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Review: Cobra Nogaro seats (uniquely street friendly fixed back bucket seat)

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    Review: Cobra Nogaro seats (uniquely street friendly fixed back bucket seat)

    This is installed in my e46, but it really applies to all BMWs equally, so thought I'd post it here, as well.

    I am just going to start with pictures, because I know everyone is going to skip to that either way. Please read on, after, as there are a ton of very specific reason why I think this seat is THE best seat on the market for cars that see track and street use-- and quite different that other offerings currently on the market.

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    Pretty spectacular, in my opinion!

    Seats are a project I have been pondering doing on my car for over a decade. In that time, I’ve run a bunch of different seats in different cars (specifically Sparco Evo IIs, Recaro SPG XLs, and Recaro Pole Positions) and found them all to be unacceptable in a street driven car for a variety of reasons.

    I view my car as a tracked street car. Every modification I do to it is done with that priority set in mind. That means I am not willing to do anything that makes the car less safe on the street (which lots of track focused seats do), less practical, or too much of a pain to hop in to go grab milk. In the context of seats, I want to improve the car on track as much as possible, without making it worse on the street.

    I also do not want to do anything that degrades the quality of the car. One of my favorite things about the M3 is that it is a high quality, well made object, which uses premium materials.

    Safety
    My primary concern was not making the car less safe on the street. There are two areas where traditional aftermarket seats negatively impact street safety.
    1. The factory 3 point receiver has nowhere to go. This is well exemplified in this picture of the Recaro SPG XL mounted in my M3 wagon (since removed):

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    Using the factory 3 point receiver, you have to choose between pulling the belt over the top of the side of the seat (which creates a gap between you and the belt—unsafe) or feeding it through the hole—which causes it to jab into your side continuously and be orientated off the load path of the belt. A common solution to this is to run a back seat receiver in the front, but doing so comes at the expense of the factory belt pretensioner functionality, as well as the seat belt buckle sensor. Factory fixed back seats address this by coming either with low sides, like BMW did in the CSL/CRT, or with cutouts specifically designed for the seat belt receiver, like Porsche does with their factory buckets or BMW does in their GTS cars.

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    CSL seats

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    CRT seats

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    Porsche’s every modern car CF bucket

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    M4 GTS factory seats


    If you look at the Nogaros, you will see Cobra went the same route as BMW did with the CSL—the sides are low enough in the seat belt receiver area to allow the belt to pass over the seat, unobstructed. I don’t know of any other fixed back seats on the market that play nicely with the factory 3 point receiver.

    2. Many aftermarket fixed back seats have little to no head padding. This was true of the Recaro in my wagon above, and the Evo II I ran in my track car. For race/track use, where you are wearing a helmet, this is fine. For street use, if you get into a crash where you hit your head on the head rest (which is pretty much any front or rear end crash), it is a serious safety issue. Again, if you look at the pictures above, you’ll see that factory fixed back bucket seats always have head padding. On aftermarket seats, this is pretty unusual!

    3. The Cobra Nogaro is the ONLY fixed back seat on the market that is approved (by Schroth) to be used with a Quickfit harness. This is a huge improvement in on track safety over the factory 3 point in all crashes, and allows for the use of a Hans device (enabling further safety).

    4. For reasons beyond my comprehension, many fixed back bucket seats place the harness pass through holes too low to safely use, for an average sized person. It's like they're designed as a styling feature rather than an actual safety feature. The Nogaro does not suffer that-- no spine compression from too low harness holes here!

    Comfort

    1. The Nogaro has considerably more padding than any other non factory bucket seat that I have experienced (I’m starting to sense a trend here). This makes it more comfortable to sit in for an extended period of time. That said I had Cobra make me an extra thin bum cushion (that was there terminology for it on the invoice) specifically for track use—allowing me to sit lower, and have the side bolstering be higher relative to my body.
    2. The lower sides (which, again, I have only seen on factory fixed back seats besides these) mean ingress and egress are considerably easier. You do not need to have a strategy for getting into and out of the car—you just sit in it, and get out when you are done. When I had the SPG XL in the M3 wagon, my wife refused to drive the car because of the entry exit procedure. She prefers the Nogaro to the stock seats
    3. Adjustable lumbar-- In a fixed back bucket seat, installed by Cobra, at the factory. Different people need different amounts of lumbar support, and lumbar support is hugely important to how comfortable and supportive a seat is.

    Customization

    1. Starting with the obvious, mine were done in Imola leather with Imola thread. This was done by Cobra, at the Cobra factory, on their standard production line—meaning it is 100% factory quality/fitment. Cobra has a number of leather options, and is adding more, but, based on samples they sent me at the time, none were the 100% match to Imola I was looking for. I ended up getting samples from ~15 different leather suppliers before I found one I was happy with (thanks to a recommendation from Braymond141): Relicate. https://relicate.com/ . My experience with other seats makers has always been that they are not willing to work with you at all—any customization has to be done after the sale, by a 3rd party shop—more expensive and likely not as good as factory.
    2. Thread spacing. I actually didn’t even think of this on my own—it was Cobra’s idea. They had me take a picture of a tape measure held up against the stock stitching, and then matched it when sewing the seats—meaning the stitching on my seats has the same spacing as the stitching on the door cards/stock seats. A small detail, but also completely awesome, in my opinion!
    3. Factory BMW e46 seat heater pads are installed in my seats (also installed by Cobra)! This means they are plug and play with the factory seat wiring harness, and work with the factory seat heater controls in the center stack. Great for brisk spring/fall track days, first thing in the morning, with mandatory windows down!
    4. Extra, thin bum cushion. I had Cobra make me an extra bum cushion (their terminology) which is just a piece of neoprene—wrapped in Imola red leather, with BMW seat heater pads. This allows me to sit lower and have more side support while on track, similar to a more track focused bucket seat.
    5. Seat occupancy sensor. This is something I didn’t choose to do, as the BMW occupancy sensor tends to be unreliable, but something they were willing to do (so I thought I should mention if others wanted it)—they were more than happy to install this, at the factory, as well. I opted to not get it, and coded the errors. The downside to my approach is that the passenger airbags will go off in a crash, whether there’s a passenger in the seat or not—making a crash more expensive.
    6. Adjustable lumbar support. As mentioned above (in the comfort section), I have adjustable lumbar support in my seats. This can be adjusted on the fly by a small hand pump/release valve that I have tucked inside the leather on the tunnel side.
    7. The shells are offered in GRP (22 lbs seats) or CF (12 lbs per seat). I opted for GRP because of the price difference… which I might regret one day (I could have had an additional 20 lbs of weight saving with no detriment to functionality/comfort).

    Mounting

    1. Brey Krause has an upcoming line of Nogaro specific mounts for the e46 (as well as 911s, Caymans, e9Xs, F8Xs/F3Xs, and some other cars), which attach to the factory BMW sliders. Having car specific, seat specific mounts gets you as close to a factory optimized seat setup as you’re going to get. My car was the development car for the e46 mounts, so the version pictured may not be the final production part—but it should be close. I choose to run a power slider on the driver side, for precise adjustment and because it lets you get the seat lower, and a manual slider on the passenger side, for faster back seat access.
    2. The Brey Krause side mounts use the factory sliders. Unlike aftermarket sliders, the factory sliders are designed to have seat belts mounted above them—which means the seat belts stay properly located to your body, regardless of seat position (including sub straps, using the Brey Krause sub strap mounts for stock sliders—R-9228 and R-9229). For my car, I went with the factory e46 sedan/wagon sliders, as they add an outboard lap belt mount point (unlike the coupe’s sliders). While this wasn’t necessary, as the Brey Krause lap belt kit (R-9225) can add a lap belt mount point to the coupe sliders, I like factory parts.
    3. Using the factory sliders also means the factory 3 point belt receiver on the slider is retained. This means the pretensioner functionality is retained, as well as the “seat belt not buckled” sensor—all of which also goes through the factory seat plug.
    4. The factory BMW sliders have ~double the travel of aftermarket sliders. This makes the back seat still useable, both for people or for loading track tires into the back seat.
    5. Using the factory slider means no Swiss cheese adapter plate is required—the slider just bolts to the floor of the car, just like stock.
    6. Slider slots: The Cobra Nogaro has another unique feature that I have not seen on any other seats—slots in the seat base, that would otherwise be wasted space, to clear the slider. This means the seat can be mounted lower in the car before it runs into interference. As someone who is 6’4, with most of my height in my Torso and often wearing a helmet in the car, this is a huge win for me—this seat will allow me to be in the car without a reclined seat for the first time, ever! I can actually fit an entire fist over my head while sitting in the car, now.

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    E46 Manual slider with seat installed, with Brey Krause R-9227 manual slider release handle.

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    E46 Power slider without seat, with sub strap mount showing. Slider is controlled by an e30 window switch—I grabbed a factory e30 window switch wiring harness from an e30 that was getting parted out for an OE plug install. All wiring goes through the factory seat plug, so installing/removing the seat is as easy as with the stock seat—one plug for everything.

    Weight savings
    Excluding the fire extinguisher, but including the mounts and sliders, I saved 59 lbs—almost exactly the weight of a stock power/leather seat! I did get the GRP buckets—had I ponied up for the carbon buckets, it would have been another ~20 lbs of weight savings. Perhaps equally importantly, the setup lowers the COG. Most of the weight of the seat setup is in the base of the seat (side mounts, sliders, seat base). Additionally, my seating position is a couple inches lower than stock—not an insignificant amount of weight to get mounted lower!

    Driving Impressions
    Driving in the Nogaro is very similar to other fixed back seats, if you have experienced that. Having your seat bolted directly to the car, instead of sitting on box spring, means you’re much more in touch with what the car is doing at all times. Having a competent suspension becomes more important, but in exchange you are provided with more information about the cars behavior than you could even get from a stock style seat. The seat also holds you in place far better than stock, which means you spend far less time bracing yourself in place and far more time focusing on driving the car. Having a bucket seat doesn’t make the car itself notably faster, but it does enable you to be a faster driver. On track, no contest compared to a stock seat—at no point am I fighting to hold myself in place, as you do with stock seats. They aren’t as supportive as a dedicated race seat, but they almost are—without the huge street tradeoffs associated with a race seat.


    Conclusion
    This post went on longer than I planned, but seats are a project I have been pondering for years. I wanted to fully flush out how I ended up, where I ended up.

    The Cobra Nogaro occupies a unique place in the market, with several benefits over competing seats that are not immediately obvious. For a car that still sees street use, I believe they are the only non OE fixed back bucket seat that comes without significant compromises. The Nogaros gets you 90% of the benefit of a traditional race seat with almost none of the tradeoffs normally associated with a fixed back bucket. Additionally, they’re 100% made in Great Britain—no Chinese parts here! It is the only aftermarket seat that is made with the same priorities that the car manufacturers use when they do fixed back buckets for street driven, track designed cars.

    2005 IR/IR M3 Coupe
    2004 JR/Black M3 Wagon
    2001 LMB/Black M5 Sedan
    2017 i3 Hatchback

    #2
    Great post and breakdown of benefits of this seat. I had always wanted Recaro Pole Positions but unless I can find one for cheap, i'll be going the Nogaro route.

    Can we also post a link to the thread with all the combinations other people have ordered and the result? The old thread a great variety and ideas for customization, unless we wanted to make an official Nogaro Seat thread to post pictures?

    Comment


      #3
      Now If we can just figure out how to make a Nogaro height adjustable so my wife could drive...
      Phoenix Yellow e46m3 Build Thread
      Melbourne Red e93m3

      Comment


        #4
        It would be interesting to compare these to Pole Position ABE’s - seems to be the closest comparison.
        TiAG 6mt Coupe | KARBONIUS | SUPERSPRINT | FIKSE WHEELS | OEM CSL | MILE END COMPOSITES | AST 5200 | HOTCHKIS | BREMBO | RECARO | BEISAN | CATCAMS | CP-CARILLO | TMS | RTD | ROGUE ENGINEERING | AKG MOTORSPORT | HTE PERFORMANCE

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          #5
          How much leather did Cobra have to use to cover both seats?

          Originally posted by liam821 View Post
          Now If we can just figure out how to make a Nogaro height adjustable so my wife could drive...
          Different thickness of pillows would help, I imagine. I also know Sparco makes a butt wedge for this purpose.
          '03.5 M3 SMG Coupe - Jet Black / Black

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by r4dr View Post
            Different thickness of pillows would help, I imagine. I also know Sparco makes a butt wedge for this purpose.
            Liam: Here, I got you this butt pillow you can put on the seat so you can see over the dash
            Wife: ...
            Phoenix Yellow e46m3 Build Thread
            Melbourne Red e93m3

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by r4dr View Post
              How much leather did Cobra have to use to cover both seats?



              Different thickness of pillows would help, I imagine. I also know Sparco makes a butt wedge for this purpose.
              1.5 hides.

              2005 IR/IR M3 Coupe
              2004 JR/Black M3 Wagon
              2001 LMB/Black M5 Sedan
              2017 i3 Hatchback

              Comment


                #8
                Fantastic thread, thanks for this. Makes me all warm and fuzzy thinking how much great stuff was written in M3Forum.net.
                And as someone who's fantasized about Recaro Sportster CS many times but balked at the cost, this looks like a very good alternative.
                2006 ///M3 ZCP

                Comment


                  #9
                  great thread and good to see it back online.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    If I didn't get a deal and a half for my SPG XL's I would have gone with these. I'm local to HMS as well so I can confirm they are quite comfy.
                    2004 BMW ///M3 Carbon Black/Cinnamon 6MT
                    2000 BMW ///M5 Royal Red/Extended Caramel 6MT
                    2000 BMW ///Z3M Coupe Cosmos Black/Dark Gray/Black 6MT
                    2004 BMW X5 Toledo Blue/Sand Beige 6MT
                    2014 Audi S4 P+ Volcano Red/Black Nappa/DSG - DD


                    Instagram

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                      #11
                      I’ve been trying to google and not getting much out there. I am 6” 230lb with wide shoulders and pretty big thighs, do you think these seats will be comfortable for me?

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by rbg View Post
                        I’ve been trying to google and not getting much out there. I am 6” 230lb with wide shoulders and pretty big thighs, do you think these seats will be comfortable for me?
                        I would very much suggest sitting in any seat before buying it. But, I suspect you’ll be fine, which holding the steering wheel. In the passenger seat you’ll likely find the wings push your shoulders forward.

                        2005 IR/IR M3 Coupe
                        2004 JR/Black M3 Wagon
                        2001 LMB/Black M5 Sedan
                        2017 i3 Hatchback

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by rbg View Post
                          I’ve been trying to google and not getting much out there. I am 6” 230lb with wide shoulders and pretty big thighs, do you think these seats will be comfortable for me?
                          6"? damn, you short lol

                          Comment


                            #14
                            There was a group buy on M3forums for these if I remember correctly? Wish I didn’t miss out on these. What was the discount?
                            - Nabil
                            2006 Interlagos Blue ZCP
                            IG: @nfaridi

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by KoukiMonster View Post
                              There was a group buy on M3forums for these if I remember correctly? Wish I didn’t miss out on these. What was the discount?
                              Doesn't really matter since it's over and never going to be repeated (was made exceedingly, repeatedly clear to me that it was a one time thing when I organized it).

                              2005 IR/IR M3 Coupe
                              2004 JR/Black M3 Wagon
                              2001 LMB/Black M5 Sedan
                              2017 i3 Hatchback

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