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Discussion Starter #1
On some of our longer trips, my wife will climb back into the center row and sit to watch a movie on the RES with our kids. She has complained several times that the middle seat is hard as a rock. I sat back there myself to see what she meant and it certainly isn't very comfortable. It's obviously due to the inclusion of the activity, but I wanted to see just what type of padding was behind the tray. I removed the tray from the armrest and this is what I found.

The armrest is formed by 1/8" steel plating!!! The steel plate is sprayed or dipped with a thin layer of rubber foam, but that's about it. Doesn't that sound comfy? Here is a shot of the armrest with the activity tray removed. Yes, all that grey is solid steel.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Here is a closeup of a spot that didn't get covered by any foam to show the steel a little more clearly.
 

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This is a shot of the back of the activity tray. It's shows the metal clips that pop through the metal plate to attach the activity tray to the armrest. I removed it by carefully working a flat blade screwdriver under the edge of the tray and prying it up.
 

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If someone were really planning to use the middle seat fulltime, I would think it would be a pretty easy job to take this to any auto upholstry shop and have them take the current leather piece and form a much more comfortable armrest. The leather is simply attached to the assembly with little metal loops that can be seen in the pictures. The entire assembly attaches to the middle row by two screws (one on each side) that can be seen by pushing in on the cushions next to the armrest. Our kids are still pretty small, so we'll get more mileage out of keeping the armrest for now.

Chris
 

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Thanks for the investigative reporting.(G) You did a great job. Hard to believe that the whole thing is steel. Did you get it back on there alright?

Ya know, at first I hated that thing. Passionately. Now, however, I have grown accustomed to it and actually like it. Sitting in the backseat playing gin rummy was pretty nice - and we sure couldn't do that with any other car.
 

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My wife has complained from day one (actually during the test drive) that, that middle seat is really unconfortable. But my daughter loves to sit there especially because she gets to sit next to her younger sister in the carseat and she gets a good front view from that position.

Nice pictures. Good job xyzzy. Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Yes, everything went back on fine. Uses the same type of clips that many interior trim & door panels use.

Chris
 

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xyzzy, any solution on how to reduce the hardness? Since you had taken it apart. How about removing the tray if one doesnt use it?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
The tray is behind the steel frame, so removing the tray would not provide any relief at all. What you sit against is leather, thin layer of padding, steel plate. There isn't much foam between the leather and the steel plate, so I would doub't that you would get significant gains in comfort by replacing it with better quality padding of similar thickness. Increasing the amount of padding there would probably look pretty bad and affect the ability for the seat to lay down. If you are truly interested in making this a comfortable seat I think the only option is to remove the armrest assembly, take the steel plate and activity tray out, and have an auto upholstry shop fill the area with formed padding. It actually probably wouldn't cost that much to do at all.

Chris
 
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