By Jim Travers
At a recent New York City media event introducing the redesigned Lincoln MKX luxury midsize SUV, a PR rep spent a lot of time extolling the virtues of its optional, massaging front seats.
Going far beyond the realm of more mundane creature comforts like heated and cooled cushions, the Multicontour Front Seats with Active Motion offer a total of 22 different power adjustments, and probably contain more technology than my first car. Admittedly, that’s not saying much, but there’s more: Deep inside these seats are a total of 11 inflatable cushions you can blow up and deflate at the touch of various buttons for a customized fit - or at least give you something to play with on a long drive.
The only thing the seats in my old Dodge did on a trip was occasionally collapse.
The PR guy encouraged us attendees to try out the new feature on our short midtown demonstration drive, something I declined to do. As much as a massage might be nice after fighting cross-town traffic, I’d just as soon wait until I’m out of the car. I did, however, lean over slightly and rub my fingers together in Matthew McConaughey fashion, doing my best to look the part of the upscale urban hipster Lincoln hopes will be buying this car.
During a subsequent longer loan of an MKX, we had plenty of time to explore at least 18 or 19 of the seat adjustments. Rolling along Interstate 95 through pastoral Connecticut, our lower backs, thighs, and buttinski areas were treated to a thorough pushing, prodding, and nudging through a repeating cycle.
You can adjust the intensity to your liking, and the system shuts itself down after 20 minutes if you don’t do it sooner - lest you get too relaxed while fighting traffic at 70 mph. But if you do, the MKX is also available with a passel of electronic safety aids to keep it in its lane or slow it down if the driver fails to do so, and even sound an alarm if it senses McConaughey wannabees getting a little too mellowed out.
While perhaps not as relaxing as a real massage, if nothing else the seats do the fidgeting for you on a long drive. And that frees up more time for doing your eyebrows, reading the news, talking on the phone, or engaging in any of the other distractions available to the multi-tasking driver.
All those adjustments will set you back $1500, according to the window sticker on our loaner. But I couldn’t help but wonder what happens to such complicated seats down the road. As somebody who tends to keep his cars far longer than any of his family or friends would care to be seen in them, that’s just how my mind works.
When some of those 22 adjustments start heading south after however many years it takes, will the 11 bladders randomly collapse, leaving the helmsperson listing to port? And what about that massaging function? Does it just quietly stop its shoving one day, or God forbid subject the owner to an ongoing kneading every time they run out for a loaf of bread?
Admittedly, none of this will be of much concern to Lincoln’s target buyer, who is more likely to trade them MKX for the next shiny thing by the time the warranty is up. But curiosity got the best of me, so I called Montgomery Lincoln of Cincinnati, Ohio. The very patient service and parts guys there told me that in the extremely unlikely event somebody would want to replace a seat in a 2016 MKX, the total cost for parts would come to $4,000 or $5000. Add another $158 in labor to pull the old seat out and reinstall it, a relative bargain that you might be able to at least partly finance with change found in those vibrating cushions.
Still, these really are some seats. And the rest of the new MKX is pretty impressive too, comfortable, quiet, coddling and quick. If that sounds good and you’re the kind of driver who could go for a mechanical rubdown behind the wheel, Lincoln has your chariot ready. Especially if you tend to fidget on trips.