By on December 8, 2015

Quadra-lift_air_suspension_01

If you’re a car enthusiast, you likely get asked by your friends and acquaintances for advice on their automotive purchases. If you write about cars, that probability becomes a certainty. When they ask something really general like “what’s the best car?” it’s a bit annoying because what fits your needs best may not be the best choice for your neighbor. However, sometimes you’re presented with a genuine need and you want to give sound advice.

There’s a cute older couple that I’ve gotten to know from going to hear live blues music around Detroit. They’re both gallery displayed artists. He’s a college art instructor and she’s had similar jobs, including starting the art department at a nearby university. Unfortunately, Linda has some health issues, including a bad back. One of their cars needs replacing and Don’s rented a series of different branded sedans to try to find one that his wife’s painful spine can tolerate.

 

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Range Rover air suspension

When he found out that I write about cars, Don told me about Linda’s back and asked me what car had the best ride. The truth is that in a good year I might get to drive a half dozen press cars or trucks, so I really don’t have a broad perspective on everything that’s available. Based on what experience I do have (I include a ride quality loop on some of the Detroit area’s worst roads when I do get review vehicles), I told him that I have a bad back myself and thought that the Land Rover LR4’s air suspension was very impressive. Climbing up into an SUV, though, can be as much of a challenge for someone with a bad back as riding in a 15-year-old Plymouth with bad shocks. I did point out that SUVs with air suspension, like the Land Rovers or Grand Cherokee’s with Jeep’s Quadra Lift suspension, usually have a feature that lowers the vehicle for ingress and egress.

MAGNERIDE CHASIS PHOTO AND TEXT REV

I ended up telling him to check out cars and crossovers that either have air suspension or the General Motors developed MagneRide adjustable shock absorbers, but I thought it might be productive to get a wider range of opinions. So, I’m opening the question up to the Best and the Brightest. Maybe one of you can even suggest a vehicle that has both air suspension and MagneRide dampers as in the illustration below.

I realize that car enthusiasts in our readership tend towards preferring firm suspensions and good handling, but those are not at the top of every car buyer’s checklist. Some people prefer, or actually need, a car with a soft suspension. What vehicle would you suggest to someone with a bad back?

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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144 Comments on “Oh! My Aching Back: What Vehicle Has the Plushest Ride?...”


  • avatar

    Forget the fancy suspensions. Either go with the Toyota Avalon or Lexus LS for true ride comfort.

    For a higher hip point, the Nissan Murano is a winner, though it’s ugly as sin.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Avalon doesn’t even rate in top 20 “plushest rides.” The new gen and one before are even worse than the prior ones (Toyota is not what it once was; look at the REALLY hollowed out/cheapened ES as a stark example).

      The LS460 is firmer and less plush than its predecessor (LS430).

      The current plushest rides are the M-B S Class, the Maybach, some Citroens (that we unfortunately can’t get in the U.S.), and the high dollar stuff like the Bentley Mulsanne and Rolls Royce Ghost.

      Cadillac does not currently have a single vehicle that is legitimately “plush,” by even a generous description of the term, including the XTS or Escalade (the ATS is the equivalent of a Pontiac Grand Am, to make matters worse), which is particularly sad.

      The CT6 will be built up by GM fanboys as the “plush Cadillac” all have been waiting for, but it’s just a stretched and rather basic CTS suspension-wise.

      • 0 avatar
        stottpie

        I have to disagree. Have you driven an XTS or, even better, the XLR? Those are incredible rides.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          “Incredible?” Really?

          The XTS does not have a truly luxurious, plush ride – it (not coincidentally) rides similarly to its LaCrosse sibling.

          The ELR is far from plush, also.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            Just to clarify: Are we talking about the “Caddy Corvette” XLR or “Caddy Volt” ELR? Not that I have any idea how either one rides.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          “Incredible”, perhaps.

          But the context here is not “good handling” or “great grip” or “amazing response or feedback”.

          It’s *numbing, isolating plushness* for the passenger (inferring that she’s not driving it).

          I cannot imagine a universe in which the XLR can be described in that way, not if Cadillac was *doing their job right* when they built it.

          Sports cars should not be “plush”.

      • 0 avatar
        Sjalabais

        Citroën? Drove a DS4 as a rental a couple of years ago. I had actual nightmares afterwards about driving into ongoing traffic by not taking corners correctly – so dead was the steering. So you won’t notice the ride over all your life-endangered sweat.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      When I had the current Avalon as a rental, I thought that the ride was terrible. I prefer the Passat and Taurus when I get a rental.

      • 0 avatar

        I had the Avalon as a press car last spring and thought the ride was phenomenal. Maybe they have different suspension depending on trim?

        And to DeadWeight’s point: I’ve driven across a farm field in a modern Lexus LS recently and was nary tossed about my seat. For the big bumps, the LS smooths them out quite well.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Fair. However the rental Avalon was set up, I would describe it as crashy, bumpy, and unrefined.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            I agree crashy, bumpy and unrefined. I’m not really sure what Mark is comparing the Avalon with to think its ride is “phenomenal.”

            Mark, what were you bench-marking the Avalon against? A6, Impala, E-Class, Genesis, 300, Fusion Titanium?

          • 0 avatar

            @jmo:

            A6 suspension is good, but you’ll feel the smaller imperfections a lot when you get into the larger wheel sizes.

            Impala is great as long as you stay in the lower trims and away from the big wheels.

            Haven’t driven the E-Class, but you’re starting to reach. Same goes for Audi A6. They’re at a different price point than the Avalon. Impala is more on point.

            I haven’t driven the latest 300. But, like I said elsewhere here in the comments and on my Charger AWD review, the AWD suspension setup is fantastic with the smaller wheel package.

            Fusion Titanium is a bit stiffly sprung for my liking. And again, wheels are too big.

            I think the rule of thumb here is to find a car with a compliant suspension and a trim with a smaller wheel size to maximize that tire sidewall.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The Fusion with the 19s is too harsh. The 17s and 18s are fine.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          Maybe it’s road conditions, which vary greatly, and suspensions don’t handle these widely varying conditions in a uniform manner, but I agree with bball in that the Avalon has a crashy, firm ride that’s far from plush, and that the Ford Taurus handles serious road imperfections better (as does the Fusion).

          I would never classify the LS460 as uncomfortable, but Lexus tightened things up with it compared to the LS430 that preceded it, in an attempt to infuse some “sportiness” of the German way into it (think 7 Series or Audi A8), at the expense of some foolishness.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I had the Avalon in Arizona. If it can’t handle the roads there, I doubt I’d want it in Michigan.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            ugh – autocorrect!

            Meant to write “…at the expense of plushness,” but autocorrect changed “plushness” to “foolishness.”

            (autocorrect tries to change “autocorrect” to “WordPerfect” – lol)

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            bball – I had an Avalon in Dallas and hated that car.

            People think I have anti-GM blinders on, but I believe that I’m objective in that I at least criticize vehicles based on my honest impressions of them as I experience them.

            The Avalon, Camry and Corolla (I won’t even get into the Yaris – wow, what a total, unredemeeing POS) are Exhibits A, B & C in the case for Toyota’s fall from glory.

            Build quality, fit/finish, interior materials, NVH, etc., are all p!ss-poor in comparison to prior gen Toyotas let alone contemporary competitors.

            I will never understand Jack’s boner for the Camry.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            My wife called the rental car company to complain about it and they put us in a Taurus Limited with under 5000 miles instead. For freeway cruising, the Taurus is superior. I wouldn’t buy one new, but it’d definitely consider a used one.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I own a LS460, and DeadWeight is making a mountain out of a molehill in terms of the difference between the LS460 and LS430. It’s a cushy, soft car. It’s just a bit more controlled and less floaty than previous generations. There is no world in which the LS460 is remotely “sporty” or rides anything like a German sport sedan.

            There are two kinds of soft rides: floaty and controlled. The difference: floaty will completely isolate you from smaller bumps while amplifying (and repeating) big bumps, and controlled will transmit some smaller bumps but mostly eliminate the wallow and nautical motion. The LS is in the controlled category but it’s still a very soft ride.

            Also, my most recent Camry rental was better than DeadWeight says. Materials: definitely as cheap as possible. NVH: middling, not horrible or great. Build quality and fit/finish: surprisingly good! No squeaks, rattles, or fit issues. Driving experience: quite good. The SE suspension is excellent and they’ve improved powertrain calibration as well.

          • 0 avatar
            Occam

            I’ve taken a Fusion Hybrid on several 400+ mile roadtrips. It’s a big soft and isolated, but it makes a terrific highway car. It’s roomy and incredibly quiet.

            The seats are so-so though – I have some lower back issues that flare up from time to time – I need firm seats with good lumbar support, and prefer good lateral support rather than wallowing around in a wide, flat, unsupportive seat. The Fusion didn’t do so well in that regard, but the higher trim models may have better sculpting.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Avalon? I’ve had a bunch of rental Avalons and the ride was nothing special. Chrysler 300s on the other hand are sublime.

    • 0 avatar
      NotFast

      I think the 2016 Avalon – post MMC – will have better seats/ride… the current sucks, I know it’s alienated a lot of traditional Avalon owners and is due for change.

      Even me (younger than 50) though the ride was a little rough and the seats were horrible. How do uncomfortable seats end up making into production in the 21st century?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Something soft with tall sidewalls like the Avalon would be preferable methinks to the LS, which has fancy air suspension!

      Also, the current Sonata has very tall sidewalls I’ve noticed.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Air suspension is optional on the LS and is usually found on heavily loaded and/or LWB models. Standard suspension cars have a ride that is somewhere between the “comfort” and “sport” modes of the air suspension.

        Any LS is substantially softer than the current Avalon.

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      The Avalon is soft except for the first couple years of the current generation. They went firm to get some love from car magazines, then everyone who actually wanted an Avalon complained that Toyota had ruined their car. They’ve just recently softened it back up.

      The Lexus RX350 could work too. They only stiffened the version that they gave to the press; most are still luxobarges.

      Moving down the scale, I’ve heard good things about the ride in the Impala and Fusion.

    • 0 avatar
      RRocket

      2004-2006 Lexus LS430 “Ultra Luxury” Package with air suspension.

  • avatar
    an innocent man

    Any idea their price range?

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Easy ’92 Lincoln Town car, or a suburban, either way.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      Really, any GM truck is comfortable. Our 2000 K3500 crew cab is more comfortable than half of the vehicles I’ve been in. GM really did well with ride comfort on trucks.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I have ridden in Suburbans from the 2007 to 2014 generation in trims from LS to LT in 4×2 and 4×4 versions and I have NEVER ONCE thought of the ride as any more plush than my old 4×2 F150 Heritage edition.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I rode in a new Escalade and the ride was rubbish, even with whatever fancy suspension Cadillac is putting in there.

          So I’m calling these as not comfortable.

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          The ride in the latest generation is vasty VASTLY better.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            But still trucky. I’ve ridden in a Denali and two Escalades of the current generation, and there’s still trucky bounciness under the surface coating of plush that the MRC provides. You can’t hide a live rear axle on rough pavement.

        • 0 avatar
          Occam

          The F150 heritage is the one with the bubble/aero styling from the late 90’s, right?

          The current generation F150 is pretty jittery, and if I notice that while daily driving a Scion tC, it’s pretty bad. I had one (F150 Lariat crew-cab) as a rental car – it tended to get almost violently shaky over rough surfaces, and the rear crashes hard over speed bumps. On the plus side, it was quiet and the seats were decent, if a bit flat and wide (and offered a large number of adjustments).

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            Occam – yes. It was my way of saying “rides decent, but nothing to write home about.” I’ve found my 2004 Heritage bobbles along the north south axis on certain concrete freeways depending on how far apart the expansion joints are. My truck is a standard cab long bed for what it is worth.

      • 0 avatar
        matador

        I haven’t had much time in the GMT900, but the GMT400 and GMT800 sure seem comfortable to me

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          I really want to ride along with people complaining about a suburban ride quality issues.
          I have plenty of experience in GMT400s and 800s, and a little in 900s.
          It’s a long wheel base heavy SUV that has acres of tire wall, I want to meet this elusive poor riding (stock) suburban I’m hearing of.

          Unless the suburban was an unladen 3/4 version or the ESV magnetic ride sucks (possible from what I hear) coupled with 22 in rims and no side wall, I’m at a loss as to what I’m hearing.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            GM full-size pickups and SUVs have always ridden well for their segment and the time they came out–not mind-blowingly amazing, but not bad in any way. GM knows what their bread and butter is.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            If you don’t mind a little bounce and judder, I’m sure you like it fine. It’s soft, but not totally smooth except on perfect pavement.

            You also live in North Carolina IIRC, so you may not experience as much, or as badly, broken pavement as those of us elsewhere.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve owned long highway trip comfortable cars all my adult life. Mostly Lincolns. They ride OK. Best riding car was my ’76 Continental coupe. 2nd best was my ’68 Continental. 3rd best – 2003 Town Car, which couldn’t even make my top ten list until I installed Michelin Defenders on it. That displaced my ’90 Town Car into 4th place once it got the tires. Tires make a lot of difference. Convinced my sister-in-law to install Defenders on her ’14 Nissan Juke. It’s almost civilized now. Tires can ruin the ride and handling of anything these days. More so than back in the stone age.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        I think the question pertains more to urban pothole adsorption rather than highway rolling.

        But I completely agree that tires can utterly change the character of a car’s normal ride independent of anything the suspension is doing.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    best seats hands down Volvo or Saab, the Swedes knew what they were doing with their seats.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Agree. For a new car, they should look at a Volvo with air suspension.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        You two are just peas in a pod today with your Volvo/Saab love.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          They are the official cars of college professors everywhere!

          Seriously though, good seats = European, and soft ride = not-German. That leaves the remaining Swedish brand, or Jaguar/Land Rover. It’s a very short list.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I will give you, the people described with their art gallery ways and university jobs certainly say to me they should indeed be Volvo owners.

            The XC70 made my recommendation list down below!

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Good seats but firm suspensions on some models, my 850 was more “Grand Prix” than “Grand Marquis”.

        I dunno about newer models but I assume they’ve improved.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      Yes, but my S60 just ate suspension parts on the metro Boston roads. It became rather expensive to keep replacing them. That was with 16″ wheels too.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      True.

      But owning an XC70 T6, I can tell you the ride is not *plush* with those stupid oversized 18″ wheels it comes with.

      (I think I’d like the ride much better with 17s or even 16s, to absorb some of the punishment from road imperfections or the like.)

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      I’ll have to second this, drove a rental Volvo S60 and while I prefer a lot of other cars over it, the seats were super top notch to the level where all other cars felt uncomfortable for a week afterwards. Even though the ride wasn’t the best (for the class the A4 would has a noticeably nicer ride standard) the overall comfort was top notch because of the seats.

      I haven’t personally tried them but supposedly those “NASA” grade Nissan Altima seats are also very good, so if a Volvo is too pricey that might be an option? Haven’t tested it myself though.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    Buick Verano. Size and price are just right. Turbo available if power is wanted, as the base engine is weak.

  • avatar
    1S4ME

    No joke, I was going to write Doug D @Jalopnik this very question. Agree Volvo for best/comfortable seats, but ride can be a bit firm at time. Probably Avalon or LS for a ride that soaks ups potholes and other imperfections.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    1984-87 Corvette, no question. After the second pothole, Linda will be so numb from the pain that she won’t feel any more road imperfections.

    But seriously folks: Town Car, Buick Lucerne, Lexus LS. If they really want a crossover, the Lincoln version of the Ford Edge is pretty cushy (I was driven to the airport in one, but I can’t remember its alphabet-soup name).

    I find the Escalade/Yukon/Suburban and Range Rover ride well for a truck – which is to say, not quite as nice as the best sedans.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Can’t Linda do some browsing for pointers?

    http://www.edmunds.com/car-buying/the-best-vehicles-for-drivers-with-back-pain.html

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    If you want really soft and smooth ride quality you’re shopping big, body-on-frame and RWD. Used? Easily the newest Lincoln Town Car you can find. Nothing will ride better. If you must have new and you have a pile of money? Easily a Cadillac Escalade ESV. The ride quality is incredible. New and a not quite that big pile of money? Easily a Chevy Suburban 2WD. Don’t want an SUV? Buick LaCrosse, Chrysler 300 (base model), Lincoln MKS, or Toyota Avalon.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      “Easily a Cadillac Escalade ESV. The ride quality is incredible.”

      The fack are you smoking? The Escalade and Suburban have inferior ride quality to -most- things, including anything with an independent rear suspension.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      If you ever cross anything but the smoothest pavement, don’t buy a truck and expect a luxurious ride. It’s soft, but it can get bouncy.

  • avatar
    david42

    This is exactly why we bought our 2015 Murano. It has a very soft ride, and the seats are amazing. Not sure if the ride height will suit these folks, but it’s very low for an SUV.

  • avatar
    Commando

    1976-1978 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham St. Regis Edition. End of story. AMHIK

    http://www.curbsideclassic.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/1977-Chrysler-Brochure-03.jpg

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    The Edmund’s article zooms in on seats, which, while important, are not the entire picture.

    To a large extent, the “best” depends on where the back pain is. I have scoliosis in my lower back, but with appropriate seats (like in my RX-8), I’m good to go, even without a cushy ride (like in my RX-8).

    OTOH, if the problem is in the upper back/neck area, a smooth ride becomes more important. The rougher the ride, the more the upper muscles need to work at keeping one’s head level.

    Since back problems differ a lot, renting to try out different cars is a good idea. However, rentals most often do not come with the fanciest seat option, so it becomes more a test of ride quality than (possible) seat comfort.

    Avalon/Lexus is likely the best bet.

    • 0 avatar
      Occam

      This is a great point.

      For lower back pain, good support is the most important piece.

      You mention upperback/neck issues, and the work needed to hold one’s head level; the higher the hip point and narrower the track (like a CUV), the more amplified any lateral rocking will be. If you’ve ever been in a tall SUV with a narrow track going over speed-bumps at an angle, you know the sensation. A bump that upsets one side of the car disturbs it on its roll axis; lower cars put you closer to the roll axis, and make this motion less noticeable.

  • avatar
    deltascrew

    2015 and up Ford Expedition with the Magnetic Suspension option. Comfort mode is like riding on a cloud

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Ronnie, you haven’t specified:

    A) Can they buy average new price?

    B) Did you wish to insult them with car guy juvenility?

    The comments here will need to be filtered through those two qualifications.

  • avatar
    GS 455

    There are 2 main components to ride quality, impact absorption and control of ride motions. Some people equate good ride with total control of ride motions at the expense of bump absorption. Other people don’t mind slow up and down body motions as long as the suspension soaks up the potholes,expansion joints, cracks and bumps. Depending on what their priorities are, different people will have very different opinions on what constitutes good ride quality so saying a particular car has a “smooth” ride is meaningless. I prefer cars that isolate me from the third world quality of the roads in my city so I drive an 04 Cadillac Deville. There are very few current vehicles that I can tolerate. The Chrysler 300 is a great riding car, better than the Cadillac XTS, Mercedes E class, Audi A6 Hyundai Genesis. The Lincoln MKT really impressed me with how well it absorbed some of the worst road defects. I preferred it to the Ford Flex EcoBoost, Buick Enclave, Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit, GMC Terrain and Acura MDX.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      This is a fantastic point. I cannot stand that wallowing up and down motion – I literally get sick in cars like that. And in things like Panthers, it is usually combined with high-frequency jittering from the small stuff. It is very possible to have both control and impact absorption, but you need something more sophisticated than soft springs, a live axle, and marshmallow shocks. My best riding cars were RWD Peugeots, simply brilliant at smoothing out the road while still providing a controlled driving experience. Air-suspended Range Rovers are a close second, as long as they are on the stock shocks. My current P38 on Bilstiens is MUCH firmer. Goes around corners better though. Ain’t no free lunch.

      Wagon wheels and low profile tires make the task much, much more difficult.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      This is very well said. I had to replace my 328xi when it was simply crashing on even manhole covers. Drove a 4Runner about 10 times, and decided that while it isolated those problems perfectly, the bouncy ride motion was a bit too much. Everyone is going to have a different sweet spot, and different road conditions. Then you need to factor in handling trade-offs that come with it.

      The Fusion, I must say, was superb. Well damped but well controlled motions.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      GS 455 shares my opinion.

      Really bad roads can make otherwise great vehicles miserable to live with, as daily drivers.

      A vehicle that might be fantastic on the smoothest roads in some areas/states/countries might be absolutely brutal in other areas/states/countries.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      You took what I was trying to say and said it better. The marvelous thing about the LS is that it has a fantastic compromise between the two goals. The ride is very controlled but even the harshest impacts are muted, heard (faintly) more than felt.

      If push comes to shove, though, I’ll take a stiff ride rather than wallow and constant low-frequency motions. Body control is very important to me. I also can’t stand the Panther ride, and don’t like the extraneous motion (partly from the live axle itself bobbing around) that you get in live-axle BOF trucks.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    Too general. All we know about this couple is they asked about “cars” and rented “sedans”. Are they even interested in SUVCUVBOX’s? Trucks? If only cars, full size or miniature or what point in between? Price point/range? Need hatchback or better space to take things like art somewhere? Any other preferences, such as visibility and do they “trust” backup cameras and sensors?

  • avatar
    Waftable Torque

    I’ll give my vote to a 2006-2013 Chevy Impala with the base suspension. The ride compares favorably with my air suspension LS430, but try the seats to see if they’re supportive enough.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Funny, I’d cite those (based on ample rental experience) as some of the worse-riding cars out there. A lot of crashing and noise, and poor body control.

      • 0 avatar
        Waftable Torque

        My experience was one road trip from Edmonton to Calgary, and I certainly didn’t find any objectionable behavior on rough pavement. Perhaps rentals live a hard life.

  • avatar
    hiptech

    Suspension is only part of the issue, seat design is more important. Case in point back in ’99 I bought a new Odyssey which rode well but after 2+ hours had torturous seats. After my dad passed we inherited his 00 Accord EX V6, same issue. My 04 TSX on the other hand has marvelous cross-country seat comfort… go figure.

    We recently test drove the new Volvo XC-90 T6 Inscription… didn’t get to drive it for more than an hour or so but seat comfort and articulation seemed exemplary with very good potential for comfortable long distance trips.

  • avatar

    There is NOTHING ON THE ROAD with a more plush ride than the Mercedes S-class W221 and W222.

    The W221’s naturally aspirated V8 was quieter at speed than the W222’s twin turbos.

    As far as seats go – enjoy your heated/cooled shiatsu massage. No other car matches the S-class’ lumbar massage.

    I’ve made videos about my 2007. If there weren’t so many videos on the W222, I’d do another.

    The Cadillac XTS isn’t bad either.

  • avatar
    blueflame6

    If there was any justice in the world they’d be able to buy a large Citroen sedan here in the states.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Buick Lacrosse? Chrysler 300 base model? Durango because of the longggggggg wheelbase? Whatever Infiniti’s largest model is?

    My wonder would be what vehicle has the plushest ride that we plebeians can buy? No Mercedes, no Bentley or Rolls Royce.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      2014+ Durango has best ride quality of any large SUV under 50k, IMO, and it’s actually better than many (most?) SUVs costing more than 50k (even much more *cough Escalade cough*).

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The Infiniti Q70L is their largest model, and it’s just too hard and sporty with too low profile tires. Would not recommend.

      The last big comfortable Infiniti was the Q45 from 2001. It was criticized at the time for being too like a Lincoln or Buick.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      The Lacrosse rides ok, but I couldnt get comfortable in the seats.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Whatever else:

    Rims ≤ 17″. Tire pressure a few pounds low all around. No moose test will be happening here.

  • avatar
    Acd

    Citroen CX or DS.

  • avatar
    ttacfan

    Buick Lucerne with leather bench seat. Added benefit: you can turn on heated seat back separately from the seating.

  • avatar
    kenwood

    Sadly, this is a market segment that is completely ignored by the manufacturers now. Hopefully Lincoln will take the ball and run with it and stick to a “Traditional American Luxury” theme.

    I know the 2006 and prior Suburbans were very comfy (not sure about the newer ones) and I was pleasantly surprised at the 2014 Lincoln Navigator L. But what I really came here to plug is the 1993-1996 Cadillac Fleetwood. Gotta get me one of those someday. I’m hoping the CT6 will be a comfortable sedan, but I’m not optimistic. I’ll also agree with another commenter who said the 2000-2005 Caddy DeVilles.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Let’s be real, if they want something newer and reliable (<10 years old), soft suspension and comfy with nice seats, not too low to the ground, not truck-tall:

    Avalon
    XC70
    LS460
    Lucerne / LaCrosse
    Navigator (auto running boards)
    RL

    And that's about it.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Note that in all cases, “make sure it has the smallest wheels available, for more rubber”.

      I have a ’15 XC70 [God bless those seats!], but the 18″ wheels on the T6 make it more punishing than my *Corolla* if there’s a bump or a small curb or any other road feature.

      If I can just convince Les Schwab that “yes, 17s and probably 16s will fit, even if they weren’t factory for the T6, look at all that room outside the caliper already”, I will probably downsize the next time I need tires.

      Because the 18s are not only harsh, but make the tires more expensive.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Ooh! Ooh!

    Buick Envision!

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    For most people with back issues, it’s the SEATS, not how firm or soft the suspension is, unless the suspension seems to not exist as in the first gen BMW X3.

    Saab – maybe once were the best, but you’d have to be an idiot to buy a Saab in 2015.

    Volvo – depends which generation, and which car. Some are much better than others. The seats in the ’01-’10 S60 are excellent. The ’98-’06 S80 seats are less comfortable than the S60.

    I personally found the seats in the current gen ’11+ S60 to be much less comfortable than the old S60. Harder, less supportive, and the headrest is significantly more forward than the old car, as well as the otherwise very similar and equally mediocre seats in the ’07+ S80. The forward headrest pushes your head forward and down. This is supposed to help prevent whiplash, but I find this position extremely uncomfortable, and this issue alone would immediately cross the S60 off my shopping list. The S80 has a more neutral headrest position, but otherwise the seats are near identical to the S60 versions, flat, somewhat hard, not very supportive in the lower back region.

    It’s also worth mentioning that ALL Volvo seats prior to the latest versions in the new XC90 and upcoming S90 have manual two-way lumbar support only via a dial mounted on the inside of the seat straight from the 1980s. For an older person, this type of adjustment is going to get tiresome quickly.

    Lexus – their seats are all over the map, but for the most part (at least below the LS) they’ve only gotten good on the latest generation of cars. For a long time Lexus followed the Japanese mantra of “10-way is good enough for anyone” but you can now get a GS with highly adjustable multi-way seats, and I believe the new RX offers something similar.

    The Infiniti Q50 seats are lousy, and they have a fixed position headrest that’s even more forward mounted than the S60. I was in an out of that car in about a minute flat, no thanks. Q70 is a very old design, seats are nothing special. I’ve heard good reports of Nissan’s “zero gravity” seats in cars like the Murano, but have no experience.

    Honda seats are pretty notorious for being garbage. Acura’s are better, but Acura is still in the “10-way is good enough” camp. I was not impressed at all by the ’05-’13 Acura RL seats. The outgoing TL seats on the other hand weren’t too bad. I haven’t been in the TLX or RLX to know how those stack up.

    Base level Audi seats in their current cars are TERRIBLE. Rock hard, no support. They give me a lower back ache within 15 minutes. It’s a shame, because Audi seats used to be very good. I used to own an ’04 A6 2.7T, and those seats were excellent. Same with the ’05-11 generation. The current A3/A4/A5 seats are miserable, as are the Q5’s. A6/A7/A8 seats are marginally better, but I found the current A6 and A7 seats to be much less comfortable than the old A6. I’ve only been in the current A8 briefly, but wasn’t impressed.

    Uplevel Audi S4/S6 seats are MUCH better than the standard seats, but that also means firm suspensions, which may be a no go for these folks.

    Most base level BMW seats are similarly not great, but it depends on which car. They don’t reuse basically the same design in everything like Audi does. Some of their uplevel seats are better than others, you just have to try the one you’re after, which can be a bit of an issue because dealers typically don’t stock very high trim cars on their lots.

    The S-Class is unquestionably the king. If they have the money, and they aren’t daunted by the potential maintenance issues, just buy an S-class. No competitor, not the LS, certainly not the 7 or the A8, or the XJ, comes close. The rest of Mercedes models can be hit and miss, seat wise, but generally the lower down the line you go, the worse the seats are. I’m not sure if the new C-class changes that.

    Find a car with good seats, and you’ll be good. The most cloudlike suspension the world won’t be worth a damn if you’re sitting on a park bench.

  • avatar
    SMIA1948

    It is very likely that a type of therapy called “Muscle Activation Technique” (MAT) would solve the “bad back” problems being experienced by you and your wife, at the source.

    At 67, I have occasional back problems myself. However, when I do, I just go see Joel Kupke, an MAT practitioner in Houston. MAT will seem like magic the first time you experience it.

    I’m all for a smooth ride. I own a 2001 Lexus LS430 with the air suspension and 17-inch wheels, and its ride is very good. However, I was extremely impressed with the ride of a new Chevy Impala that I rented.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    For haulin butt down long stretches of interstate nothing better than our ’07 Chevy ‘Hoe with the electronic dampening suspension. Great truck for road trips – comfortable to drive and sit in. Good balance of plushness without the wallowing. The only downside is when you have to replace all those expensive electronic struts and rear air shocks.

    I can’t tell you how many cars I’ve driven with fully independent suspensions that should put that ‘Hoe to shame but don’t. It was after I drove my buddies ’07 Avalanche down a nasty stretch of road by our old lake home that I bought the Tahoe. That thing drove so phenomenal over that nasty road that I had to keep checking that I was actually driving a Chevy truck. The GMT-900s were a huge step forward in ride and handling over the GMT-800s they replaced.

  • avatar
    Eliyahu

    I’ve been shopping for a mid-sized sedan, and was favorably impressed with the Subaru Legacy’s ride. The seats are also more comfortably than the Camry or Accord. I also tried the Outback, but it’s not as good for ride. Just FYI, Consumer Reports does rate both ride and seat comfort in their new car rating. Your mileage may vary.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    The seats are more important than the suspension. An ill fitting seat can make even a short trip painful. By then end of a long day in a hard seat, your butt will be on fire.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      This. Comfort begins with the seat, especially these days with airbags and weight sensors built into them (so seat swapping is impractical).

      As strange as it seems, the seats in the previous smart car were fantastic for long trips. They somehow hit a blend of just enough give to avoid pinching, and firm enough to support your trunk and legs. I once did a 5+4 hour round trip, then jumped on the riding mower for 2 hours and felt great.

  • avatar
    PriusV16

    “Oh! My Aching Back: What Vehicle Has the Plushest Ride?”

    The answer from a European point of view:

    A modern French car (preferably with hydropneumatic suspension à la Citroen), with seats from Volvo.

    Maybe Geely is going to buy Peugeot any time soon…… :-}

  • avatar
    Mike

    This is a very good question, and a good thread. I’d be equally interested in “quiet interior” data, and expect there’d be a lot of overlap.

    Although I see lots of good ideas that agree with, (Lincolns, Lexus, Buick.) I don’t see much hard data, which these days, would not be difficult to obtain.

    It makes me wonder if Alex Dykes (or any other regular reviewer) might considering strapping a phone with an accelerometer app like the “Physics Toolbox Accelerometer” (Google play store) to the windshield or some other “hard part” of cars whilst testing them. Data from multiple reviews over the same stretch of road, could yield very useful results.

    I know it’s data I’d look at. My own Town Car is getting pretty long in the tooth, and I love a good highway cruiser..

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I don’t know if they still do (I dropped my subscription) but Car and Driver would publish at the end of every year the lowest and highest decibel readings from their road tests from the previous year. Unless they tested something “exotic” like a Rolls Royce Silver Spur or the like it was a good indication of quiet cars on the American market.

      • 0 avatar
        Davekaybsc

        The C&D road noise metric is no longer especially useful. Unless you’re talking about a true penalty box like a Mitsubishi Mirage, pretty much everything they test comes in between 67-72dB at a 70mph cruise, whether it’s a Corolla or an S-class. Just the straight dB reading doesn’t really tell you that much about the *quality* of the noise.

        For example, I found the G37 to be surprisingly noisy, not at all befitting a luxury car, whether it was the road noise, wind noise, or engine noise, there was far too much of all of it.

        C&D has tested a number of second gen Gs, and the car always comes in between 67-69dB at 70mph, basically the same as everything else they test. The dB ‘o meter is pretty useless in terms of telling you what the interior noise of a car is REALLY going to be like.

        • 0 avatar
          GS 455

          This is very true. Car tests report sound levels using the dBA or A-weighted system. Because the typical human ear is less sensitive to very low frequency sounds the dBA system puts less emphasis on low pitched sounds and more on higher frequencies. Still, a sound level meter doesn’t “hear” the way that humans do so these measurements don’t always correlate with subjective impressions. Also the dBA system is a logarithmic scale so that 3 dBA higher is actually twice as loud. The sounds caused by road imperfections affect our perception of how they feel in the seat of our pants. Try this exercise: Drive over a bad road and listen to the bumps, then drive the same road with music turned up loud enough to drown out road noise and it may feel smoother. New cars are adding noise cancellation technology to make cars quieter.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    Aren’t Volvo seats designed by medical doctors?
    The 960 seats are not plush but very supportive and comfortable.
    The ride is not soft at all but is controlled and comfortable in a “proper” way.

    • 0 avatar
      PriusV16

      Yep, they do:

      http://www.volvooftempe.com/blog/2015/september/22/volvo-seats-built-with-orthopedic-surgeons.htm

      We’re currently having an XC60 in the family (previously an S80 and a V70), and the seats are phenomenal (I’m saying this as someone with herniated discs in the lower and upper back area *sigh*).

      The actual suspensions in Volvos don’t tend to be overly plush and soft, but they certainly iron out the imperfections in the road very well. They are great cars for long-distance travelling, in my experience.

    • 0 avatar
      Davekaybsc

      If they were, the doctors did a lousy job with the current gen S60 and S80. The doctors also apparently didn’t think people might want the lumbar support to be in more than one place.

      Supposedly the seats in the MKVII Golf are very good, and the Golf is one of the more affordable cars that offers a 4-way power lumbar for the driver.

      • 0 avatar
        PriusV16

        Hmm, have they screwed up so badly with the current S60/80?

        As I said, we are a Volvo family — started with an S80 in the late 90s, then an S60 sedan, then a V70 (kept all of them for 3 to 4 years, respectively), now an XC60. They all had/have fantastic seats.

        Would be a real shame, great seats are a huge selling point (as this thread proves).

        EDIT: Should add that none of those cars had the sports seats…. maybe that could be an explanation?

        • 0 avatar
          Davekaybsc

          I drove the late ’90s era S80, thought the seats were alright, but at least my particular dealer sample had super forward mounted headrests, way ahead of its time there. Volvo headrests tend to be fixed, so I assume that’s how they all were. Otherwise I don’t remember much about that car, too long ago.

          I spent several hours driving an ’04 S60 2.5T, those seats I thought were excellent. Good cushioning, good support, headrests that didn’t force you to look down at your thighs instead of forward. Not all that adjustable, but they got it right.

          The current S60/S80 seats I thought were much worse than that old S60. Much firmer, less supportive shape for the lower back, and the S60 at least has that forward headrest again. The manual two-way lumber I also think is no longer acceptable in a “premium” car that costs more than $30K, not when you can get 12-way seats in a Golf. Volvo has FINALLY corrected this and has modern multi-way seats in the new XC90 and S90. I’m very curious to see how the new seats fare.

      • 0 avatar
        tekdemon

        It must be relatively specific to yourself because the current S60 has the most comfortable seats of any car I’ve ever driven and I’ve driven cars from all sorts of price ranges and brands. It doesn’t have the best ride quality, but the seat itself was the best I’ve ever sat in.
        Are you particularly short or tall? I think most car seats are still optimized for people close to the average height.

  • avatar
    LD

    The base Chrysler 300 with the 17″ rims and high profle 215/65 rubber is good at impact absorption though the car does keel over on ramps, even at the posted speed limit. This is with the stock Michelins, I think it will be even better with a tire like the Goodyear Assurance Comfortred.

    The Suburbans/Yukons are better with the smallest wheel/tire package e.g. for 2015 the base package is 265/65-18 vs 270/70-17 for the 2007-2014 models. So, although the 2015s are much quieter (great improvement in sound insulation), they dont absorb impacts as well as the prior years. IMO, for the higher level trims, the improvements due to the Magnetic Ride Control system is negated by the larger wheel and lower profile tire combination. However, Magnetic Ride Control helps in handling by allowing much flatter cornering.

  • avatar
    mu_redskin

    What about a Ford Flex? Ronnie said their both have Art related jobs, so they just might appreciate the styling of the Flex as well as have some space to transport their art. Most reviews I’ve read have remarked on having a nice ride. If they wanted a used one, Detroit is probably the best place to find one in excellent condition/mileage due to the high number of Ford employees driving them around.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Speaking o’ Detroit, I watched a little documentary from Australian ABC about it last night (not very good) from 2009. It left me with a couple questions.

      1) Is downtown still largely empty and blighted like they showed? It was pretty bad, no traffic anywhere and few people.

      2) Does anybody ride the little elevated monorail? They showed it totally empty, but it did look clean.

      3) They interviewed a lady who sang Heatwave way back in Motown days, and she was on city council. Is she still there!?

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        1) Yes and no. I haven’t seen the documentary, so I don’t know where they specifically filmed. Downtown has had many changes since 2009. Dan Gilbert and others have been throwing cash into Detroit. It’s a work in progress, but progress can actually be seen now. Most of Downtown, and all of Midtown, looks better now than in 2009.

        2) No one rides the People Mover (or People Mugger if you prefer). It’s mostly used at big events and sporting events. Only 30% of the riders actually live in Detroit and weekend ridership dwarfs the weekday numbers. As it goes in only a 3 mile loop, it is relatively worthless.

        3) Martha Reeves is no longer on the city council. She served from 2005-2009. I did not vote for her when I lived in the city.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Here’s the link, should have included it initially.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEXLPpr2Rwg

          Cincinnati is in process of getting it’s own People Mugger, the street car. It’s consumed billions so far, and isn’t built yet. It will run along points downtown between a college campus and the casino. For when you’re 19 and want to go gamble while drinking, presumably.

          http://assets.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/news/streetcar_map*750.jpg?v=1

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            We are getting light rail/streetcars by 2017 (I think that’s still the plan). The initial track won’t go much further than the People Mover.

            Street cars are mostly stupid. They take up space on roads people use, apparently cost a ton of money, and they have to obey traffic lights and such. The Phoenix area light rail system is better because it is 23 miles long and actually goes someplace. The 3-4 mile tracks are terrible.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I didn’t know they had to obey traffic signals. It’ll take so long to get anywhere with all the stops they’re showing, you may as well just walk.

            Or you know – since you’re in Ohio and it’s probably hot/freezing, drive.

            I was surprised to see the monorail in Phoenix. Never had heard they had one. That city seems very spread out to me, with clusters here and there of commercial activity.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Well that’s why it’s 23 miles long. Mesa paid to have it go all the way to their downtown. At least it goes to the airport and can connect suburbs to downtown business and entertainment districts.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            95% of Phoenix is sprawl on steroids, but there is a nice and mostly compact area in part of downtown and immediately to the north. A small part of the rail line runs through it and it feels almost like a city.

            Streetcars work in only very limited circumstances. In a developed city, they’re usually too slow and don’t offer the capacity for the buck of a rail line in its own right of way. In a car-oriented city, they’re more tourist attraction than transportation. They can work in tourist cores and, if things line up just right, sometimes in developing neighborhoods of established cities.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The Phoenix system is nice because it is actually connected to things, and like you said Dal, there is a relatively compact area that includes ASU, Downtown Phoenix, Sky Harbor, etc. It does need to be linked to a commuter rail and high speed rail to Tucson.

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            “Billions”? I’m not in the habit of commenting in four-year-old threads, but I stumbled across this today and found this comment so off-base as to demand a response.

            I’m no fan of street cars as opposed to subways or elevated trains, which avoid traffic. That said, consider the costs of these three Cincinnati projects:

            – Final budget of the Cincinnati streetcar project upon completion in 2016: $148 million. Million with an “m”, not billion with a “b”.
            – Cost of publicly funded Great American Ballpark in 2003: $290 million.  The Reds do currently pay a $1/year rent though, so the county is getting something back.
            – Cost of Bengals’ stadium in 2000: $455 million.

            SMH at the American electorate.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I’m no fan of the Navigator, but it has a very plush ride. I think it easily beats out the Yukon Denali and Escalade’s fancier magnetic suspension. Blame that live rear axle.

    • 0 avatar
      LD

      The Navigator certainly has a more plush ride then the GM SUVs including the Denal/Escalade Magnetic suspension, but it has been plagued by poor interior trim, dont know if things have improved in the last year/two and those garish chrome bits on the outside which IMO have hurt sales vs GM.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        The 2015 refresh made the Navigator a much better vehicle. Both the interior and exterior (front clip and rear were the only real exterior changes) look much better. That doesn’t mean that it’s top of class, but it’s a start.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    An early 70’s Eldorado, I still remember it after all these years.

  • avatar
    bricoler1946

    Ronnie, take a ride in a Citroen DS, a Citroen CX or a Citroen C6, NOTHING rides as comfortably.

  • avatar
    Nedmundo

    Surprisingly, the nicest ride I’ve experienced recently was in a 2015 Acura TLX four cylinder. Acura suspensions used to be on the harsh side, but that’s not true here, and with relatively thick sidewalls, great seats (very important as others have said), and relatively light weight of the car overall, it’s very smooth. The interior is extremely quiet too.

    It might not be as plush as an Avalon, but it also won’t porpoise and wallow, which is a huge plus as others have mentioned. It’s extremely composed. I’m seeing them all over Center City Philly these days, which suggests people are finding them smooth enough on our extremely battered roads.

    Not sure it would work for this couple, but it’s worth a test.

  • avatar
    phreshone

    VW CC has a very compliant ride. great highway cruiser, almost wallowy (read Jack’s review from a few years back).

    the seats aren’t ‘plush’, but are almost as good as Volvo/Saab for a long ride. worth a look.

  • avatar
    old blue

    Get a DS 21; wonderfully plush ride, and a collector’s item all rolled into one.

  • avatar
    Maxb49

    Lincoln Town Car, hands down. Nothing else comes close. It’s a shame Ford cancelled this vehicle.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    I am in the market for a used Mercedes S class and have driven a few. The ride is definitely not as soft, comfortable or plush as either of my Citroen C5 sedans.

  • avatar
    Dave W

    I’ll join the Citroen contingent. My first car was a 1961 ID19. I’ve not ridden in anything near as plush since.

    For worst (for my back) I would vote for Honda. Decent ride but from my sisters Civics to a gaggle of Accords (one of them mine) they have all had seats that kill my back. After my 3rd Acura test drive over 15 years I gave up, finding all of them give me a sore back in less then half an hour.

  • avatar
    dasko

    Volvo S80 for supremely soft ride and the most supportive seats you can get in a car.

  • avatar
    Erikstrawn

    Panther love. I live in a rural area, and my son’s first car is a P71 Crown Vic. It soaks up all the potholes and floats over the rippled asphalt at the intersections.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    So funny the opinions here.

    I’ll toss in mine.

    1) didn’t Alex dykes rave about the ride quality on the MKC? MkX? One of the new Lincoln suvs.

    2) I have found Volvo generally has a harsh ride. Seats are great.

    3) everyone raves about seats from vw, especially the GTI. I had a mk5 GTI and the worst were the seats. Way too deep in the butt with thighs too high, lumbar support in wrong place. Bolsters that hurt my hips after awhile. And I’m 6ft 200lbs.

    4) im gonna have to go large sedan. Even the current 5 series without run flats is pretty cushy. I’ve been in old LS and also agree on the cush. But the long wheelbases and independent suspensions I think beat any suburbans or expeditions I’ve been in.

  • avatar
    shoganai

    I worked for a decade in Japan at the second largest auto parts maker in the world, from 1999-2009 in the corporate office. The suspension and seat engineers drove vehicles from all manufacturers as one would expect, I was often told the best seats were Volvo and the best suspension systems were to be found in a Citroen. Often the engineers would ask me why US vehicles used leaf springs? I believe Mustangs were there focus of amusement at the time.

    This company designed and manufactured seats for Subaru as well, they said the seats for the NA market were different from the rest of the world as they needed to support more weight and size. A seat is not a seat, is not a seat. It all depends. Your rear end and spine are different from mine, seats are made for the average person and their size, shape, weight and age. What was comfortable when you were twenty-four or fifty-five years of age is vastly different through the ages.

    My personal experience is more focused on the dB level in a vehicle, followed by seat comfort, ergonomics, safety, lighting. Yes, I am getting on in years and honestly the rear seat is where the real money goes in a real comfortable car. Lexus LS 600h L with the reclining seat and all the toys would be my way.

  • avatar
    Tony

    2004 era Buick LeSabre Custom…. the plushiest ever!

    • 0 avatar
      WildcatMatt

      Came here to pretty much say that.

      My Dad picked up an off-corporate-lease ’95 LeSabre and after that he and Mom rolled in a succession of estate sale Park Avenue Ultras. When he found out the only way he could get the ride he wanted from a LaCrosse was in poverty spec he hunted down one of the last Ultras to roll off the assembly line.

      That, sadly, was the last tri-shield to grace their driveway.

  • avatar
    emeshuris

    Easy. Any body on frame suv.

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