Older car buyers are a diverse bunch. Still, there are certain themes that reveal themselves when analyzing their needs. These themes tend to be dictated by the physical challenges that many face in their golden years.
Many seniors suffer from stiffness in the hands and wrist, typically triggered by arthritis. For these folks, any feature that minimizes motion and effort in these areas can be helpful. Touchscreen controls, Bluetooth technology and buttonless shifters as seen in cars like the Toyota Prius can make life a lot easier.
Arthritis — which, incidentally, affects over half of all Americans over the age of 65 — can also stiffen the knees and other joints, making the bending associated with entering and exiting a vehicle difficult. Wide door openings, a tall seating position and generous front passenger room can all help mitigate this type of discomfort.
Lots of seniors also suffer from back pain, and they appreciate heated seats. Some luxury cars (such as the Mercedes-Benz S550) even offer seats that boast a massage feature.
Another challenge faced by seniors is deteriorating vision. Features like back-up cameras, parking sensors and blind spot warning systems can all help make time spent behind the wheel safer and less stressful for those who struggle with this problem. These features are being offered by more and more vehicles, and are available even on reasonably priced cars like the Mazda 6. Night Vision technology can also be of assistance to drivers with less-than-perfect eyesight, and it's offered on vehicles by Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
Some elderly drivers need mobility scooters to get around when they're not behind the wheel. For them, it's important that a vehicle's trunk be large enough to contain this equipment.
Other technology is available that's a boon to the AARP set. Voice-activated systems like Ford's Sync make it simple to access music and get directions. Mercedes-Benz and Volvo each offer systems (called Attention Assist and Driver Alert Control, respectively) designed to combat a problem that can be an issue for seniors and other drivers: driver drowsiness. These systems sense when the driver's concentration level is affected, and issue an alert. Lane-departure warning systems that let you know if you've drifted outside your lane are available on a growing number of vehicles. The Lexus LS 460 and the Toyota Prius offer an advanced parking guidance system that allows the vehicle to basically parallel-park itself. And Volvo's XC60 offers a feature called City Safety that senses imminent collisions and applies the brakes if necessary.
As usual, our mix of vehicles covers all the bases. There's a minivan for seniors who need extra passenger capacity, and there are compact cars for those who appreciate the parking convenience that smaller vehicles provide. Our list also includes technology-laden luxury cars, a couple of spacious full-size sedans and an innovative SUV.
Here are the 10 vehicles (listed in alphabetical order) that we feel best suit the needs of seniors. Keep in mind that though some of the features listed are standard, many are available only as options. Also, note that this list includes 2009 models as well as 2010 models available at the date of publication.
2009 BMW 5 Series
Senior-friendly features: Front and rear parking sensors; 20-way heated and ventilated height-adjustable power driver seat with power-adjustable lumbar support, memorized settings for two drivers and massage feature; tilt and telescoping steering wheel; adaptive cruise control; Night Vision; voice-activated navigation system; keyless ignition; lane departure warning system; back-up camera; Bluetooth connectivity.
Other perks: Class-leading handling, powerful engines, exquisite cabin, impressive resale value, available all-wheel drive.
2010 Ford Taurus
Senior-friendly features: Rear parking sensors; cavernous trunk; spacious cabin; tall seating position; eight-way heated power driver seat with manual-adjustable lumbar support and memorized settings for two drivers; cruise control; height-adjustable pedals; available Sync multimedia system, which allows for voice-activated operation of iPods and cellular phones.
Other perks: Comfortable ride, available all-wheel drive.
2009 Honda Civic and Civic Hybrid
Senior-friendly features: Height-adjustable driver seat; tilt and telescoping steering wheel; cruise control; Bluetooth connectivity; voice-activated navigation system.
Other perks: Compact size makes parking a cinch, outstanding reliability, hybrid version offers superb fuel economy.
2009 Honda Odyssey
Senior-friendly features: Front and rear parking sensors; height-adjustable, eight-way heated power driver seat with manual-adjustable lumbar support and memorized settings for two drivers; back-up camera; cruise control; voice-activated navigation system; Bluetooth connectivity; height-adjustable pedals; tilt and telescoping steering wheel.
Other perks: Nimble handling, seats up to eight, user-friendly split and flat-folding rear bench seat.
2009 Lexus LS 460
Senior-friendly features: Advanced parking guidance system; voice-activated navigation system; heated, height-adjustable 16-way power driver seat with power-adjustable lumbar support and memorized settings for three drivers; adaptive cruise control; tilt and telescoping steering wheel; back-up camera; keyless ignition; huge trunk; Bluetooth connectivity.
Other perks: Available all-wheel drive, tranquil ride, excellent materials quality.
2009 Mazda Mazda 6
Senior-friendly features: Blind spot warning system; heated eight-way power driver seat with manual lumbar support and memorized settings for three drivers; cruise control; keyless ignition; Bluetooth connectivity; voice-activated navigation system; enormous trunk; spacious cabin.
Other perks: Relatively athletic handling, robust V6.
2010 Mercedes-Benz S550
Senior-friendly features: Night Vision; Attention Assist; blind spot warning system; huge trunk; heated and ventilated 14-way power driver seat with power-adjustable lumbar support, memorized settings for three drivers and a massage feature; adaptive cruise control; Bluetooth connectivity; spacious cabin; back-up camera; front and rear parking sensors.
Other perks: Ferocious acceleration, well-balanced handling, superbly crafted cabin.
2009 Toyota Avalon
Senior-friendly features: Height-adjustable, heated, eight-way power driver seat with memorized settings for two drivers and power lumbar support; tilt and telescoping steering wheel; adaptive cruise control; keyless ignition; enormous cabin; voice-activated navigation system; Bluetooth connectivity.
Other perks: Smooth ride, elegant cabin, long list of standard features for a relatively accessible price.
2010 Toyota Prius
Senior-friendly features: Advanced parking guidance system; touchscreen controls; front and rear parking sensors; back-up camera; heated, height-adjustable driver seat with manual-adjustable lumbar support; adaptive cruise control; keyless ignition; Bluetooth connectivity; lane departure warning system.
Other perks: Unparalleled hybrid fuel economy, comfortable ride.
2010 Volvo XC60
Senior-friendly features: City Safety collision warning system; Driver Alert Control; blind spot warning system; height-adjustable, eight-way power driver seat with power-adjustable lumbar support and memorized settings for three drivers; adaptive cruise control; tilt and telescoping steering wheel; Bluetooth connectivity; back-up camera; lane departure warning system.
Other perks: All-wheel drive, potent engine, long list of standard equipment.
Copyright Edmunds.com, Inc. All rights reserved. First published on www.edmunds.com and excerpted with permission. http://www.edmunds.com/reviews/list/top10/148386/article.html