When Fine Leather and Calming Music Are Not Enough
Sometimes at the end of a long day, you slide into a diamond-stitched, hand-sewn Nappa leather throne and think, “Man, I’m stressed. It rained this morning, so that’s two days of no surfing. Then when I got to work, I found out that we weren’t going to get a Lamborghini for Best Driver’s Car. At lunch, Nate called and told me my long-term BMW M3 wouldn’t be out of the shop until Monday—I don’t think Harry Connick Jr. and this fine semi-aniline leather are going to be enough.”
Yes, there are people for whom fine leather and calming music are not enough. For those fine people, whether they be the editor of Motor Trend or a Fortune 500 executive, automakers have upped the ante, and a mere massage is only the beginning. We have ranked 15 vehicles from the basic to the most sybaritic. Which one has earned the coveted distinction of having the best massage in the business?
15th Place: Ford Explorer Platinum
Ford takes the Explorer into near-Lincoln territory with the Explorer Platinum. Not only is it trimmed in fine leather that can heat and cool you, but the multicontour seats also have a feature called Active Motion. This falls solidly into the category of “massage” but is mostly meant to eliminate the driver fatigue associated with long stints in the saddle.
14th Place: Ford Taurus Limited/SHO
The Ford full-size sedan takes comfort and adds a more sporting twist, especially when the Active Motion seats are optioned on the SHO model. AWD, 365 hp, heating, cooling, and a massage to soothe your aching back? Normally we’d say, “What more could you want?” But this Ford merely scratches the surface in the lavish segment.
13th Place: Lincoln MKS
Lincoln takes the Ford Taurus and moves it in the right direction, adding fine Bridge of Weir leather and premium wood trim to the climate-controlled seats and the Active Motion massage feature. The MKS earned a higher finish for the plush accoutrements instead of overt sportiness.
12th Place: Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class offers drivers some respite from the stresses of people-hauling with a massage mode to go with the nicely trimmed heated and ventilated thrones. If you need to move a bunch of people and want the capability of a full-size SUV, the GL will make your trip a fair bit more comfortable. It is, unfortunately, a bit simple in this crowd. And the competition is only beginning to heat up.
11th Place: Cadillac XTS
Cadillac‘s XTS harks back to the days of traditional American luxury with its pillowy ride and hushed interior. Up front the seats have 22-way adjustment, heating, ventilation, and three massage modes. Roll and Knead are meant to melt away the stress, and Anti-fatigue lives up to its name.
10th Place: Cadillac Escalade
The Escalade, long the king of the full-size, body-on-frame segment and a status symbol of the recently wealthy, pairs the same 22-way adjustable leather thrones found in the XTS with a more extroverted sense of style. Heating and ventilation are also available, but the Escalade really coddles with its trio of massage modes. Use Roll and Knead to eliminate the stress of the day, but be sure to activate Anti-fatigue because the Escalade lacks the self-driving technology found on some of the competition.
Ninth Place: Ford F-150
We were as surprised as you when we found out that the Ford F-150 offers massaging seats, but they’re only on King Ranch and Platinum models. Not only that, but Ford also offers two intensity levels for the single massage. The F-150 gets extra props for being the only truck on the list to have such a feature. With LO and HI settings, the F-150 is sure to relax you on your drive home.
Eighth Place: Rolls-Royce Ghost
The classy Rolls-Royce Ghost is the kind of luxury vehicle you expect to have massaging seats, and it doesn’t disappoint. Heating and ventilation are a given, as is the incredible leather, but we were surprised that it lacks a variety of massage types. What it does offer, though, isn’t limited to the driver, as the Ghost is generous with its kneading and will relax all four passengers if they so desire. The executive seat is the best-equipped massage, however, as the up/down waves that go from the top to the bottom of the occupant’s back are complemented by a shoulder-to-lumbar massage given by a separate set of air cushions.
Seventh Place: Lexus LS
The Executive-Class Seating package is where it’s at with the Lexus LS. The full-size luxury sedan that shook the market all those years ago is still a contender for melting away the stress. It’s more controlled than the Cadillac XTS but still incredibly plush and complaint. Not to mention quiet. The best seat in the house is, without a doubt, the passenger side rear: heating, ventilation, and a shiatsu-style massager with three massage patterns and two intensity levels get things going. As is that weren’t enough, the rear seat cushions recline, and a power-deployed leg rest completes the transformation from back seat to Japanese spa.
Sixth Place: Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe
Mercedes-Benz knows how to take care of a driver. If you prefer to drive rather than be driven, you’d be hard-pressed to find something better than the S-Class Coupe. Ventilated seats are a given, but the heating feature is taken to the next level with a heated center console and armrests. Ready for that massage? There are six modes, including two that combine the heated seats for a hot-stone effect. To top it off, four available scents set the mood.
Fifth Place: Jaguar XJ
Jaguar‘s big sedan pumps up the sex appeal while soothing passengers. To start, the XJ offers massages for all takers, and it’s quite the massage: five modes, each with five intensity levels. The rear seat reclines, allowing rear passengers to seriously relax. Heating and ventilation for each of the seats is also a given, and the leather is top notch.
Fourth Place: Audi A8
Audi‘s biggest sedan, the A8, can be equipped with one of the best massages in the business. Honestly, to determine the top four finishers, we had to split hairs and talk ambiance to make distinctions. A massage is available in any of the four outboard seats, as is heating and ventilation. The massage features five modes and five intensity levels. The rear seat reclines, and a power rear footrest is available, allowing those being shuttled to kick back and cool their heels, too.
Third Place: Mercedes-Benz S-Class Sedan
The S-Class Sedan just barely edges the out Audi A8. It offers the same six excellent massages as the S-Class Coupe (and two hot-stone ones) but makes them available for all four passengers. The center console and armrests are heated in the front and back, and all four seats are climate controlled. Like in the Coupe, an available scent system helps to set the mood, and the Executive Rear Seat package adds a 43-degree recline to go with power calf- and footrests. Whether you drive or are driven, the S-Class sedan is stupendously comfortable.
Second Place: BMW 7 Series
Mercedes had reigned supreme with its lavish S-Class for years, but now the 7 Series comes out swinging with a host of new features. Heating and ventilation for all passengers? Check. Scent system for ambiance? How about choosing from eight scents, grouped in four themes and carrying two in the car at a time? How about three intensity levels? We thought the S-Class had gone overboard with the scent system, but BMW has taken the idea to the next level. That massage? Try eight modes with three levels of intensity to keep you relaxed. A class exclusive “Vitality Programme” takes fatigue-fighting up a notch, as well, and even uses sensors to provide rear-seat passengers with feedback on how well they’re performing the exercises. When you’ve completed your seated exercises and want to kick back to just enjoy the massage, a power footrest and reclining rear seat have you covered.
First Place: Bentley Mulsanne
It pays to have connections. The Bentley Mulsanne uses the same system as the Audi A8, but it wraps the whole thing in a package of hand-finished luxury. Heating and ventilation? Of course. Reclining rear seat? Yes. Five massages with 10 levels of intensity? The Mulsanne knows how to take care of you. The scent isn’t bottled but rather is provided by the fine leather covering nearly every surface. Perhaps one of the most over-the-top options is a pair of iPads built into the front seatbacks; they can be deployed while getting a massage and enable rear-seat passengers to video chat as they convey their feelings about the massage they’re receiving. It doesn’t get much better than that. That is, of course, without visiting the local massage therapist.