People are getting fat. The exact statistics are disputed, but around 35 per cent of Americans and 25 per cent of British people are now obese. With all this excess body fat hanging around, those of larger proportions have certain priorities when purchasing a new car. Road handling and fuel economy are all well and good, but fitting inside is more important.
Fitting inside a car is not just a matter of comfort, it’s also a safety issue. If the driver’s breastbone is too close to the steering wheel, the risk of injury becomes much higher in the event a crash. But while there’s all sorts of things for a larger driver to consider, such as the adjustability of the steering wheel, an automatic gearbox and the length and strength of the seatbelt, it’s the size and shape of the seats that matter the most.
As a general rule, the bigger the car, the more comfortable a fat person will be. But while SUVs might seem like the best bet, there are plenty of midsize cars that are designed with a larger behind in mind. A flatter and wider front seat in a small family car is better suited to fat rolls than an SUV kitted out with bucket-style seats.
We have searched high and low for the cars that will best fit your obese frame and the obese frames of your family and friends. Here are our top picks.
Toyota Land Cruiser
If you’re going to go big, do it properly. The Toyota Land Cruiser is not only indestructible, as fleets of UN-branded ones throughout the world will testify, they are also cavernous inside. With 61.0 inches of front shoulder room and 59.8 inches of front hip room, the Japanese behemoth puts other SUVs to shame.
If you want interior space, you want a luxury sedan, and if you want a luxury sedan, you want an Audi A8. It might not have the badge cachet of its Mercedes or BMW rivals, but the latest A8 is the ultimate way to travel in luxury. The unparalleled engineering doesn’t stop with the driving mechanics, it continues into the cabin. If the 60.1 inches of hip room in the front aren’t enough, you could hire a chauffeur and recline first class – airline style, in the back.
The Chrysler 300 looks like the type of car that is used to deliver horse heads around town. The mafia look is enhanced if you avoid the temptation to install the Bentley style grill and stick with the chromed egg crate design. As well as looking mean, the Chrysler sports a very generous interior, with 59.5 inches of front shoulder room and 56.2 inches of front hip room it should have no problem swallowing your bulk.
In the 1990s, before it fell out of favour with the car-buying public, the Ford Taurus was the best selling car in the United States. But now it’s back and Ford have given it a secret weapon that might help it regain its place on the bestsellers list: ample waist room. Its 57.9 inches of front shoulder room and 56.3 inches of front hip room should be more than sufficient for even the most dedicated Big Mac eaters.
Lincoln Town Car
For those whose width even the widest of car seat won’t accommodate, a front bench seat is the best option. Unfortunately, 2011 saw the death of the bench seat with the Buick Lucerne, Cadillac DTS, Chevrolet Impala, Lincoln Town Car and Mercury Grand Marquis all going out of production, so your purchase will have to be second hand. The Lincoln is a classic and easily the pick of the bunch, as long as you’re not wider than the car, there will be a way of fitting you inside.
While cars no longer come with bench seats, small commercial vehicles still do. The Ford Transit, which has been a fixture of European roads since 1965 and has finally made its way into North America, is the finest light commercial vehicle ever made. It doesn’t quite have a bench seat, but with no centre console there’s nothing to restrict overflowing muffin tops.
The Nissan Altima is as dull as dishwater. Nothing quite says “designed by a committee” like Nissan’s mid-size family car. But with 56.8 inches of front hip room, it appears that Nissan knew its target audience. Just remember not to buy the new model which came out in 2013 and was a little more stingy with its girth allowances.
Another runaway Japanese success, Honda has shifted millions of these mid-sized family cars since they first started producing them in 1976. The front seats have 56.6 inches of hip room, but that’s not the big story here. The Honda’s seats have minimal bolstering on the side which works wonders for shoehorning even the widest of rear ends into position.
The bizarre looking ZDX was developed by Honda for Acura, its luxury car division, and has more going for it than sci-fi chic. It comes stuffed with technological niceties including a “collision mitigating braking system” and advanced ventilated seats. Not only do the seats stop pools of sweat from forming, they are really wide; the ZDX has 57.3 inches of hip room.
Go big or go home. The Escalade is the only choice when size is all that matters. While it might have been derided by the car press for its appalling ride and obnoxious styling, the Escalade is perfect for the big-boned. The seats themselves aren’t massive, but there’s acres of space on either side of them that will happily accommodate any overspill.