The Nogaro is one of the latest products to come from the English manufacturer, Cobra, long known for developing some of the world’s finest automotive seats. The new Cobra Nogaro differentiates itself by being one of the safest fixed back performance seats on the market. It’s available in a Circuit (with harness cutouts on the seat back) and a Street version. It’s also available with customizable fabrics.
I purchased mine through an eBay seller and was able to negotiate free shipping. These seats come directly from Cobra’s operation in Great Britain, and only have a handful of North American distributors. As for specifications, I was cheap and opted for the Circuit version wrapped in the basic dynamica material, which looks a lot like leather and matches the black interior of my E46 M3 fairly well.
So why the Cobra Nogaro?
Choosing the correct seat for a street car is critically important. For starters, any aftermarket seat must be safe. No exceptions. Everything else, style, comfort — all fall under the should have category.
Starting with safety, the Cobra Nogaro compromises little.
Traditional race seats aren’t designed with the factory 3-point seat belt receptacles in mind. They have nowhere to go and owners tend to tuck them through a lap belt hole, which digs into your side, or over the side of the seat, which creates an unsafe gap between the driver and the belt. This may also cause accelerated wear against the fabric.
Manufacturers like BMW and Porsche address this issue by designing seats with low sides or with cutouts specifically for the seat belt receptacle. BMW’s CSL and CRT models have this and so does Porsche’s GTS cars.
Cobra designed the Nogaro similarly. The seat belt receiver clears the sides of the seat and allows the belt to pass easily. At the time of this writing we’re unaware of any other aftermarket race seats that play this well with factory seat belts.
Next, most aftermarket race seats have little or no head padding because they’re designed for race use — which means the driver should be wearing a helmet. The Cobra Nogaro has this padding, which addresses a serious safety issue for street use.
Also, at the time of this writing, Schroth’s QuickFit harness has only been approved for use with one aftermarket seat on the market — the Cobra Nogaro! Track guys will know how huge of a deal this, is as it allows for use of a Hans device.
Lastly, if you opt for the Circuit version of the Nogaro, it comes with harness holes that are mounted at the correct height for the average sized person. This is crucial because if the harness holes are too low it could cause compression of the spine!
The lower side bolsters of the Cobra Nogaro mean that entry and exist is far easier than most other race bucket seats. There’s no, “I’ll put this leg in first here, then twist my body like that, and watch my head while I slide in like this.” Nope. Just get in.
Also, once you’re in the seat you’ll be reminded that the Nogaro has considerably more head padding than any other aftermarket fixed back seat that we know of. So no matter if I’m out for a quick run to the store or hitting the back roads, I’ve got comfort for the back of my head.
But it doesn’t stop there. The seat cushion and seat back are both well padded and removable! This means I can remove the seat cushion to easily clean, or customize with different foams to increase the firmness, or softness, or go with a thinner foam cushion to sit extra low, allowing the side bolsters to rise a bit higher on the body.
Lastly, factory lumbar is an option! What?! Many new cars don’t come with adjustable lumbar but it plays a huge roll in comfort. The lumbar is an inflatable bag that’s controlled by a tiny hand pump and easily tucked away. I didn’t choose this option, but I probably should have!
Another great thing about Cobra is the option to option your seats how you want! Cobra has a number of leather and stitching options to create a seat design that perfectly matches the rest of your car as if it came from the factory! Or, go crazy and with custom colors and stitching to create something truly yours.
For the E46 M3 application (and likely others), Cobra can install the factory seat heater pads along with the factory wiring to be truly plug-n-play, working with the factory seat warmer buttons in the car.
Additionally, an occupancy sensor can be installed in the seat cushions, which as I mentioned, are easily removable. Note that for many cars, if your don’t have this sensor installed on the passenger seat, the airbag may go off regardless of if there’s a passenger or not.
Lastly, choose a carbon fiber seat shell or the basic reinforced plastic. The difference between the two options is about 10 pounds and $2,000 USD.
How well the seats fit in a vehicle is very much dependent on the aftermarket. In my case, the BMW E46 chassis is popular and there were many options available. Perhaps the best suited to this seat is from Brey Krause.
Brey Krause has a line of Cobra Nogaro-specific mounts available for many BMWs and Porsche models. The mounts I receive use the factory BMW seat sliders/rails, and allowed for the factory seat belt receptacle. A kit is available for powered or manual seat sliders. I went the powered seat slider option, which required I also source a switch from an E30.
Another great feature on the Cobra Nogaro is that the bottom of the seats are slotted on the sides, allowing for the sliders to attach higher, and positions the seat lower in between. As a result, this maximizes available headroom! For taller drivers, especially those over 6 ft, this would be a huge win!
The factory seats sit over a box spring. That buffering layer between driver and the car is removed with a fixed back seat mounted directly to the chassis. Now I sit lower, am in a more proper driving position, and I feel more of what the car is doing.
And because I’m much better supported, I’m not fighting myself from sliding around. This allows me to be more in-tune with the car’s communications, and I can focus more as a driver – and that should make me faster – if I can translate the additional information.
For track use, these seats are fantastic!
Listen. I don’t want to oversell fixed back seats. No matter what they are, a race seat will never be as comfortable as factory reclining seats with cushy bolsters and padding. There are times I wish the seats sat slightly higher. My wife, at 5’4″, can no longer drive my M3 because she’s cannot see as well over the dash. It’s a trade-off.
My last two outings in the M3 were track days over an hour away. While the Cobra Nogaro was comfortable enough, I wouldn’t want to drive much further in them without taking a serious stretch. Maybe the addition of lumbar or different bum cushioning would help.
I think Cobra has found a niche spot in the aftermarket. For anyone looking to upgrade their seats in a street car that isn’t a daily driver, or doesn’t have a long commute to deal with, I’d wholly recommend the Nogaro. Otherwise, I’d look for a reclining seat option instead.
The standouts of the Cobra Nogaro are unfortunately not obvious but are significant in terms of safety and comfort. From what I’ve read, these are the only aftermarket fixed back seats that deliver track-driving performance with little compromise, just as if they were coming from big name vehicle manufacturers like BMW or Porsche.
Knowing what I know now, I could never recommend the competition.
As an added bonus, you’re buying a product made 100% in Great Britain.
Probably the best aftermarket fixed back seat available for street use.Probably the best aftermarket fixed back seat available for street use.