In the 1960s, individual bucket seats usually separated by a console began a slow march toward replacing bench seats with room for three passengers up front. Automakers and apparently consumers viewed fewer seats as sporty, which makes some sense given gear levers migrated to the center console and the buckets allowed for more bolstering to keep occupants from sliding about in hard cornering. There’s probably a correlation between the demise of bench seats and the disappearance of drive-in movie theaters, too.
Bench seats stuck around into the early aughts in big sedans such as the Buick LaCrosse and Toyota Avalon, the last passenger cars to seat six in relative comfort. They’re still somewhat popular in pickup trucks — and you can even get them Chevrolet and GMC’s biggest SUVs. Four versions of the Texas-built haulers, the Chevy Suburban and Tahoe and the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, come standard with seating for three up front. General Motors hasn’t changed these models much since they arrived for the 2015 model year, so finding a used one is also possible.
The option is relegated to base trim levels — LS in Chevy-speak and SLE from a GMC dealer — so don’t go looking for a loaded-up model with leather upholstery and Bose audio. Few dealers stock the 3-seat front bench, meaning you’ll probably have to find a dealer willing to special order one.
Truthfully, the middle seat isn’t very spacious. Bench-seat General Motors SUVs share their dashboards with bucket-seat models that have a wide center console. The dashboard ends at the climate controls, which dive deep into where the middle passenger would want their legs to sit. Additionally, a tall driveline hump makes matters even more difficult.
Most drivers will probably fold down the middle seatback, which becomes a handy storage console with cup holders. Then again, that kind of defeats the purpose of the bench seat anyway. At least the bench seat is cheaper — selecting a bench results in a $250 credit.
Still, if you occasionally haul nine passengers, a Tahoe, Suburban or Yukon with a bench seat is your only option short of a large van, and they’re available with 4-wheel drive (4WD). Find a Chevrolet Tahoe for sale or Find a Chevrolet Suburban for sale or Find a GMC Yukon for sale or Find a GMC Yukon XL for sale
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