A red 2023 Ford Explorer is shown parked on a driveway.

A Look at the Ford Explorer’s Innovative Multicontour Seating

The 2023 Ford Explorer brags of road trip-ready seats, offering exceptional comfort for those long drives on the highway. It’s a nice-sounding title, but does it mean anything? Turns out it does. It’s not just a marketing slogan, as you might have first suspected. These multicontour seats with Active Motion are specially designed to make long voyages more bearable. It’s not just about comfort, either; the seats also aim to keep drivers alert. It’s easy to lose focus or go into highway hypnosis during a road trip, so having seats specifically designed to prevent that can be useful for lengthy excursions. If you regularly spend much of your day behind the wheel of a vehicle, you know that comfort and focus are key, and Ford aims to end all discomfort and fatigue with this uniquely designed seating.

Why Seating Matters

You might be skeptical and assume that seat design matters little outside comfort. And even then, can’t you just put a pillow behind you on a long drive? Not so much. Studies have shown that seat design plays a big part in how comfortable a driver is and how attentive a driver is. The concept of Passive Task Related Fatigue was researched at the Pohang University of Science and Technology when specialists looked into how driving can cause someone’s attention to divert after a time. It’s considered passive fatigue as there does not need to be a specific distraction for the driver to lose focus.

A driver’s tiredness does not necessarily mean they are asleep or looking at the touchscreen. It doesn’t mean they’re paying attention to a crying baby or chatting too much with their passenger. While all these scenarios can lead to trouble, they don’t make up most fatigue cases. Instead, the most common issue is the driver simply zoning out. Perhaps they begin thinking about other concerns or start singing to themselves, going through the lyrics of their favorite tune. Either way, their attention starts to slip. In all likelihood, they are still aware enough to react to a problem on the road. The issue is that they are less likely to react to it as fast. A few seconds can make a massive difference in how an encounter on the road can play out. Even an extra second of braking time can mean a near miss occurs instead of a fatal collision.

The most adept drivers are ones who know that driver fatigue is all too possible. Any driver who claims it cannot happen to them is not one to be trusted. Over the years, drivers have devised all sorts of tactics to ensure they remain aware. From downing coffee to taking regular roadside breaks, drivers finetune the approach to road trips that works best for them. If you’ve driven across the country or been a passenger during such a trip, you know how important these tactics are. Perhaps you’ve even been in a vehicle with a driver who becomes fatigued: it can be unnerving. The Ford Explorer’s Active Motion-equipped multicontour seats aim to help avoid this outcome on the road.

What Exactly Are Multicontour Seats?

These seats were designed by Ford and debuted in 2020. Each year, they receive slight adjustments to make them even better, but it was in 2020 Ford laid down the gauntlet, announcing its research had led to state-of-the-art seats that would radically improve road trips. So far, customers seem to be satisfied with the results.

The seats have a slightly more V-shaped style, which provides better support to the driver’s torso. This means a driver’s back won’t overextend itself by managing posture. Any ache during a long drive can be distracting, even leading a driver to adopt a position that is not conducive to effective driving. The firmness of the seat varies, too, depending on location. Some areas are soft for comfort, while other areas are a little stiffer to give you the support your back needs.
These seats also grant you a lot of autonomy to manipulate them to your liking. You can have ten-way adjustable seats so that the position matches your expectations and makes the seating perfect for your needs. While research shows a lot about what works, every driver is different, and these multicontour seats reflect that reality.

There’s also the Action Motion option, which has five massage modes for drivers. This is great if your back aches already or if you want to stave off any potential aches. It also adds another element that will help keep you alert while traversing America’s highways. Amusingly, the Ford engineer who designed these seats, Mike Kolich, has gained the nickname Dr. Derriere. Silly though his nickname may be, he’s done a real service to drivers everywhere.

A red 2023 Ford Explorer is shown parked near a city.

Why These Seats Are Important on the Ford Explorer

Depending on the trim of your 2023 Ford Explorer, you can have the ability to tow up to 5600 lbs (for comparison, this is almost 1000 lbs more than the Explorer itself weighs). This is a great asset for anyone who plans to go outbacking as you can trailer plenty of items from home, so you don’t feel like you’re in the great outdoors without the comforts of your abode. The towing ability is a hallmark of the Explorer line and one of the reasons the make has been so successful since it debuted in 1991. Its limit has grown over the decades and will likely continue to grow as this decade goes on.

But towing has its dangers if the driver is not alert. Those seats made by Dr. Derriere? They can help to avoid some serious collisions on the road. If you’ve had the misfortune to witness the aftermath of an accident involving a truck or SUV that was towing, you know it can be disastrous to both the vehicles and the people inside of them. These multicontour seats become even more valuable for rugged vehicles like the Explorer. By providing exceptional comfort behind the wheel, they make towing a less perilous operation.

Ford Proves That Seat Design Is a Crucial Feature for Long Distance Driving

An interesting aspect of these seats is that they add a new layer to how we evaluate the safety of an automobile. Usually, when speaking of safety, we think of airbags, braking distance, camera views, and alert systems. We may need to broaden how we view what counts as safety. I’ve long said that the safest driver is an aware driver. In that sense, these multicontour seats are just as important as the classic safety features we know and love.

Going forward, whether for the 2023 Ford Explorer or another vehicle, understanding how effective the driver’s seat is should be a top concern for anyone purchasing or leasing a new ride. It’s clear now that a quality seat can lead to a more comfortable ride and a far safer one, especially if you’re fond of long journeys.

It’d likely behoove manufacturers to install similar seats into all vehicles, especially ones geared for longer trips. Even truck drivers, whose whole profession revolves around driving, can become victims of fatigue. I know I’d feel much better knowing they had multicontour seating as the Explorer does. One hopes other manufacturers are keeping an eye on what Dr. Derriere invented. While seating is usually not at the top of the list of desired features drivers want, Ford has proven that maybe we should start taking a closer look at seating when selecting our next road trip companion.