Car choice: Finding a car that gives you both comfort and joy can be a real pain

Mark Hillard, 6ft 4in tall, slipped a disc three years ago and struggles with sciatic pain in his current car, mainly over long distances. He is trying to replace his three-year-old Mondeo. After having test driven 13 cars (Range Rover, Land Rover, Audi A4, BMW 5 series, Ford Galaxy) including the new Mondeo, Mark is yet to find one in which he is comfortable. He has even measured seat heights, etc in his Mondeo and replicated them in other cars. Mark has tried to hire these vehicles for an extended test drive, but has had problems getting the right model
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This is a two-pronged question with advice needed about a comfortable car and also how to get access to one for a longer than a usual test drive period. Just at the moment dealer showrooms are not at their busiest which means that they should bend over backwards to help. In my experience if you approach them with your problem and ask for extended access a good dealer will respond positively. Indeed, when I trained to flog cars getting a customer into a car you want to sell is a priority, getting it to their home or place of work could be even more persuasive. Mark might also consider a specialist seat from a manufacturer called Recaro, which offers several alternatives including the Orthopaed. Everything is adjustable, from the shoulder to the lumbar support and even the seat cushion. It is also a safe seat which has a built-in side airbag. Mark needs to find a local dealer and try one out. However, this is not a cheap option as prices start at £1,240. Of course, he could remove his present Mondeo seat and get that fitted to whatever he chooses next.

A car for the head

As Mark has found, getting a comfy car is not easy. As a rule the more expensive the car, the better the seats and general ergonomic layout. That means a high-end BMW 7 series or Mercedes will have much more adjustable, and potentially comfortable, seats. Also with electronic adjustment, once Mark has discovered the perfect angles and position they can be saved in the memory. That means if anyone else interferes with the seat Mark will be able to get comfortable easily. By the list of vehicles he has looked at, Mark is able to afford a reasonably expensive car, but he should also consider a model that could be a few years old but with a manufacturer used warranty. So for argument's sake a diesel Mercedes S Class might do, subject to Mark taking an extended test drive. Although the E Class is only slightly smaller, the seats in the S are slightly more hi-tech (with internal cooling fans) and a diesel engine means a tad more economy, while an automatic gearbox makes life a lot easier. £9,999 gets a 2003 model with 50,000 miles, an S320 CDi with everything on it. Mark could spend even more if he wanted.

A car for the heart

Only Mark will be able to tell us what car makes his heart sing and, most importantly, his back feel well again. I think going for the Recaro seat may be the answer, or even retro fitting the one from his old Mondeo. Otherwise my default recommendation as usual is a Saab, which has hugely comfortable seats as standard. Having just driven more than 500 miles recently in a day or so in my very old Saab, I can confirm that my back feels fine. The latest Saab 9-5 has similar seating although the model itself depreciates hugely. The car is a very comfortable one to drive long distances, but Mark should not buy new. With £9,999 to spend he can get himself into a 2005 estate version with a diesel engine that has covered just 23,000 miles, and on sale at a Saab dealer so it will be fully warranted. Otherwise the choice is quite bewildering outside of the official network, with 2006 models readily available and still under the manufacturer's warranty. Mark should try one...

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