
      Buick Enclave 17/24
      Honda Pilot 17/23
      Honda Odyssey 19/28
      Toyota Sienna 18/24
      Ford E-Series Regular Length Wagon 8-passenger XLT 16/22

      There are plenty of eight passenger options, none of them come close to 10 MPG even on their worst possible day. Admittedly the Ford E-Series is a behemoth.

      1999 Ford Taurus Wagon:

      197.7 inches long
      73.0 inches wide

      2011 Honda Pilot:

      190.7 inches long
      78.5 inches wide

      2011 Honda Odyssey

      202.1 inches long
      68.8 inches wide

      GMC Acadia

      200 inches long
      78.2 inches wide

      Some are longer, some are wider – none I would call a behemoth in comparo to a 1999 Taurus wagon.

      Oh, and adjusted EPA MPG for the Ford Taurus wagon with a 3.0L V6 under the hood? 17/25.

      http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/noframes/15100.shtml

      • 0 avatar
        Sam P

        Wow, the Odyssey is nice and narrow compared to those ridiculously wide crossovers. Anything wider than 70 inches is really pushing the limits of sensibility in the tiny parking stalls in the city of Seattle and many of its inner ring suburbs.

      • 0 avatar
        geo

        Traverse curb weight: 4720
        Taurus wagon: 3497

        Nice to see that modern technology, which was not applied to the old Taurus, can allow a nearly five-ton behemoth to achieve admirable mileage numbers.

        Personally, I would like to see light, eight-passenger wagons achieving 30-40 mpg . . . because the technology is there, and imo the vehicles should be available. But for now, we can just look at our bloated, heavy family-haulers, and hide behind the fact that they get equivalent mileage to an old V6 wagon designed during the first Reagan administration.

      • 0 avatar
        HoldenSSVSE

        @geo

        …Nice to see that modern technology, which was not applied to the old Taurus, can allow a nearly five-ton behemoth to achieve admirable mileage numbers…

        Ummm, a ton if 2,000 pounds, not 1,000 pounds. So the Traverse is close to 2-1/2 tons. Just sayin’

      • 0 avatar
        HoldenSSVSE

        @SamP I’m stunned the Odyssey is only 68 inches and change based on a couple of dealer websites I visited in a quick web search to grab the data. So much so that when I came back to this thread I’ve checked a couple of other sources, because the maligned GM vans were only 72″ wide and were lambasted for being narrow, tall and long. Sixty-eight inches is crazy narrow for a minivan.

        According to the Honda website (not a couple of Honda dealer sites I first pulled the data from) the new Odyssey is 79.2 inches wide, now I’m even more surprised that is wider than the SUVs on that list, including the Honda built Pilot.

      • 0 avatar
        geo

        That Odyssey width must be a typo . . . all I can find is a width of 79.2 on Honda’s website.

        Anyhow, interesting numbers to look at, Holden. And I liked the size of the GM minivans, even though the relative “leanness” didn’t translate into fantastic mileage numbers. I found it silly how the media compained about the narrowness of the GM minivans compared to the competition, as if it forced people to squeeze together to fit inside.

        Anyhow, the Ford Econoline is listed as 79.9 inches, and some are not much longer than the Odyssey. The minivan size war is becoming ridiculous.

        And yes, yes, a ton is indeed 2000 pounds.

    • 0 avatar
      slow kills

      “Plus, people are bigger, and kids need massive car seats.”
      Ah, I knew about the goofy child seat laws, but forgot to factor in that we are now a nation of fat-asses.

      • 0 avatar
        obbop

        As an USA denizen in the midst of massive numbers of slender-challenged possible, potential well-honed chiseled-from-the-proverbial-granite athletic cohort whose physical prowess would repel any invader, send any foe fleeing in abject horror and a bunch of other stuff so patriotic it sends a tear or two cascading down my plump cherub-like cheeks I reel in offense at your exhortation that my fellow USA citizenry are, ahem “fat asses.”

        Though thou art correct this IS the era of political correctness and disseminating facts, the truth, is not allowed and will lead thee to denunciation, renunciation and a multitude of other “ations” of the worstest sort imaginable.

  • avatar
    msquare

    A solution to the short driver/tall passenger combo was the 60/40 seat that found its way into a lot of Buicks, Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs, among others. And yes, when my five-foot-nothing mom was driving, it was an issue. And isn’t that Impala seat split as well?

    The middle front seat always sucked thanks to the tranny hump. You had to swing your feet into the passenger footwell. And if the car had a notchback seat with the fold-down armrest, you didn’t have much back support either.

    It was good for emergencies when my parents had to pick a bunch of kids up from the movie theater, but cramming all eight of us into the 1970 Buick Estate Wagon for a family trip was always a task. Seating was by birth order, so my oldest brother got the worst seat in the front middle. As the two youngest after three sisters, my other brother and I got free reign over the all-the-way-in-the back (that’s what we called it) area, which included the space between the back and the rear-facing way-back seat, which for some strange reason my brother liked to ride in until he got too big to fit. Not bad, considering that way-back seat could fit three across if we needed to add a cousin or two.

    I remember that Fairmonts came with bench seats which were all but useless thanks to a very high tranny hump, and early K-cars had them, too, just so Chrysler could use six-passenger capacity as a selling point. Bottom line, though, three across in anything but a McLaren F1 or a Talbot-Matra Bagheera/Murena is flat-out uncomfortable.

  • avatar
    vww12

    Isn’t it dangerous to have a third person in the front w/o an airbag?

    Funny thing is, more and more 4-doors are four seaters….

    Panamera
    Mini crossover
    Some versions of the Phaeton
    etc.

    In a few years TTAC may be writing the Good Night Sweet Five-Seat Sedan…

    • 0 avatar
      Scottdb

      “Isn’t it dangerous to have a third person in the front w/o an airbag?”

      No more dangerous than driving in any of the quadrillions of cars that were produced with no airbags at all.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Besides the already mentioned reasons (airbags, narrower cars), I wonder if the disappearance of front bench seats is also a consequence of the shift to trucks as day-to-day transportation. It’s still not particularly difficult to get a bench seat in most trucks (albeit the low-line models) so if someone truly needs that front bench, they just buy a truck.

    Hell, in the base, regular-cab Tacoma, Toyota doesn’t even give you a fold-down center armrest with the standard, flat bench (at least you get the center armrest in all domestic truck benchseats). How’s that for nostalgia?

  • avatar

    The current Impala is only 3-4 inches narrower than the 1979 version, or the 1992 version. And the current Epsilon II Malibu is actually wide than the Impala, by a tiny amount. What killed the 3 across bench is side impact standards. In order to get a good rating the doors have to be thicker and stronger and the passengers further away from the exterior.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    Column shifter

    How do people feel about a column shifter for automatics? Frees up space in the center. No disadvantages.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      I would love it, but I can’t see any resemblance between myself and someone who would consider buying a brand new car :)
      And that goes for manual transmissions too. Unless the car in question has any sporting ambitions. (or maybe even if it does, considering ‘F1-paddle’ style shifters really are column mounted shifters :P )
      Which means the car buying public has some resemblance to me after all…

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      I don’t personally like column shifters. I prefer the floor-mounted gated automatic shifter originally introduced by Mercedes, then ripped off by the likes of Honda and Subaru starting in the early 2000s. Much easier to shift manually when needed.

    • 0 avatar
      Flybrian

      Buick Park Avenue Ultra w/center console package is probably the most useful 4-door sedan in existance.

      Floor shifters are a joke in automatics. Period. Column shifters are far more space efficient but aren’t ‘cool’ to the masses that drone around in Camcords and faux lux cars like a G25.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      Since the great majority of drivers leave the auto in D anyway, a column shifter is fine. Floor shifters are silly and pretentious for automatics (“oh look, it’s sporty!”), particularly now that flappy paddles can be used for manual shifting.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      I personally have no problem with column shifters, I do absolutely loath dash mounted shifters as seen in certain minivans though.

      I think the popularity of floor shifters stems from a lot of people considering them to somehow be a ‘premium’ option. I have a lot of customers who when looking for a new truck will only look at ones that have the floor mounted shifter. I prefer the layout on the Super Duty trucks where you still have a huge spacious center console, but the shifter remains on the column so that there is room for four large cupholders or alternatively storage bins where the floor shifter would normally reside.

    • 0 avatar
      ptschett

      Makes perfect sense. My first few cars were floor shift automatics but it was rare I did anything more than go from P to R then R to D and leave it there till I got to my destination. My pickup is column shift and I wouldn’t want an automatic-transmission pickup any other way.

      I would be opposed to column-shifted manuals though. The old 3-on-the-tree may be a rite of passage but I feel a lot more comfortable with a floor shifter for modern gearboxes like my Challenger’s 6-speed.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      My weather beater has a column shifter and it totally makes sense. I would think that 98% of America spends 98% of their time in “D” as it is, even if they have a gated automatic or a “manual” mode. Ehhh, guess it makes people feel cool but really, floor shifters with an automatic serve very little real world useful purpose for most of the populace.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynamic88

      I like column shifters for slush boxes, and for manual transmissions.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Oh, by the way, Who remembers the Honda FR-V or the Fiat Multipla?

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      On the Fiat Multipla, go on over to http://www.curbsideclassic.com and Paul N. will give you all the info you on that very vehicle!

    • 0 avatar
      mazder3

      Dang, I didn’t know they were both gone with no real replacement. The glass area on the Multipla is AMAZING!
      Glass area, another automotive trend that has come and gone….

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fiat_Multipla_021.JPG

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Good riddance. Incredibly uncomfortable at best. My folks ’85 Oldsmobarge 98 Pregnancy had that awful split bench seat, in the world’s slickest pseudo-leather. So all three front passengers were completely uncomfortable, as there was no possible lateral support at all. You had to hang onto the pencil thin steering wheel for dear life if driving, and just slither around helplessly if you were the single passenger. And this at the completely feeble conering grip levels that heap of crap was capable of. If you need to haul six people get a minivan or take two cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      “You had to hang onto the pencil thin steering wheel for dear life if driving, and just slither around helplessly if you were the single passenger.”

      So your seatbelts were broken?

  • avatar
    stuki

    The lack of convertibles with a bench up front is one of life’s great injustices. Convertible back seats are luggage racks above parade speeds.

    And nothing, absolutely nothing, in automotion (save perhaps a successful cannonball record attempt….)compares to rolling down a moonlit road in a ‘vert with baby on your arm.

    In an era where traffic flow is limited by the legions whose vehicle of choice make a UPS van seem like corner carver, side bolsters are vastly overrated for anything more than image

  • avatar
    Bryce

    Colum shift and bench seats belong in a museum not cars

  • avatar
    Cerbera LM

    Bench seats were a great source for gossip. Could keep tabs on the status of couples based on where the girl sat. Girl in the middle they were a couple. Arm around the girl, might as well give her a ring. Girl not in the middle, breakup imminent.

  • avatar
    claytori

    Hmm. The ’91 Century wagon I retired in 2006 had a split bench with a column shift. These seats were reasonably comfortable. My son learned to drive on this car, and strangely it was popular among his friends when they had to go somewhere because it carried 8 passengers. This car had no airbags, only those silly door mounted shoulder belts.

    One of my early memories is riding in the middle of the front seat of my parent’s ’55 Olds 88 4-door sedan. My dad dropped a wheel in a pot hole and the car lurched to a stop. I still remember my forehead colliding with the nicely lit ashtray. Maybe that explains a few things about my behaviour today. Our next car, a ’61 Olds F-85 wagon with the aluminum V-8, had seat belts in the front.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I have carried six people in my 2004 Impala once – and the person in the front middle was a kid – still wasn’t pleased with that, even though I have the split bench (no console).

    I do remember occasionally going with my parents and having six people in the car when I was young – I’m glad I didn’t have to do that too often after I reached my teen years, though.

    Now when I was in the military out in NoCal, certain girls weren’t too pleased that my 1964 Impala SS had that center console with the bucket seats! Funny – I loved that car and wish I had it back!

    Funny thing about three in the front – for some reason in the 1970′s, on occasion we’d pile in mine or a buddy’s car and do three in the front. Don’t ask me why, we just did it. Now what really ticked me off was when I was the middle passenger and the buddy riding shotgun suddenly bent way down on the premise of tying his shoe – guess what that looked like to passing drivers? Two guys sitting next to each other with no one apparently riding shotgun! Man, I hated that cute stunt! I got him back more than once, but this was a common game.

    I did have six of us in my 1972 Nova coupe, once, returning from a hunting trip shortly after I got out of the air force – one of the other guys had to leave, so I was stuck packing all our gear and guys into my car. Quite a snug fit for the 80-mile trip home, wouldn’t you say?

    • 0 avatar
      Dynasty

      That is hilarious.

      Me, and many of my friends in high school all had 60s era Chevys with bench seats (in the 1990s), and we too would all ride in the front. Not sure why, but that’s what we did. Probably because the back seats in those cars were totally unusable unless you had no calves or feet.

      Oh I wish, I wish I would have thought of the old tying your shoe trick the times I was riding shotgun.

      Maybe one day the opportunity will present itself again and I’ll get a good laugh out of it.

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    As mentioned in a previous thread, I recently acquired a 1995 LeSabre Limited, and it has a sumptuous leather-clad pillow cushion interior, with, you guessed it, six-passenger seating. Here are the advantages I have found so far…One, the bench is divided 60/40, and has dual power controls. Two, it’s easy to reach across the front of the car to clean etc. And lastly, it has a real honest-to-goodness armrest, which features lots of storage and flip out cup holders. The best part for me is that I can actually use the armrest. I’m not that tall, and most of the time cars with consoles are designed for people that are a lot taller and have the seat pushed back. Where I have to sit, the armrest is useless to me.

    So, yeah, it’s kind of sad to see them go

  • avatar

    i actually like this configuration when done well. the recent implementation is so compromised as to be useless. look at the dash of the impala. it juts out in the middle depriving the already cramped middle seat of leg/knee room. bench seats and column shifters haven’t been done right in a car since they stopped building checkers.

    http://www.caranddriver.com/features/10q2/john_phillips_nothing_is_certain_but_death_and_taxis-column/gallery/checker_marathon_sedan_interior_photo_17
    http://www.cow.net/checker/photos/FRIENDS/youngest.checker.interior.jpg

  • avatar
    86er

    A requiem, one last time:

    Stickshifts and Safetybelts, by Cake

    stickshifts and safetybelts,
    bucket seats have all got to go.
    when we’re driving in the car,
    it makes my baby seem so far.
    i need you here with me,
    not way over in a bucket seat.
    i need you to be here with me,
    not way over in a bucket seat.
    i need you to be here with me,
    not way over in a bucket seat.

    but when we’re driving in my malibu,
    it’s easy to get right next to you.
    i say, “baby, scoot over, please.”
    and then she’s right there next to me.
    i need you here with me,
    not way over in a bucket seat.
    i need you to be here with me,
    not way over in a bucket seat.

    well a lot of good cars are japanese.
    but when we’re driving far,
    i need my baby,
    i need my baby next to me.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    There are still older retirees who strongly prefer the front bench so that they can take another couple of couples out with them (or so they say). These are also the folks that make a point of measuring trunk space in terms of how many sets of golf club will fit.

    Front bench seats may be dying in sedans, but they still live in in pickup trucks. While the floor shifter and center console seem to be an in-demand option, especially on higher trim levels, those who use the truck as the primary family transport or those who need to take a work crew around seem to still appreciate the capability of hauling six people.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I for one do not miss bench seats and column shifters. Bench seats may have made sense when women didn’t drive, but even then they were only acceptable for people who had never sat in a supportive bucket seat. Once women started driving in meaningful numbers, benches had to be split, so a taller passenger could fit in the front seat. Split bench seats have none of the advantages of bench seats or bucket seats. They aren’t supportive and comfortable, and the third passenger is better off riding in the trunk.

    As for column shifters, perhaps I just can’t separate them from the cars I’ve experienced them in. Chrysler automatics worked well back in the day, and the gear selectors didn’t wear out in my use, but I’d much rather have driven a car with a manual. As a teenager, I felt like I was missing out with the only dependable automatics we’d own until 2004. Column shifters in other cars were awful. I remember pulling the lever as hard as I could to the left in old Fords, trying to get the starter to engage. It wouldn’t unless it sensed the transmission was in park, but just putting the lever in park didn’t usually get it done. More recently, I had use of a bunch of Lincoln Towncars. The ones that weren’t practically new took finesse to locate drive, and Panther column shifters were as junky as any mechanism can be. Unless it is compared to the column shift in an E65, which is a cruel joke.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Our ’92 Towncar had a Split-Bench seat and it worked quite well actually, since it was my wife’s daily driver and she is of average stature for a woman. It was quite comfortable for long trips and very similar to a living-room recliner covered in leather.

      Taller front-seat passengers just moved the seat back electrically. At over 6ft tall I had to kick back the passenger seat whenever she drove to drop me off somewhere, But on the rare occasions that I drove her Towncar, the whole front bench was pushed all the way towards the back. The whole Split-bench was very comfortable, even the middle portion. Maybe the level of trim had something to do with it since it was not a stripper.

      The column shifter never gave us any undue problems and was never ‘loose’. We never had any problems with the ergonomics but we had many problems with the mechanical aspects of the car. Loved the ride and comfort.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      I also like the Town Car’s split bench, in fact, the seats on the Town Car are reason enough IMO to choose it over a Grand Marquis. I like the cushy well padded seats, and the folding center armrest is large enough that it gives a pseudo-bucket feel when down. There is hardly any lateral support, but really, who is going to go hooning around in a Town Car. I’ve never tried to ride in the middle section though.

      I haven’t noticed ‘loose’ column shifters on any of the panthers I’ve driven, but in the case of cars which were driven hard for many many miles (ex-livery cars mostly) I’ve noticed the needle on the PRNDL display doesn’t necessarily line up with what gear the car is actually in. Since it’s pretty easy to feel one click down for reverse, three clicks down for drive, etc, I’ve never had a problem with it though.

  • avatar
    outback_ute

    The 1994 EF model Ford Falcon sedan had an airbag specially shaped to protect the centre-front passenger, despite having a lap-only seatbelt at the time. I think they dropped the bench seat in sedans in 2002 as only the few taxi drivers who bought new cars instead of at auctions might have bought them by then, and it would not have been worth engineering an integrated lap-sash belt for that small number.

    The bench seat & column auto is still available in the utes today with lap-sash belt (since ~2000) although the seat is now fixed between two buckets and I’m not sure on the current airbag configuration.

    That is the same seat configuration I have on my manual trans ute – no it is not comfortable but beats walking on the few times I’ve had a second passenger.

  • avatar
    Bryce

    Manual shift on the column is a nightmare to set up Ive spent most of today sorting the 4speed column shift in my old Hillman and yes it works perfectly its just a bloody awful thing to use Im chasing a remote floorshift conversion for it.

    • 0 avatar
      car_guy2010

      Bench seat swill be missed only because they would allow a couple to make out up front instead of in the rear.

      Especially if the cars themselves are wider.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Trix aren’t for kids…

    trunks are for kids.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    What we see today is the results of bad seat design. There has been a evolution away from a functional bench seat for both the front seats, and the rear seats.

    Front bench seats were not always bad. At one time, cars were designed for three front passengers. To do this meant more than just putting in a middle seat of seat belts. It meant designing the dashboard so that it did not dip down in the middle. It meant designing a column shifter. It meant designing a bench seat capable of seating three comfortably and securely. This was done easily fifty years ago before the advent of the computer age and modern engineering. The idea that it cannot be done today shows ignorance and flaccid thinking.

    What happened was a generation raised with bucket seats as “sporty” and consoles with shifters as “sporty” have replaced those earlier, older buyers.

    When full sized cars were threatened with personal luxury and with pony cars, manufacturers offered full sized cars with center consoles and bucket seats to meet this trend. For buyers still in the market for a full sized bench seat, this trend meant fashioning the front bench seat so that it was styled as a set of bucket seats. We ended up with bench seats that lost a comfortable middle seating position, due to fashion.

    Dashboards also mimicked this trend towards “sporty” cars. The four seater TBird made having a huge console running through a car a design plus, although it’s appearance was due to a lack of an ability to engineering a flatter floor. Ford too a problem and turned it into a marketing plus.

    We have front bucket seats, floor shifters and consoles because of marketing, not because of engineering. We lost three across seating in the front because of marketing, not because of engineering.

    Today the front three across bench seat is dead, and if you take a look at the back seat – you see the same failed designs turning the rear seat into buckets with a penalty box middle. So after killing the front bench, the back bench is about as dead as the front seats were just a decade ago.

    Look at the ads. How many auto makers are selling their four door sedans as four door sports cars? The idea is that six passenger cars cannot be considered sporty. Honestly, that is just not trying. What we have here are full sized cars merely mimicking the seating arrangements of smaller cars that are considered sporty, not full sized cars designed as full sized sedans with a clearly differing engineering purpose.

    I see this trend as a FAIL. A real front bench seat, a dashboard designed to accommodate three front passengers, and a column shifter creates a more spacious interior. Cars were not just wider fifty years ago, this design made them seem wider. Even Japanese cars made their narrow interiors appear more spacious by putting in a front bench.

    As a guy with more than a touch of claustrophobia, the trend to the closing up of cars in order to meet a styling fashion fad, sucks. My phobia assists me in outing the canards used to justify designing a less efficient auto interior. There are no real reasons why front and rear seats cannot be designed to accommodate more than two passengers. The lack of interior versatility needed to accommodate six passengers on occassion forces buyers into larger, heavier, less fuel efficient vehicles that waste resources.

    If this trend continues, expect a future posting declaring the rear bench seats dead. We already see the same FAIL back there today.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      I must go all the way back to my dad’s 1966 Chevy Impala “sport sedan” – a four-door hardtop. That car was a basic Impala: 250 cu. in. six, powerglide, PS, AM radio, fire engine red w/black cloth and vinyl interior. The car was simply downright beautiful and had that solid front bench seat (of course). It did not matter that the car had four doors, as GM, especially Chevy, knew how to design a functional six-passenger work-a-day car that was so flat-out gorgeous, that I, as a 17-year-old wanted one for myself, four doors and all!

      Also, in the area I lived at the time, some youngster had a 1967 Impala sport sedan in the same colors as my dad’s, but he put Cragars on it, jacked up the back end and raced that thing all over town. I lusted after that car, too. The only four-door I thought looking nicer than my dad’s.

      Yes. the OEM’s have deliberately “forgotten” how to make a functional. practical car sporty and attractive!

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      Words cannot describe how narrow and claustrophic the interior of the current Taurus is. I wanted out of it as soon as I sat in it.

      Plus, it was all done in black. Another unfortunate homogenization run amuk.

      Further to VanillaDude’s point about marketing. I think the automakers deliberately cook up this nonsense so that we’re forced to buy more of their products. Can’t all fit in a full-size car anymore? Why not buy a three-row six seater? Makes sense right?

    • 0 avatar
      outback_ute

      Don’t forget that transmissions have gotten a lot larger (cf. powerglide mentioned above) which hugely impacts the useability, not to mention safety standards which would require at least a lap-sash belt (as would a sense of self-preservation) and airbag.


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