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June 5, 2023
5 Min Read
Both front occupants in the Tacoma TRD Pro get the IsoDynamic Performance Seats.Toyota Motor Corp.
Following in the dirty path of agricultural equipment like tractors, Toyota engineers have concocted a sprung seat for the driver and front passenger in the new 2024 Tacoma mid-size pickup truck.
The company’s engineering team realized that there is only so much that can be accomplished for occupant comfort in a vehicle whose suspension is optimized for off-road performance. So when buyers select the TRD Pro off-road version of the Tacoma, with its jacked-up suspension, Fox Quick Switch 3 adjustable shock absorbers, and Fox Internal Floating Piston dynamic bump stops, they also get the IsoDynamic Performance Seat to help provide a smooth, confidence-inspiring ride
Toyota says that the goal of this patent-pending feature is to stabilize the driver’s field of vision to improve focus, and comfort, and reduce fatigue while on rugged trails.
It works using an air-over-oil shock absorber system allowing for vertical and lateral seat movement simultaneously to dampen body movement and stabilize the head and neck to keep alignment with the spine. This dampening effect is tunable, based on body mass and occupant preference. It can be bypassed, if desired, using levers on the seatbacks.
The engineering team has been gratified by the response to the seats by people who have been able to give it a try. “Through the 200-plus people that have seen this, there have been entry-level people that never been off-road to people like our Toyota athlete Ryan Millen, and, ‘There's nothing like this on the planet,’ is the greatest comment that we've ever heard,” reported executive engineer for body design, Todd Muck.
“IsoDynamic Performance Seat is designed to allow the driver and even the occupant to stay in control, so keep their head stable, their hands in contact with the steering wheel, the feet in contact with the pedals, and really lower the impacts to their body,” Muck explained.
The IsoD Seat really-- it is complementary to the TRD Pro and the rest of the vehicle,” said Trey Souchock, senior engineering manager for vehicle mobility and engineering. “It has both the vertical and lateral shock-absorber system that has a very fast, responsive, inch-and-a-half travel to keep the occupant in phase with the rest of the vehicle.”
The team didn’t achieve these results overnight. The IsoDynamic Performance seat required collaboration between the engineering and design teams to achieve the intended result, according to Muck. “Early 2019, everybody was out here [at the off-road test site] and had kind of that same feeling, that there is a benefit, but there's something missing.” So the engineers made a call to the designers to ask for their help.
“The engineers came to us one day and they said, ‘Hey, we've got this really cool idea that we're working on. It's this seat that has suspension built into it. We think it's a real game changer and can you guys support us?’ recalled Benjamin Jimenez, Tacoma's chief interior designer. The engineering team gave him fair warning that this would be a tough assignment, he added. “We need everybody on board, this was going to be a massive, tough project that was going to take a lot of commitment,” he said.
“We were able to get some of the key function leaders that are not usually in the vehicle dynamics world, take them out to the proving ground, and let them see this and feel it,” added Souchock.
The teams responsible for the seat put in the extra work on the product because the prototypes clearly demonstrated the benefits. “The people worked hard because they believed in it,” Muck said. “Once they got in the seat and they drove it, they knew it wasn't a gimmick.”
That’s because Toyota was able to take them to an off-road course, where the seat could shine. In daily driving, the IsoDyanamic Performance seat’s contributions are less obvious. “The interesting thing about this seat is that the customer may not actually realize exactly what it's doing until they get into an aggressive situation,” said Matt Speck, senior engineer for vehicle performance development. “The concept behind the seat was that it shouldn't distract from the driving experience, it should just enhance it.”
An added challenge in incorporating suspension technology is the fact that seats are critical components of a vehicle’s crash safety system and adding a bunch of new parts to the equation complicates that. “One important consideration for the seat was safety, with unique parts that are not normally found in a seat,” Speck said. Additionally, there is the matter of durability. “It's been through all kinds of off-roading situations; Michigan, Arizona,” he said.
“The reliability, the quality, and the crashworthiness all are targeted and achieve the equivalent performance for all of our standard seats, and that's a testament to the entire team buying into the project and committing to it,” agreed Souchock.
“The reason there's so much of a buzz around it is because when you drive the truck with this seat, you just feel like you're a superhero,” said Jimenez. “The truck's moving like this, and you're just sitting quietly just steering the truck, going where you want to go. I think people are going to be like, ‘Oh, my goodness, that thing's awesome.’”
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