2015 BMW X5 MEnlarge Photo
Not all vehicles with the same shape and exterior measurements are created equally—or built with the same accommodations inside.
If you’re exceptionally tall, it’s quite likely you can cite vehicles from your past (or ones you’ve recently test-driven) for which this was painfully true.
Sport-utility vehicles and crossovers, as much as they put the emphasis on utility and versatility, are good examples of just how much the interior packaging can vary. From our collective editorial experience and seat time in hundreds of different models over the years, big and boxy doesn’t always mean spacious and comfortable, while lower-set and sleek isn’t always a recipe for cramped accommodations.
First things first: Don’t shop numbers
First off, if you’re new to this and thinking you can find a ‘best’ model for tall people based on legroom, hip room, and headroom numbers, and other ‘official’ measurements, please stop right now. It’s potentially crazy-making.
As a tall, long-legged driver, I look at some of the lists that rival publications have put together and ponder whether they’ve given it much thought (or actually put tall drivers into these vehicles) beyond ordering official numbers on a spreadsheet.
The harsh reality is that, in terms of being able to cross-shop by the numbers, some of the numbers—especially legroom—are mostly meaningless.
SAE guidelines merely require automakers to come up with a set of measurements for legroom that adds up to a cohesive sum for that specific model. But within each measurement—based on designated points, like the ‘hip point’ of occupants—the automaker may make different decisions.
Some might say that these are ‘gamed,’ but in most cases automakers are simply following guidelines. What’s likely is that legroom numbers for two vehicles from different automakers, if they’re in the vicinity of each other, don’t necessarily say anything about relative legroom merits of those two vehicles at the outer edge of seat travel.
While the net sum of legroom measurements might give you a good idea of how spacious a vehicle is, there’s no substitute for simply ‘getting butts in seats.’
2016 Acura MDX
2016 Acura MDXEnlarge Photo
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Give it the tall test drive, use it as you would
In short [sorry], try every vehicle out, and take a lengthy test-drive in any vehicle that’s in serious contention. Put your kids in the back seat if they’re going to be riding back there. Those front seats that might feel the best when you’re sitting still might not be as supportive once you’ve spent even a half hour driving in traffic; likewise seats that feel overly firm at first test may end up giving tall folks the right kind of posture support at the back or hips.
This past week, as part of an annual roundup of SUVs and crossovers by the Northwest Automotive Press Association (NWAPA), we had a chance to jump directly from one model to the next, finding some supportive tall-driver favorites as well as others that were a bit disappointing.
Keep in mind that these are based on the observations of this one editor—6’-6” and long-legged (36 inseam), yet average in the torso and with a slim build. You can find the official headroom, legroom, and hip room measurements—as well as overall interior room—in our specs panels for each respective full review—but again, don’t rely on them too much.
From those direct impressions, and out of the 27 vehicles entered in the event, here are ten models that we think most tall drivers will find accommodating.