There’s no dearth of open bars to avail yourself of while attempting to survive the madness of the CES show. (It is in Las Vegas, after all.) That can make the requisite early starts a mite…rough. The malaise is often exacerbated by being forced to perch precariously on the futuristic furniture that seems to be a staple of the show’s stands and booths; it may be stylish, but it’s but wholly uncomfortable.
Then there’s BMW’s ZeroG Lounger.
For CES, Bimmer transformed the front seat of an X7 SUV into a plush, heavenly retreat that’s as comfortable as my Sleep Number bed back home. The X7 itself is a production unit…but the passenger seat is anything but stock.
Hop in next to your chauffeur, and you’ll first notice the seatbelt is mounted on the left. This unorthodox position means the belt can move with the seat, keeping you secure regardless of whether you’re upright or supine. It also leaves space for a cocoon airbag cleverly stashed in the seat’s rails that offers wraparound protection in case of an accident. In spite of this, the upright-sitting position feels plenty normal.
Our route — a short circuit around the block of the Vegas convention center — commences. A BMW technician who sits behind the driver operates my seat, since it’s a prototype and the system is still in beta testing. As we depart, he sets my seat to a 40-degree recline. It’s the position I’m craving at this hungover moment.
My feet come off the floor, but don’t hit the glove box — impressive, given my 6’2” frame. The sun shades in the roof and rear windows spring up, darkening the cabin. My tired eyes whisper thank you to my brain as the harsh desert sun disappears.
A sizable flat-screen monitor drops down from the sun visor area, a harbinger of the in-car entertainment I could avail myself of should the unit moves to production. Today, it’s just showcasing directional information; a pleasant, slightly-moving pattern that pulses in the direction that the car turns, helping to reduce motion sickness by a factor of four. I’m not prone to that problem, but it’s a nice touch.
The BMW tech drops me back to 60 degrees; he tells me no one’s napped yet, but if I’d like to give it a try, he’ll understand. It’s a little surreal talking with him, as I can turn my head to the left and see his face about two feet away. Given the close proximity, I don’t try to nod off. (If I was alone with the driver, I would have potentially given it a shot.)
Instead, I focus on the feeling of the seat and the ride. It’s a far more comfortable platform than any first-class airplane seat/bed I’ve ever lucked into; long drives nestled into the ZeroG would be a breeze. In this position, my shins lightly graze the bottom of the dash, but I’m sure some tweaks between now and the unit headed for production in a couple years will free up some extra space. Otherwise, it’s maximum comfort.
To be laying down and moving forward in a vehicle is a strange sensation at first, as your brain tries to orientate itself to the paradoxical setup. (It’s doubly difficult if you worked your way through a whiskey menu the evening prior.) Recalibration comes rather quickly, though. Within moments, I’m fantasize about moving the dozen meetings I have left for the day to the X7, so I could conduct them from my ZeroG Lounger.
As we turn the corner to the finish line, a parking attendant does a double take as we pass. From his vantage point, he can only see the driver’s face…and my knees. He peers into the car befuddled, pondering what he’s looking at. The future, my friend. The very comfortable future.
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