If you missed the tech articles chronicling the build of our project Audi A4 1.8T (et 5/09, 7/09), we took it from a stock sedan to a formidable street car with a host of budget friendly motor and chassis upgrades.
The add-ons did wonders for the four-door, with the suspension upgrades increasing cornering speeds so greatly we found ourselves holding on for dear life around every turn.
Instead of focusing on the unfolding road ahead, we found ourselves bracing our bodies under the g-force since the stock leather seats allowed us to slide around too much. After a few weeks of arm pump from grasping the steering wheel like a stress ball, we decided some proper sports seats would greatly improve the driving experience.
A look to the aftermarket revealed a plethora of possibilities, but since we wanted quality seats on a realistic budget, it ruled out everybody except Corbeau.
Corbeau has been making sports seats for on- and off-road applications for more than 20 years, and while they're known for high-dollar race chairs, it's the affordable street seats that put them on the map.
In addition to adding support, the high bolsters and crisp designs look considerably cooler than the stock seats, too.
The lightweight construction makes the stock seats feel like anchors, and there's even provision for harness mounts in case you're contemplating some track use.
After chatting with Corbeau's knowledgeable staff, who asked us about our intended plans for the car (track- or street-use), as well as our height and body shape, we got a better idea of what our perfect seat might be. "It's a good idea to call us before ordering seats. People commonly order non-reclining race seats for their street car, without taking into consideration the different widths of the various styles. We can answer all of your questions," said Nate Smith from Corbeau.
It's like buying a tailored suit. After all, you want to make sure the seats not only fit your body type but also recline if needed, and meet the many safety standards set by different racing sanctions. In other words, there are many different styles of seat and getting the right one is crucial to the driving experience.
We eventually chose the elegant Corbeau CR1 in standard black cloth. And while we could have opted for bright colors, microfiber or leather, we liked the business look and price of black cloth.
They blend the latest style and design that hold the driver in place during high-g corners. They're also easy to get in and out of, and feature reclining adjusters as well as a flip-forward feature for two-door applications. Other features include sturdy patches in high-friction areas to combat wear and tear, plus memory foam padding for comfort.
The CR1 can also be ordered in a wide version that extends the width 1.5'' for a more generous fit. Another cool option is inflatable lumbar supports with a hand pump.
An important factor many enthusiasts forget when buying seats are the mounting brackets. Unlike factory seats that have pre-installed brackets, aftermarket seats are sold without, since some racers fabricate their own. So you'll need to buy a set to fit your car. Thankfully, Corbeau also sells high-quality brackets. "A common mistake when buying seats is getting cheap brackets," Smith said. "The knockoff brackets often don't fit, or have you sitting either too low or so high your head is on the roof, he added.
Since the bracket is all that holds the chair in the car, you don't want to skimp on it. Having had the displeasure of working with cheap brackets in the past, we decided to spring for the Corbeau units and were pleased we did. In addition to fore and aft adjustment, their precise construction made them an easy sale.
It's vital to disconnect the battery when performing the installation, so the airbags aren't triggered when you disconnect them.
Another safety note: since cars like our Audi have both airbags and trigger sensors in the seats, it's important to understand you will lose all airbag functions when ditching your factory seats (although some people claim the steering wheel bag may still work). You'll also have an airbag light on the dash.
Some online research revealed apparent fixes for the airbag light, but without a guaranteed result we decided to overlook the orange light for now. Hopefully we can find a permanent remedy in the future. But remember, working with airbags can be extremely dangerous. And while fitting the seats was very straightforward, we recommend you disconnect the battery and use an expert if you are inexperienced in this area.
When it came time for the fitting, it took twice as long to remove the stock seats as to install the new ones. Take your time and the process is a piece of cake, requiring a few hours.
With some wrenching we've improved the driving experience with the Corbeau CR1 seats. We can now corner faster without fear of falling out, not to mention the upgraded interior finally matches the sporty exterior. So if you're considering a seat upgrade for your Euro, give Corbeau a call.
|Corbeau CR1 Seats|
|Black cloth:||$399 each|
|Inflatable lumbar support:||$49 each|
Installing Corbeau CR1
We decided to visit Evolution Racewerks for the seat install, to check out the new premises and call upon their expertise. ER recently moved to a new location in Baldwin Park, CA. It's more than twice the size of the old shop and, while wrenching on Project A4, we caught a glimpse of its record-setting Time Attack BMW 135i, a new B8 Audi S4 getting custom headers built and a few fast imports. The company continues to offer its range of Euro front-mount intercoolers, turbo pipes and custom fabrication work (evolutionracewerks.com).