Finding the Right Car for a Very Tall Teen

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 21, 2016

Dear Car Talk:

My 16-year-old grandson is 6 feet 6 inches tall and possibly still growing (yes, he plays basketball). His knees usually rest against the steering wheel. He has to keep his head at an odd angle in order to avoid the roof. We live in the mountains of Colorado, so we need a safe mountain-driving car, one that comfortably fits his body, but NOT in a ridiculously high price range. Help make me (his grandma, Bubbe) his hero for finding the right one. I've waited 16 years to have a personal chauffeur. How long do you want a senior citizen to wait till he finds the "right" car?

-- Ellen

Since he's going to be a future NBA star, Ellen, you might as well put him right in a Cadillac Escalade. Am I right?

Actually, we recently drove a Subaru Forester and were pleasantly surprised by how much headroom it had. That's also a safe, and modestly priced, all-wheel-drive car. So I'd have a look at one of those.

Consumer Reports occasionally publishes a list of best vehicles for tall and short drivers. The Forester, surprisingly, makes both lists. As does the Honda Odyssey minivan.

Unfortunately, many of the other cars on the "tall driver" list also are on the NBA list of approved vehicles. I mean, a Range Rover, an Audi A8, a BMW X5 or an E-Class Mercedes will make him very comfortable, I'm sure. But he might not enjoy it as much if Bubbe has to live in the backseat because she can no longer afford to pay rent.

Another class of vehicle to check out is trucks. We joked about the Escalade, but traditional body-on-frame pickup trucks and SUVs like that often are pretty roomy for tall people.

You just want to look for something with full-time all-wheel drive, rather than "on demand" or "part time" four-wheel drive, which isn't nearly as safe for on-road use.

One other tip: Avoid cars with sunroofs. Sunroofs take up space inside the car, and lower the available headroom. Unless you live in San Diego, where you can open it every day and he can poke his head through there and drive that way.

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