The stock seats are fine for a delivery truck, but if you are driving across the country they are not the most comfortable place to park your butt. We decided to upgrade using a third party option.
We replaced the stock seats with some Knoedler Extreme Low Rider suspension seats. It was cheaper to do this than to buy the (unobtainable) Mercedes suspension seat bases and heater elements as aftermarket parts, and the result is much more comfortable.
When we ordered our van, we specified heated suspension seats. It added $1250 to the cost. The dealer sold that van to somebody else. The van we ended up with has neither heat nor suspension. Mercedes has stopped offering the suspension seat option while they work out how to integrate it with in-seat airbags, which all new models now have. The OEM suspension seat bases are expensive to buy on their own (about $1250 each) and permanently out of stock. Adding OEM heat pads after the fact costs $320 per seat, plus the cost of installing them in existing seat cushions, and of wiring them to the dash.
Knoedler make aftermarket seats for truck drivers. You can even order one from them with heating, cooling, and massage built in. Their suspension seats use compressed air for all the adjustments rather than a static air shock, like the Mercedes OEM version.
Knoedler have created a very low-profile suspension system that works in Sprinter vans. Their Extreme Low Rider seat has pretty much the same adjustment range up and down as the stock non-suspension seat on the regular height seat base.
The seats rest on a metal plate that is drilled for the Sprinter pedestal base. We found that the holes lined up just how they should.
We also wanted swivels on the seats, so that we can point them toward the back of the van when we’re stopped. Doing this gives us much more living area. Knoedler have two seat base options, one for direct mounting to the pedestal and another with some additional channels welded to it so that it is raised up above the swivel mechanism. That’s the one we chose.
We used the CTA brand swivels from Italy. They are imported by swivelsrus.com. We wrote about them already, but it’s worth noting that the Knoedler seat base interferes with the raised lip on the CTA swivel which holds the red release clip. We ended up installing the CTA swivels rotated 90 degrees so the release clip is on the door side rather than the front edge of the seat. We also ground out a small amount of metal from the edge of the Knoedler seat base to allow the top of the swivel to clear. I imagine it would be possible to bend the CTA lip away from the seat base, but I didn’t want to do anything that might make the swivel out of true.
The downside of mounting the swivel in this position is that it *might* be less secure in an accident. I don’t know. The bases should be designed to resist side impacts as well as front impacts, and they’re bolted to some pretty serious metal above and below, so I’m happy with this solution. The benefit is that the CTA swivels are designed with a front/back offset. Mounting them “sideways” means that the offset is now left/right. When you swivel the seats through 180 degrees, the seats end up a couple of inches closer to the center line of the van so they clear the B pillar better. That means you can swivel them with the door closed.
We mounted the passenger and driver seats on swivels, but had to take the driver seat swivel out again. The seat is too high with the swivel in place. We’ll decide later whether to buy the lower seat console (also called a plinth or base) or just not use the swivel on that seat. Swapping out the seat base will mean messing with the electrical components under the driver’s seat. Not an insurmountable problem, but not one we really want to have to deal with.
Getting the seats mounted in the van was pretty easy, but getting them hooked up with air and power took a lot more planning. You can specify a 12v air compressor with the seats, but that seemed crazy to us because we had already installed a compressor. Of course, that’s mounted at the back of the van. Getting a line all the way from the back to the front and finding a sensible place to route it inside the vehicle was not the easiest task in the world. One bonus extra from this exercise though is that we now have a quick connect outlet on the passenger side of the vehicle as well as at the back doors.
There are power sources right underneath the driver’s seat, so adding the seat heat power was easier, but we still had to connect a fuse, and then run a line across to the passenger seat base through the plastic channel between the seats. We have the auxiliary battery, so we attached a Blue Sea 6-circuit fuse panel to that with an 80-amp Stinger relay so that it’s only energized when the van’s ignition is turned on. The heated seats could quickly drain the aux battery if that relay wasn’t there.
We took a chance and ordered the Knoedler seats with two arm rests. The stock seats only have an arm rest on the inside. If they put one on the outside, it would interfere with the B pillar and maybe with the door. It’s always been frustrating to us because the door is too far away to lean on comfortably and the door moulding is the wrong height to rest an elbow on. The Knoedler arm does not interfere. The seat does not slide far enough back for the arm rest to hit the B pillar, and it’s above the area of the door handle that would be likely to hit it, even on the driver’s seat without the swivel.
Like with all swivel seats in a Sprinter, our feet dangle when the seat is turned to the back of the van. That’s just because of the floor height difference. It might not be such a problem with lower seat bases.
Update: After driving the van on a longer trip (~1000 miles) we have decided the lower seat bases are necessary. It’ll help us to get full travel from the suspension seats. Currently they are close to their lowest height, so they don’t move as much as they could. It will also return the passenger seat with the swivel on it to a more normal height. There is enough head room when you use the regular seat base, but the passenger ends up looking out through the top of the windscreen. That piece doesn’t get cleaned by the wiper blades so it can be harder to see through.
Update 2: We moved the lower (horizontal) part of the seats closer to the seat backs. They have two sets of fixing holes and come from the factory with the seat cushions in the longer position. For someone 5’4″ tall, that made the cushions push too much behind the knees. Moving them back to the other set of fixing holes got rid of the issue. It’s nice to have that level of adjustment.
Update 3: We put the lower bases in, and everything worked out fine. Swivel on the passenger seat, none on the driver seat. The arm rests still don’t hit the door at the positions we use the seats in. The seats are at the correct height now. Note: we ordered the Knoedler seats with 4″ of travel (up from the default 3″). That might make a difference.
- Knoedler don’t sell direct. We used seat-specialists.com to place our order. They were knowledgeable, patient as we asked questions in email, and gave us a discount on the list price. I’d recommend them.
- Bostrom seats are an alternative to the Knoedler. Sold by several companies including seat-specialists. We wanted leather seats, so it wasn’t an option for us.
- We looked at many types of swivels. There is a massive and still unresolved conversation about swivels on the Sprinter-Source forum.
- Eurocampers sell German Sportscraft swivels for $250+shipping. These have an off-center swivel, so theoretically you don’t have to open the door to turn the seat around. People have complained that the rollers these use don’t turn properly and wear out, creating a rocking motion. Eurocampers claim they now use a different plastic for the rollers.
- Sprinter Accessories sell European CTA swivels for around $300+shipping. These have a bigger hole in the middle to run wires through. You can get them much cheaper in Europe, but the shipping and duty might negate that saving.
- Shorter seat consoles (plinths, bases). The Mercedes parts are A9069107300 and A9069107900 and cost $200 and $150 aftermarket. FASP also make a shorter seat plinth which seems to be mid-way between the full height and OEM short height plinths, but that’s only available in Europe. Some daring souls on the Sprinter-source forum have cut and welded their original plinths to be a lower height. Here’s a good write-up with pictures showing how one forum member swapped regular height bases for lower ones.