Fall 2009 Auto Guide
auto
10 top cars for older drivers

Ford Taurus

Body style: Sedan
Starting price: $25,995
Feature for older drivers: Supportive seats

The 2010 Ford Taurus is an all-new model. According to Ford, the standard seats are designed to be soft to the touch while providing extra back support to reduce fatigue and back pain on a long drive. Ford said it also designed optional "Multi-Contour Seats with Active Motion" based on medical research. A $595 option on more upscale versions of the Taurus provides a "rolling pattern" massage on the seat to keep you from sitting in the exact same position for too long.

Honda Odyssey

Body style: Minivan
Starting price: $27,515
Feature for older drivers: Tilt-telescope steering wheel

Older drivers who shuttling kids around often will enjoy the Honda Odyssey. This minivan also includes a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. Tilting steering wheels are common on mass-market cars, but telescoping ones are relatively scarce, according to the AAA. The Honda Odyssey is the nation's best-selling minivan in 2009, according to AutoData Corp.

Hyundai Veracruz

Body style:Crossover
Starting price: $27,895
Feature for older drivers: Keyless entry

The Hyundai Veracruz crossover was the only vehicle out of 120 rated last year by the AAA that had every one of the AAA's "Smart Features for Mature Drivers," including push-button keyless entry, which is easier for arthritic hands to operate. The Veracruz also has adjustable pedals, a safety feature that was available on only 23 vehicles out of 120.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Body style: Sedan
Starting price:$49,475
Feature for older drivers: Drowsy-driving alarm

The all-new Mercedes-Benz E-Class gets a drowsy-driving alarm the company calls "Attention Assist" as standard equipment. Sensors detect small steering corrections associated with the early stages of drowsy driving. The system sounds an alarm and flashes a symbol that represents, appropriately enough, a cup of coffee. Statistically, drivers under age 25 account for more than half of sleep-related crashes, according to Mercedes-Benz. However, "At one time or another, fatigue will affect all drivers," the company said.

Nissan Cube

Body style: Crossover
Starting price: $14,710
Feature for older drivers: Electronic stability control

The Nissan Cube targets younger buyers, but it could be a hit with older drivers, too, like its rival, the Scion xB from Toyota. The Nissan Cube is affordable, functional and cute, and it also has many sophisticated safety systems that once were exclusive to luxury cars, like electronic stability control. The system can tell if the car is headed in a direction other than where the steering wheel is pointed. If that's the case, the system applies braking to one or more wheels, to prevent or reduce a skid. Without the automatic system, even the most skilled driver can't apply brakes to a single wheel by stepping on the brakes. The Nissan Cube also has four doors and a low sill, for easy access.

Toyota RAV-4

Body style: Crossover
Starting price: $22,300
Feature for older drivers: Controls are easy to read and operate

Most people would call the Toyota RAV-4 a small SUV, but because it's a crossover based on the Toyota Camry, the RAV-4 is low and easy to get into by SUV standards. Toyota gets good marks from the AAA for easy-to-use controls for the audio and climate control, plus a thick steering wheel that's easy to grip. Toyota also keeps its knobs and controls similar among its models and among its brands, so that unlike some other automakers, you can go from a Scion to a Toyota to a Lexus without having to re-learn the basic controls.

Volvo XC60

Body style: Crossover
Starting price: $33,245
Feature for older drivers: Collision-avoidance system

The Volvo XC60 is an all-new model with one of Volvo's latest safety innovations, which automatically applies the brakes and can even stop the car if the driver fails to respond to a potential collision. The so-called City Safety system uses a laser to detect a rapidly shrinking closing distance to a car or an object ahead. The system first sounds a warning, and then starts to apply the brakes if the driver doesn't respond in time. The system only works at speeds up to 19 mph, but according to Volvo, that accounts for 75 percent of all accidents.

Jim Henry is a freelance automotive writer based in New Jersey.

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