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posted on May 29th, 2018

Advice from a fellow giant

Sometimes, being a tall car geek feels like a curse. I’m six feet, ten inches, and I know there are cars I’ll never be able to drive because I simply won’t fit behind the wheel. No matter what’s available on Turo, many cars don’t have the legroom or headroom — or either — for me to get comfortable. There are days I wish I were shorter so I could have more options to drive.

But since I can’t change my height, I have to find ways to pursue my automotive passion. Over the years I’ve had opportunities to drive lots of cool cars, and sometimes I’m surprised at what works and what doesn’t. With some, it’s fairly unbelievable I can even get inside.

Mini Cooper

Kristian’s Mini Cooper (Seattle, WA)

This little car might be the biggest surprise of all: the Mini Cooper is among the most spacious vehicles I’ve driven. It has tons of space in the driver’s seat, at the expense of anyone sitting in the back — but they’d be squeezed regardless. I’ve road tripped a 2010 model from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and I was comfortable the whole way up. My legs were stretched out almost fully and I had plenty of headroom. While the car’s nimbleness made it darty on long freeway stretches, it did the trip in just over one tank of gas, and I would’ve been happy to head back south the next day.

Mazda Miata

David’s Mazda MX-5 Miata (Phoenix, AZ)

The ultimate tiny roadster is a definite no-go for tall people. I went to try the current-generation ND Miata when it hit showrooms but I couldn’t get my legs under the steering wheel. Shame, because I hear this version is the best one yet.

However, a friend with an original NA model let me drive his for a laugh. Somehow I was able to jam myself in the driver’s seat — top down, of course — but I wouldn’t call it a success. My left knee got stuck between the door and steering wheel, which held the turn angle and prevented the wheel from returning to center, leading to a few sketchy situations. The laughs didn’t last and we decided not to try again.

Scion FR-S

Jeff’s Scion FR-S (Portland, OR)

Conversely, the Miata’s main rival, the Scion FR-S, works a lot better. While I wouldn’t want to spend hours in it, I fit surprisingly well, enough to verify the car’s fun-to-drive hype. I had to hunch a little to not hit my head on the ceiling, but the small-diameter steering wheel let me get my legs underneath. The FR-S is quite wide, so my passenger and I weren’t brushing shoulders. With an aftermarket bucket seat positioning me lower in the chassis, I’d consider making the FR-S my daily driver.

Porsche 911

Steven’s Porsche 911 Carrera S (San Diego, CA)

This legendary sports car is also my favorite, in no small part because it’s so spacious for tall folks like me. I’ve sampled the 997 and 991 generations and both were excellent fits, with plenty of adjustment at the seat and steering wheel. The car’s rear-engine layout means it drives unlike anything else, with massive traction at the back and a light yet solid front end. It’s no surprise the 911 has been in production for 50 years, and I hope they keep it tall person-friendly for future generations.

Porsche Cayenne Turbo

Pavel’s Porsche Cayenne Turbo S (Emeryville, CA)

It may seem strange that Porsche’s giant truck fit me worse than their classic coupe, but the Cayenne had a similar problem to other SUVs I’ve sampled. The high driving position puts my knees at an angle, like I’m sitting in a chair, whereas in a coupe I sit lower and can usually stretch out further. Headroom was abundant, but after a while the inability to stretch my legs led to cramping. Regardless, the Cayenne’s turbocharged acceleration was impressive.

Tesla Model X

Quan’s Tesla Model X (Milpitas, CA)

Speaking of impressive acceleration, the Model X was both a stunner and very spacious. The entire drivetrain is packaged in the floor of the car, meaning there’s no hump for a driveshaft or other mechanical bits encroaching on the interior. This led to an open feeling inside, and the seat provided lots of adjustment for me to get comfy. The massive windshield also aided how roomy it felt. Oh, did I mention the acceleration? Once you’ve experienced an electric motor’s instant torque, nothing feels the same.

Lamborghini Huracán

Premier Auto Miami’s Lamborghini Huracán (Miami Beach, FL)

Sadly, this sleek Lambo was impossible for me to try. I saw the Huracán at a car show when it was still brand new. As I stood among the throngs of onlookers, a company rep noticed me and waved me over. He was curious to see how I fit in the car — market research, he said. I took a moment to strategize my entry, but realized it wasn’t going to work. My torso alone was about eight inches longer than the bottom of the seat to the top of the ceiling. While I’ll never be able to drive the Huracán, I’ll always admire it from afar.

McLaren MP4-12C

Sean’s McLaren MP4-12C (Hermosa Beach, CA)

For some cars I’m willing to origami myself just so I can say I drove it. Such was the case with the MP4-12C. The gullwing doors opened wide but inside was a horrible fit. My drive was uncomfortable, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity simply because I was cramped. This was a supercar in every sense: acceleration, braking, handling, and looks. Clearly, however, McLaren’s engineers skimped in the “fit ridiculously tall people” department.

Mercedes-Benz S550

Erika’s Mercedes-Benz S-Class (Chicago, IL)

The quintessential luxury sedan is the only car I’ve driven where I didn’t have to put the seat all the way back. That I could actually move it forward a few inches means that someone even taller than me might be comfortable. What’s more, I fit in back even with the driver’s seat adjusted for me. With huge space and a pillowy ride, it’s no wonder the S-Class is popular with NBA players everywhere.

Alex has been a car fanatic for as long as he can remember. At 6'10", he might be the tallest auto writer in the world, and whether it's engine timing, exotic car design, or race strategy, there is no automotive topic beyond Alex's interest.