Ultimate road trip vehicle

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The Best Vans for Road Trips and More

June 26, 2018

In Europe, the best vans come with a certain cachet. You can rent a vintage VW camper van, for instance, and tour the Scottish Highlands. In the United States, however, vans are associated with utility. No one buys a van unless they’re an electrician, a daycare director or an Iron Maiden cover band.

Now, at last, that may be changing. Adventurous spirits are discovering that full-size vans are great for camping, surfing, road-tripping, off-roading and even living.

Why buy a van?

1. You can take the party with you.

If you regularly shuttle around more than four people, your vehicle options are limited. Most people choose a third-row SUV or a minivan. Trouble is, big SUVs can be expensive. On the low end, $25,000 for a base-model Kia Sorento or Hyundai Santa Fe. But on the high end, $70,000 for a fancy Ford Expedition or GMC Yukon. And minivans are… minivans. Full-size passenger vans are affordable and can easily seat five, seven, 12 or 15.

2.You can carry a LOT of stuff.

Even a small Ford Transit Connect Wagon — basically, a minivan that’s not a minivan — is a cargo champ. With both rows of seats folded, it can carry 104 cubic feet of stuff. That’s more than a Tahoe, Car and Driver points out. Bigger cargo vans can haul nearly five times that amount.

3. You can sleep — or live — comfortably in a van.

Whether you want to stretch out for a few nights or live the nomadic life for months, a van is the way to go. A van’s not a gas hog like an RV, and they can be customized to add beds, storage and even kitchens.

Are you feeling van fever yet?

Here are a few of the best vans you can buy.

The Best Van to Live in

The Ford Transit Connect has it all: seating for 7, 20/27 city/highway gas mileage and plenty of room. It even has a sort of adorkable charm, with a stormtrooper-esque grille and boxy rear. The rear seat backs can be folded down or removed, and the front passenger seat back can be folded flat to serve as a writing or eating surface. And with a few modifications, the Ford Transit Connect is one of the best vans for “stealth” sleeping, a.k.a. living in a van without anyone knowing.

Here’s a Transit Connect with a wooden bed frame that’s also a food storage area, a camp stove, solar-powered LED lights, and even a solar shower. And here’s one with an even more homey layout: kitchen cabinets, a cooktop that swings out for al fresco cooking, a microwave, a tiny fridge, an awning, and a solar panel.

The Best Comfy and Cheap Vans

If you’re a child of the ‘80s or ‘90s, you may have fond memories of road-tripping in a conversion van with cushy captain’s chairs and rad racing stripes. Guess what? A lot of those are still on the road — and they’re relatively cheap vans to buy these days.

A quick search of conversion vans for sale turns up many for as little as $3,500, such as the Ford E-150, the Chevrolet G1500 and the GMC Savana. Will it have more than 150,000 miles? Definitely. Will it have curtains and a VCR? If you’re lucky. However, the captain’s chairs are as cushy as ever. Go ahead — try them out. We’ll wait.

The Best Van for the End of the World

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van is a well-built, sleek cargo van that has a secret superpower: four wheel drive: “A push of a button switches the van from a two-wheel-drive hauler into a four-wheel-drive off-roader that just happens to carry a massive volume of stuff,” as Car and Driver puts it. The 4WD Sprinter handles rock-studded, steep dirt roads with ease, making it perfect for fleeing zombie hordes or an alien invasion. Watch it in action here. On the inside, the Sprinter can carry up to 487 cubic square feet.

The Best Electric Van

After teasing van fans for years, Volkswagen is reportedly close to producing an electric van that takes style cues from the classic Microbus. A concept vehicle called the I.D. BUZZ, which premiered at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show, is a two-toned, playful van with powerful batteries and a range of 372 miles. Here’s the bad news: this sweet electric van would go into production in 2022, at the earliest. “In the year 2025, if man is still alive, a production version is likely to offer Level 5 autonomy, also known as full autonomy with eyes-off-the-road capability,” Autoweek reports.

Not feeling even the best vans, but still want a vehicle that can fit a kayak, a dog, and a sleeping bag, too? Check out our list of six great adventure cars.

The Best Vans for Summer Road Trips

May 24, 2016 at 5:13 PM

You can make or ruin a summer road trip with a vehicle choice. A road trip is a chance to enjoy time with family or friends. Such a journey needs a vehicle that can withstand the abuse on the road and offer comfort to everyone. Vans have become the go-to options when planning a road trip. The choices are varied, from Mercedes to Ford to Volkswagen but how do you know the best van to pick for that summer road trip coming up? Here are some choices that offer you a variety of must-haves for a road trip.

Volkswagen Transporter

The load capacity in the Transporter is one of the reasons it makes an excellent choice for a road trip. You can find the van in two seating layouts each offering sufficient comfort when travelling. It is available in two wheelbases, the SWB and the LWB. The Volkswagen Transporter is smooth and quiet on the road, which is perfect when you want to sleep or read. For the interior, there is a 5” inch display that works with USB and SD card so you have entertainment options. The cup holders can be a downside, though, because they are not sufficiently deep; and so, may not be much use when driving. In terms of safety, the Transporter offers automatic post-collision braking, ABS braking, adaptive cruise control, Hill Hold assist, driver alert system, and a lane change assist.

Ford Transit

The Transit model is one of Ford’s best choices for road trip vans. Ford Transit offers efficient fuel consumption with its 2.2 L Duratorq diesel engine. The best things about the Ford Transit are that the range is a wide one, and it offers a variety of space options. Compared to its rivals, the load space in the Transit falls short. The ESC stability control system in the van is one of the most advanced on the market, giving long-distance drivers reliability. It also has a curve control system, which activates when a driver corners a bit too fast. There is a central display that holds the infotainment system although the size of it could be bigger. The buttons are also a bit too much.

Mercedes Sprinter

Mercedes Sprinter is available in nine different styles each offering varying heights and lengths. As per Mercedes standards, the Sprinter comes with the blueEFFICIENCY package. There is also the 6-speed ECO Gear, which contributes to environmental-friendly driving. You can find the Mercedes Sprinter in all wheelbases. The 196 bhp 3 L V6 CDI diesel engine is one of the most powerful on the market. If you are looking for off-road performance, then Mercedes offers it. Traction control offers a nice grip when driving in the countryside. The van is built to take the road trip treatment. However, the rear wheel drive may be a minus for most people. You get multiple safety features such as adaptive brake lights, multiple airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, ESP trailer stabilisation and brake assist that are ideal when driving long distances. You can choose to have interiors extras such as the COMAND sat-nav, Bluetooth and rear parking cameras although they can increase the cost significantly.

If you are looking for the best van, simply contact us and we will help you find the one that suits you.

Tags: van Road Trips Summer Blog Category: Ideas and Tips

Can you ID the car? Photo Credit: Raphael Orlove What Car Should You BuyThe experts at Jalopnik answer your car-buying questions.

Nicholas has wised up and decided to get the heck out of NYC. He wants to take a cross-country road trip with his girlfriend, see the sights, make new friends and find a new place to live. But he needs the right car to make the journey, what should he buy?

(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. Do you want us to help you find a car? Submit your story on our form.)

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Here is the scenario –

I need a mean machine to get me through a Great American Road Trip with my girlfriend. I am in my 20s living in NYC and planning to hit about 40 states and also look for a new place along the way we would come back to settle down.

I’m looking for an affordable SUV or a minivan, that can comfortably and reliably handle the journey. Max budget is about $10,000. I would like it to have enough power to get up a mountain but it can’t be too terrible on gas. It would be great if I could stand up inside the vehicle, but having some windows in the rear is more the must-have feature.

Also, it must look like a regular vehicle, I don’t need something wacky that stands out too much.

Quick Facts:

Budget: up to $10,000

Daily Driver: Sort of; it will be daily driven across the country

Starting location: NYC

Wants: Comfortable, reliable, enough size to sleep in if needed

Doesn’t want: Something too weird or too thirsty

Expert 1: Tom McParland – Not Just A Minivan, The Greatest Van

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Nicholas, good for you for recognizing the futility of living in NYC. Look, I love New York but it is a terrible place to live. At least a quarter of Jalopnik’s Slack communication channel is folks complaining about how bad the trains are and how they’ll be hours late to the blog mines. I don’t know how people live like that! So it’s time for you to find some adventure and a new space to live.

I think we can all agree that between the van vs SUV choice, the van is clearly the superior option. But you don’t want some boring van, you need a Jalop van: a Toyota Previa. That’s right, a rear-wheel drive (or all-wheel-drive) mid-engined minivan. It’s weird and different, but your average person would never know.

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Here is a rear-drive version in Brooklyn for about $2,000. It has 172,000 miles, which means it has plenty of life left because it’s a Toyota from the ‘90s.While you may have some second thoughts about climbing mountains with the Toyota’s four-cylinder motor that makes about 140 horsepower, with all that savings you can get this thing in tip-top shape and maybe slap a supercharger and beef up some components to have yourself an on- or off-road hoon-van!

You should probably buy this before one of my goofball coworkers do.

Expert 2: David Tracy – Regularly Lusts After Chevy Astros

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Back in 1998, my Dad had to make a hard choice. His six boys were getting bigger, and the eight-passenger, manual Plymouth Voyager he’d owned since 1990 was starting to feel small.

For weeks, our family looked at cars, considering everything from the Pontiac Montana to the new Chrysler minivans. When it was all said and done, we ended up with a 1998 Chevrolet Astro, which transported all eight of us all around the American midwest and Europe for over a decade, racking up 200,000 miles without a single major mechanical issue.

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One look at the Astro’s hardware explains why the boxy cargo van is so tough. The engine is the venerable 4.3-liter 90-degree V6, which makes a respectable 190 horsepower and a downright burly 250 lb-ft of torque. That power gets sent into a Turbo-Hydramatic 700R4, one of the greatest and toughest automatic transmissions ever put in a GM truck.

And a truck the Astro was, with its body-on-frame setup, leaf-sprung solid axle out back, and decent ground clearance. Plus, you could get it with four-wheel drive! In some ways, you can think of the Astro as the van version of the Chevrolet Silverado. But that doesn’t mean it’s not comfortable; the Astro rides like a magic carpet on its seriously soft springs.

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You’ll probably only manage about 18 or 19 MPG on the highway, but it will be hard to find a vehicle this cheap (you’ll find them all over Craigslist for a couple of grand) that’s this tough and this spacious.

Expert 3: Jason Torchinsky – I’ve Done This. You Want A Toilet

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Nicholas, buddy, listen to me: I’ve done exactly what you’re looking to do, only with a kid and a dog and cat. I was going the other direction, crossing the country from West to East, but the fundamental principles hold. This is a vast, fascinating country, and the only way to cross it is in something with its own toilet. You want an RV.

When I moved my family from Los Angeles to North Carolina, I wanted to be sure to enjoy the trip, and have the freedom to explore and do whatever. If you carry a house with you, you’re pretty much free to go anywhere you want. RVs are made for just this sort of trip, and, luckily for you, they’re even worse at keeping their value than a CRT television that someone’s cat’s been vomiting into for the past three years.

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Campers and RVs are insanely cheap. They’re hard to store, they don’t get used as often as people think, and they just tend to sit. People just want them gone.

This is great news for you, because it means you can find a decent, well-maintained RV with everything you need to make your long, meandering journey perfect for cheap.

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Look at this: a Ford Econoline-based 2002 Jayco Grayhawk Class C RV with only 27,000 miles for an insane $6000. It’s got a generator, kitchen, bathroom, it has a slide-out wall to make it bigger, it’s fantastic. You can be driving in the middle of nowhere and, if you have a sudden, panicked urge to take a dump, just pull over, grab a book, and enjoy your elimination!

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Driving on the lonely road and have a powerful urge to eat stir-fry and play a Zelda game on a couch? That’s an achievable dream, anywhere, anytime, in an RV. What about a nice hot shower? Again, it’s yours for the taking, anytime. Anywhere.

Okay, the gas mileage from that V10 Triton will probably suck, but with the money you’ll save on hotels and, later, money from AirBnB’ing the thing when you find your eventual home, it’ll all be made up for.

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Plus, wherever you’re going, you can take your time looking for that perfect place to live, because you’ve been driving your place to live for a week or so already!

Did I mention you can take a dump anywhere? Because you can. And that’s true freedom.

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Expert 4: Patrick George — Wagons Are What We Must Drive

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Nicholas, congrats on getting out of New York City. It is generally terrible and no one should live here. (I’m just kidding, it’s fine. Sometimes.) But I’d be remiss in my duties as Jalopnik EIC if I didn’t at least get you to consider a wagon instead of a van, or SUV. You get size, practicality and sedan-like driving dynamics instead of feeling like you are driving a bus.

Instead, I say consider a Mercedes W124 wagon, like a 300TE or its later designation, the E320. You won’t be able to stand up in it, but you’ll get power, comfort, plenty of space, room to sleep by the side of the road if you make some accommodations, and more style than any van can give you. And it’s one of the last cars from that super overbuilt era of Mercedes, so if it’s maintained properly by you, it should be more than up for the drive.

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I found you one in nearby Rhode Island for a hair under $4,000. You’re welcome, bud.

Is a sedan the best family vehicle for a comfortable road trip? A giant SUV? A minivan? A pickup truck? (Yep — those giant, comfortable 4-door pickup trucks are being marketed as family vehicles!) A group of auto writers in the Midwest tested 19 cars, pickups and SUVs, including 6 luxury models, to determine which works best for families. Read on to find out which vehicles got the votes.

Plenty of legroom, a comfortable ride and lots of tech plugs, like these in the Chevy Blazer back seat, are the keys to road trip happiness for families. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

Choosing the Best Family Vehicle of the Year

During the spring meeting, the new car models in the running for Family Vehicle of the Year were:

2019 Chevy Blazer SUV
2019 Chevy Silverado Pickup
2019 Ford Ranger Pickup
2019 Honda Passport
2019 Hyundai Tucson
2019 Mazda 3
2019 Toyota Corolla
2019 Toyota Prius
2019 Toyota Rav4
2019 Volkswagen Arteon
2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
2020 Kia Soul
2020 Kia Telluride

Contenders for Luxury Family Vehicle of the Year were:

2019 BMW 3-Series
2019 BMW X7
2019 Cadillac XT4
2019 Lexus UX
2019 Lincoln Nautilus
2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLS 53

Which Was Voted Best Car, Truck or SUV?
Which Vehicles Won Last Year?
When Will the 2019 Winner Chosen?

The members of the Midwest Auto Media Association (MAMA for short) meet twice a year to drive a passel of cars. Some are speedy models that are fun on the race track. But the stars of this show are the family vehicles. Each year, MAMA names the Family Vehicle of the Year. To be considered in this competition, vehicles must be new or “substantially” refreshed for the current model year and have 4 doors. Thirteen of the vehicles are more affordable, while six fits in the luxury category, including a Mercedes sedan that retails for more than $100,000.

Grading the Vehicles

While there were plenty of professional auto writers who were grading the vehicles based on what’s under the hood, I made my selections based on the family-friendly features inside the cabin. Is there enough legroom in the back seat to keep a lanky tween happy? Would it be easy to install a car seat? Is there enough tech powering slots to keep everyone charged up for an entire road trip? Is there plenty of cargo space to accommodate an entire family’s worth of luggage? Then, finally, is it comfortable for the driver to actually enjoy a long road trip?

In addition, I cared about safety features. Does it offer basic safety tech like hands-free Android Auto and Apple Carplay, blind spot warnings and rear cross traffic alert? Bonus points for invaluable road trip comforts like my favorite: adaptive cruise control. That means the car slows down when traffic backs up, then regains speed once traffic starts to move again. Once I experienced that, I swore never to go back to regular cruise control that the driver actually has to manage!

Family Vehicle of the Year Contenders

2019 Chevy Blazer SUV

Chevy Blazer. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

This all wheel drive mid-size SUV is comfy and roomy, with plenty of space in the back seat, cupholders in the fold-down middle seat space (you lose those when you have three in the rear seat) and wifi capability, a 120-volt power outlet and USB ports to keep tech-obsessed teens happy. The ride was smooth and acceleration was decent — not something I find common in SUVs. The design is sexy for an SUV. Base price is $28,800. The fully-loaded version I drove sells for $50,765 and includes many safety features families would want, including forward collision alert and pedestrian braking.

2019 Chevy Silverado Pickup

Chevy Silverado. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

This 4-door, 4-wheel-drive pickup was a real surprise. The ride wasn’t at all truck-like and the cabin was roomy. The step-up running board made it easy to get in and out of this high truck and there is plenty of tech available to keep teens happy, even if they’re riding in the ample back seat. Base price is $28,300.

2019 Ford Ranger Supercrew 4X4 Pickup

The Ford Ranger pickup. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

This is the long-anticipated reboot of Ford’s small pickup, now recast as a mid-sized pickup. We’re a committed Ford family and I have family members chomping at the bit to get inside one of these babies. It boasts of impressive towing power and fuel efficiency stats, but as a family vehicle, I found it lacking. The step-up is very high — no way my mother-in-law with her titanium hip would be able to get in and out of this truck — the ride was truck-like and the rear seat leg room is tight. Base price is $38,000.

2019 Honda Passport Elite

Honda Passport. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

This was one of my favorites. The all-wheel drive Passport Elite mid-size SUV offered a comfortable ride, big back seat, great tech, and a big storage area. The base model starts at just $31,990 and the fully loaded Elite model I drove starts at $43,680. The Elite trim package includes such cushy comforts as ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, and rain-sensing wipers. The downside: no third-row seating.

2019 Hyundai Tucson

The Hyundai Tucson. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

File the Hyundai Tucson under “pretty nice for the price.” This SUV has a pleasing exterior design and the upgraded model with a few more safety features ranks as a 2019 IIHS Top Safety Pick. But I found the ride to be stiff and bumpy — which can wear on a long road trip — and the back seat a little cramped. Still, with a starting price of just $23,000, this one is tough to beat for young families.

2019 Mazda3

Mazda3. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

This sedan is fun and sporty. It feels like the compromise car new parents would get when the first baby comes — it’s not quite a sports car, but it’s a far cry from a minivan. They’ll need to trade it in once the kids get old enough to need their own iPad in the back — tech plugs and legroom are lacking in the back seat. The Mazda3 starts at an affordable-for-young-families $21,000.

2019 Toyota Corolla

Toyota Corolla. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

A Toyota Corolla was the first new car I ever bought, so there will always be a soft spot in my heart for a Corolla. And Toyota always gets bonus points for its Toyota safety package that comes standard on every vehicle. This is another great option for young families. It’s not as sporty as the Mazda3, but it’s plenty safe and super affordable, with a base price of just $18,700.

2019 Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

It’s hard to believe the Toyota Prius is more than 20 years old! I’ve always liked the design. This new model is available in all wheel drive and the interior space is huge for a sedan. And it’s tough to beat 50 miles per gallon. The Prius comes in five different trim levels, with a base price of less than $25,000 and a top price of just over $33,000. The base model has the best fuel economy. The Prius offers 2 USB ports for the back seat, and it’s safe — it earned a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

2019 Toyota Rav4

Toyota Rav4. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

I have always thought the Toyota Rav4 compact SUV is a great family car for the price — it starts at just over $25,000. This new version feels bigger and sexier, drives well and offers plenty of tech to keep the back seat riders happy. And it comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, a package of safety features such as pre-collision pedestrian detection and lane departure alert.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon

Volkswagen Arteon. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

This new Volkswagen sedan has a sleek design that offers plenty of legroom in back and a giant trunk for a sedan. But the tech hookup options were limited — one USB in the dash and another under the armrest. The Arteon comes with Volkswagen’s “people first” 6-year, 72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, which is always a comfort when you’re driving the family cross country. Base price is $35,845.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon

The Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, doing what it does best: Getting muddy. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

This new Jeep combines the best of an off-roading Jeep with the functionality and towing capacity of a pickup. And it’s just plain fun to drive. I had the chance to drive it off road as well as on the pavement. If your idea of a family road trip involves fording streams and climbing trails, this is the family vehicle for you. Base price is $33,545.

2020 Kia Soul

Kia Soul. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

This zippy little car is fun to drive and handles surprisingly well given its boxy design. There’s plenty of leg room for long drives, but precious little tech to keep the kids powered up. Base price is just $17,490.

2020 Kia Telluride

Kia Telluride is my pick for Family Vehicle of the Year. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

This was by far the surprise of the day. Every auto writer who drove it came back and asked the next one: “Have you driven the Telluride yet? It’s really impressive.” And impressive it is. This is the biggest SUV from Kia yet. I want to take it on a road trip. The ride was cushy, the interior space offered as much room as a minivan and there was enough tech in the second row and third-row sections to keep a whole soccer team happy. The all-new Kia Telluride family SUV is the best product for the price we saw — the base model starts at $31,690 and the upgraded model sells for $43,490. I’ve already recommended it to a family with three little ones looking to trade in their minivan.

Best Luxury Family Vehicles

2019 BMW 3-Series

BMW 3 Series sedan. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

This BMW sedan offered a super stiff ride, even in “comfort” mode. In the back, that meant a really bouncy ride, which wouldn’t be great for anyone with motion sickness issues. Base price is $40,250.

2019 BMW X7

BMW X7 has plenty of storage space. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

The BMW X7 is the nicest minivan you’ll ever drive — except that it’s being marketed as an SUV. The biggest BMW SUV built to date, it has plenty of room for the soccer team. And the BMW fit and finish means it is nice to drive — comfortable and quiet. But I couldn’t shake the “minivan” thought as I looked at the design. Base price is $73,900.

2019 Cadillac XT4

This is the only family vehicle that I was not able to drive at the MAMA event — it was there one day and gone the next and I missed my chance. Base price for this crossover is $34,795.

2019 Lexus UX

Lexus UX. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

Clearly, I am spoiled. I do love me a Lexus! This first-ever Lexus crossover has that tough-looking front grill and the zippy performance that makes this the kind of car that is dangerous for me to drive. I sat down, touched the gas and — boom — was at 60 before I knew it (a real problem since I was driving in a 45 mp zone). So choose this one if your definition of a great family road trip car is “fun to drive.” If however, you need to get some teenager soccer players and all their gear inside, this may not be the best choice. It isn’t the roomiest of crossovers. Base price is $32.150.

2019 Lincoln Nautilus

.Lincoln Nautilus. Photo credit: Cindy Richards

This crossover offers a smooth, quiet ride and plenty of comforting safety features, including lane keep assist and my personal fave: adaptive cruise control. There’s a quality sound system, too, which is always a nice perk on a long drive. Base price is $40,340.

2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLS 53

The Mercedes-Benz AMG CLS 53 hugs you when you go around turns! Photo credit: Cindy Richards

Everything about this Mercedes sedan screams pampering, from the air purification system that can be customized to breathe scents into the car to the seats that hug you as you take the corners. Yep. The seats hug you. Turn to the right and the left bolster swells up to keep you firmly in the seat. Turn left and the right bolster puffs up for a right-sided hug. When you’re not turning, you can set the seats to massage your back. Who wouldn’t want that on a long road trip? Too bad for the rear seat passengers — this is a front seat feature only.

Despite being a sedan (Mercedes refers to it as a coupe), this model was super roomy inside and had a huge trunk for stowing gear. Tech options were plentiful. And it had one feature we don’t really need in a family car (but was awfully fun to test): it does 0-60 in 4.4. seconds. My only complaint is that the sloping design made it difficult to get in and out of this gorgeous vehicle without bumping my head. And I’m only 5-foot, 7 inches tall. My 6-3 hubby would have a real challenge.

Which Was Voted Best Car, Truck or SUV?

The auto writers chose the Honda Passport, Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, Kia Telluride and Mazda3 in the under-$60,000 category. In the luxury category, they chose the BMW X7, Lincoln Nautilus and Mercedes-Benz AMG CL 53.

I agreed in part. But I voted for the Toyota Prius and the Chevy Silverado rather than the Mazda3 and Jeep Gladiator Rubicon. In the luxury group, I voted for the Lexus UX rather than the Lincoln.

We all agreed on the Mercedes. After all, who doesn’t want a car that hugs you every time you turn a corner?

Which Vehicles Won Last Year?

The 11 finalists for Family Vehicle of the Year in 2018 were: the Buick Regal TourX, Ford Expedition, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Kona, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda6, Nissan Altima, Ram 1500, Subaru Ascent, Subaru Forester, and Volkswagen Jetta. There were six finalists in the luxury category: the Acura RDX, Kia Stinger, Land Rover Range Rover Velar, Lexus ES, Maserati Levante, and Volvo XC40.

The winners were the 2019 Subaru Ascent and the 2019 Volvo XC40.

When Will the 2019 Winner Chosen?

The MAMA members will meet again in the fall to drive another group of family vehicles. Then there will be a second round of voting to choose the winners. The Family Vehicle of the Year and Luxury Family Vehicle of the Year awards will be announced at the Chicago Auto Show in February.

Stopping to take in the view is priceless. 📸 Scotty Reiss

This is the ultimate car for the travel junkie.

I have a love/hate relationship with minivans. I love them for road trip travel, but not for every day driving. However, when travel takes priority in our lives, I start to think of the minivan in a new way, as a critical tool for the life we live, not just a van to tote the kids to and fro.

We just returned from an epic drive across the Southwest in the Chrysler Pacifica. It was a trip sweet enough to make van life worthwhile all year long.

I came away thinking of all the ways that having a minivan in the driveway is really a ticket to more travel, more of the time. Here are 10 ways this car can set you free to see the world (or at least, much of it):

1. Minivan Math: Spend Less Money, Get More Travel

To reconcile our daily car life with the desire to turn our weekends, holidays and vacations into travel opportunities, the first place to start is the family budget. Banking the several thousand dollars we might spend on airfare for just a couple of annual trips, plus the difference in the monthly payment between a top-of-the-line Pacifica versus a similarly appointed SUV could result in $5,000 or more. That’s a third week of vacation, a bump up to a suite from a double room or a full upgrade from Marriott to Four Seasons. Pretty sweet.

Related: Chrysler Pacifica minivan review: See how this fresh, stylish minivan reinvented the category

A cooler fit perfectly between the captains chairs. 📸 Scotty Reiss

2. Bring Order to In-Car Chaos

The pain of road trip travel starts and ends with stuff. The luggage, the equipment, the totes, coolers and snack bags. Then, add the trash that seems to multiply with the miles. The average car is good with this in small amounts, but a family road trip necessitates large amounts. The Pacifica’s many clever places to stash things gives every passenger a place to set up their own space to keep everyone orderly on the road.

And, clean up is easy: with the sliding doors– which open with a swipe of your foot under the door when the key fob is in your pocket!— the wide-opening lift gate, sliding seats and built-in vacuum, your whole crew can sweep out every last errant french fry in minutes.

Morning coffee…and view. 📸Scotty Reiss

3. Make Your Own New Path

Want to cross a few more national parks off your bucket list? Or make a side trip to see a giant ball of string? A minivan makes those extra stops on the way to grandma’s all the more comfortable.

Related: The Chrysler Pacifica now comes in a plug in hybrid, and it’s as amazing as it sounds.

That panoramic sun roof! What a great way to see the world. 📸 Scotty Reiss

4: Curate the Ultimate Family ‘Gram

Spot a rainbow? Pull over and snap a photo. Wowed by an amazing mountain view? Pull off the road and channel your inner @alexstrohl. Spot a moose, elk, antelopes? They are yours for the snapping. Anyone can take a photo on Hollywood Boulevard; not just anyone can pull off the road and climb a million-year-old geological wonder. Only those who venture out to find it.

And, with ample windows and upright seats, everyone in the Pacifica has a great view for spotting places to stop and taking photos from the car.

The perfect place for a handbag is this tray between the center console and the dashboard. 📸 Scotty Reiss

5. Bring All Your Stuff

Does a successful family trip mean bringing blankets and chairs for star gazing? Or a cooler so everyone has plenty of snacks and drinks? Outfits for daytime hiking and nighttime dancing? No problem. There’s plenty of room in the rear cargo area for extras; the Pacifica’s oversized cargo bay easily fits a half dozen bags, and the space between center row captains chairs is ideal for your Yeti.

Related: The Honda Odyssey does some brilliant things, and won our hearts in the process

A carful of girls mean a stop at the Kate Spade outlet is a MUST. 📸 Scotty Reiss

6. Hello Outlet Shopping!!!

A stop at the outlet mall to buy back-to-school sneakers and jeans, to stock up on discounted Lululemon, or to hunt for treasures at Gucci is easy because there’s plenty of room to pick up extras along the way. If you were flying you’d be conscious of overpacking your carryon, but in a minivan you don’t have to curb your retail urges due to space.

Related: Now THIS is first class: The reclining center row seats in the Toyota Sienna will spoil your kids

THIS is the way to travel. 📸 Scotty Reiss

7. No One is Touching You

We all remember the torture of summer road trips that meant we spent 8 hours crammed shoulder to shoulder next to sweaty, fidgety, nitpicky siblings, and it was no fun. With room for everyone to spread out no one has to sacrifice their personal space. That is priceless.

8. Get Your Summer Reading Done

Not only are the larger, roomier seats in the Pacifica great for relaxing and reading a book, but the windows and sun roof make the cabin feel light and airy. There is a panoramic sunroof over the front and center rows, and a roof panel over the third row means rear seat passengers can dig into a book or work on a computer without feeling nauseous.

This is the best! The kids actually argued over who got to vacuum the car. 📸 Scotty Reiss

9. Bring the Whole Crew

Want to bring a babysitter, cousins or a friend or two? With 7 or 8 seats it’s easy to extend an invitation, bring along extra family or hire a babysitter for the week. For parents with young kids, an extra set of helping hands can not only make the trip more enjoyable, but make that minivan really sexy when it means you get to go out dining and dancing while the kids are tucked in for the night.

Our destination is the Sunset Marquis Hotel in West Hollywood. 📸Scotty Reiss

10. The Best Memories Are Made in Minivans

And that is truly the best reason to consider van life. When we are comfortable, relaxed and on our way to someplace happy with our favorite people we can’t help but cherish the memory. Seeing the world with people you love instills great memories in them, too.

Disclosure: I was Chrysler’s guest for the ultimate family road trip in the Pacifica; travel and accommodations were provided but all the fun and adventure was our own.

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Scotty Reiss

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom, Scotty likes to say the automotive business found her, she didn’t pursue it. But recognizing the opportunity to give voice to powerful female consumers and create a voice to match their spending power, her mission became to empower women as car buyers and owners. A career-long journalist, she has written for the New York Times, Town & Country, Adweek and co-authored the book Stew Leonard, My Story, a biography of the founder of the iconic grocery company Stew Leonard’s. Her love of cars started when her father insisted she learn to change the oil in her MG Midget, but now it mostly plays out in the many road trips taken with her family.

Latest posts by Scotty Reiss (see all)

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17 Best Road Trip Cars for You

A good road trip starts with a great car! Different types of road trips call for different needs. If your trip steers you down lengthy stretches of road, then you’ll want a car with great mileage to keep you on the road as long as possible or a car with cushy seats to keep you comfortable for extended periods of time. Camping road trips, on the other hand, require vehicles with lots of cargo space to haul heavy camping gear.

To help you get an idea of your options, we looked at different 2018 vehicles to bring you a list of the best road trip cars for every category on your rental checklist. We’ve divided our list into five categories: the best road trip cars for long distance driving, sleeping, fuel economy, storage space and speed. Take a look at our comprehensive list to see what road trip car is best for your next adventure!

Best Road Trip Cars for Long Distance Driving

These are the cars you need to pick out when you’re planning to traverse Germany’s best food spots or travel cross-country to taste the best barbecue in all 50 states. Cars in this category possess the best comfort, mileage and safety among the rest.

Toyota Camry

  • Class: Full-size
  • MPG: 26 MPG
  • Cargo Space: 4 bags
  • Seats: 5
  • Best for: Families

This road trip car touts lots of safety features including its pre-collision system and pedestrian detection to help you steer clear of any obstacles that might lead to an accident. It also earned itself an impressive safety review for the 2018 model from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). If safety is your main concern in a long distance drive, then the Toyota Camry is the best road trip car for you. Take a look at our essential road trip survival guide to learn all of the tips and tricks to keep up your sleeve for a fun and safe journey with the family.

Ford Mustang

  • Class: Premium, luxury, convertible
  • MPG: 21 MPG
  • Cargo Space: 1 bag
  • Seats: 4
  • Best for: Solo

The Ford Mustang is a sporty car that possesses a good mix of style and power. Its superb handling makes it a great car for long trips down winding roads and the occasional dirt path. The comfortable front seats and classy interior make extensive drives a breeze for the solo road tripper. Couples can enjoy this road trip car as well, as long as luggage is kept to a minimum. No wonder it is booked very often in Los Angeles.

Jeep Wrangler

  • Class: SUV, crossover
  • MPG: 23 MPG
  • Cargo Space: 2 bags
  • Seats: 4 people
  • Best for: Couples

Jeep Wranglers are the best road trip cars for couples who love nature-filled off-roading adventures. This SUV has more cargo space in comparison to other cars of its class, so it’s perfect for loading up all of the essentials you’ll need for a long trip. The 2018 model features a heated steering wheel and seats along with an updated infotainment system to give you a comfortable ride upon hitting rugged terrain.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

  • Class: Specialty car
  • MPG: 26 MPG
  • Cargo Space: 1 bag
  • Seats: 5
  • Best for: Friends

This luxury car delivers the comfort and amenities you’d expect from a Mercedes-Benz: heated armrests, modern interiors and the Mercedes’ COMMAND infotainment system with a 12.3-inch display. Its smooth handling combined with its elegant cabin makes this a comfortable ride for all of your passengers. The cabin is relatively quiet and contains lots of vents in both the front and rear for optimal sound and climate control.

Chevrolet Suburban

  • Class: SUV, crossover
  • MPG: 19 MPG
  • Cargo Space: 5 bags
  • Seats: 7
  • Best for: Families

This is the best road trip car for you if you’re looking for a vehicle with the luxurious interior of a sports car but the spacious cargo space of an SUV. The Chevrolet Suburban has three rows of seating that folds at the push of a button. The acoustic-laminated windshield reduces noise and insulated exterior keeps a constant interior temperature. All of these features make it a great car to keep your family cozy on those long drives.

Best Road Trip Cars to Sleep In

Sleeping in the car is necessary when you’re traveling some of the longest roads in the world. Quiet, spacious cabins and comfortable interiors are a must to make sleeping a breeze. Take a look at our top picks for some of the most spacious and comfiest road trip cars that will help you catch the most Z’s.

Chevrolet Tahoe

  • Class: SUV
  • MPG: 23
  • Cargo Space: 3-4 bags
  • Seats: 7
  • Best for: Friends

The Tahoe’s open cabin gives just enough room to stretch your legs and make yourself at home for those long drives. It also features plush seats to make long stretches of road bearable. This SUV has a quiet interior that keeps noise out and the snores (unfortunately) in! The Chevy Tahoe also handles well despite its large size and gives you the benefits of a spacious car without completely feeling its weight on the road. It’s a favorite in Denver.

Chrysler Pacifica

  • Class: Minivan
  • MPG: 28
  • Cargo Space: 5 bags
  • Seats: 7
  • Best for: Families

Don’t be fooled by this minivan! The Chrysler Pacifica packs a lot of features to keep your family comfortable and entertained the entire ride. The up-to-date infotainment system includes the must-have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with other hi-tech features. It sports a quiet interior that helps keep everyone sound asleep during night-long drives. You can even fold down the seats to fit in that last piece of luggage or give your kids some extra leg room. Take a look at our list of road trip hacks to see how you can optimize your space to keep everything organized and everyone comfortable.

Best Road Trip Cars for Fuel Economy

Fuel-efficient cars save us a few trips to the gas station and the ATM. High mileage and fuel efficiency are the only requirements for these cars. Take a look at the best road trip cars that take it easy on fuel and the environment.

Toyota Prius

  • Class: Intermediate
  • MPG: 52 MPG
  • Cargo Space: 4 bags
  • Seats: 5
  • Best for: Friends

The Prius is a hybrid car that comfortably fits both your luggage and your best buddies. This road trip car has a large cargo space to comfortably fit all of the bags you’re taking for a long trip. You can rest easy on the road knowing this car has a 5-star safety rating thanks to features like its rearview video system and overall secure design. Its average 52 MPG and hybrid fuel system will cut down on your time at the pump to keep you on the road to your next destination.

Chevrolet Cruze

  • Class: Intermediate
  • MPG: 48 MPG
  • Cargo Space: 3 bags
  • Seats: 5
  • Best for: Families

The Chevy Cruze is a standout vehicle with its spacious seating, trunk space and phenomenal fuel economy. Its high MPG and quiet cabin makes it an ideal car to get you through long nights without abundant gas stops or complaints from sleepy kids. These convenient features make it a great choice for small families who are looking for a smooth ride. We have a few fun road trip games for kids in case you need ideas to keep them occupied on the road.

Best Road Trip Cars for Storage Space

These are the best road trip cars for you if you need lots of space to pack in bulky luggage and supplies. Foldable seats and large cabins will help you to efficiently maneuver your luggage and passengers in a comfortable seating arrangement.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

  • Class: SUV, crossover
  • MPG: 25 MPG
  • Cargo Space: 4 bags
  • Seats: 4
  • Best for: Friends

The Jeep Grand Cherokee’s impressive handling makes it one of the best cars for off-road trips through the countryside and rural areas. You can enjoy the beauty of nature while relaxing in this car’s luxurious interior featuring both leather and metal trim. The foldable seats make it great for storing camping gear and other big items. There are also lots of spots around the car made for optimized organization while on the road.

Toyota Sienna

  • Class: Van
  • MPG: 22 MPG
  • Cargo Space: 5 bags
  • Seats: 8
  • Best for: Families

This is one of the most spacious and comfortable vans on the market that can accommodate your entire family and all of their luggage thanks to its spacious design and roomy cargo space. Siennas have a 300-horsepower engine that’s powerful enough to maintain its speed regardless of its load. These vans also have a split-and-stow third row seat that you can customize to perfectly fit your luggage, kids and pets. We have a guide packed with tips if you’re planning to take a road trip with your dog. Take a look to see how you can make your furry family member safe and comfortable throughout the trip.

Toyota Rav4

  • Class: SUV, crossover
  • MPG: 26
  • Cargo Space: 2 bags
  • Seats: 5
  • Best for: Families

This classic compact crossover is a straightforward car that features ample space and loads of safety technology. Features like its crash imminent braking and dynamic brake support will keep you safe while navigating winding roads or rugged terrain. Its 60/40-split rear seats allows you to customize your storage to efficiently tuck in all of your road trip essentials. Car-friendly road trip adventures are perfect if you can’t seem to get your family out of the car.

Ford F-150

  • Class: Pick-up
  • MPG: 26
  • Cargo Space: 4 bags
  • Seats: 4
  • Best for: Friends

It’s no surprise that the only truck on the list is the popular Ford F-150. This vehicle delivers on fuel economy (for a truck), hauling capacity and cargo space. The F-150 is your go-to for camping trips and off-roading. These trucks also handle well to keep you stable on winding or dirt roads.

Best Road Trip Cars for Speed

Speed and handling are your top priorities if you want to spend more time at your destinations and less time traversing the road. Take a look at the best road trip cars we listed below that can satisfy your need for speed.

Mazda Miata

  • Class: Convertible
  • MPG: 35 MPG
  • Cargo Space: 1 bag
  • Seats: 2
  • Best for: Solo

Mazda Miatas are fast cars for the road tripper who enjoys hitting the road with the top down and the bare necessities. This car does not have much cargo space, so it’s best reserved for shorter trips or minimal travelers. However, it’s still fun to drive and handles well thanks to its light build. Not to mention, it gets great mileage for a sports car! The Miata is the way to go if you want to have a thrilling adventure all on your own. Take a look at our list of solo road trip destinations to find adventures you and your Miata can take together.

Porsche 911

  • Class: Luxury
  • MPG: 25 MPG
  • Luggage Space: 1 bag
  • Seats: 2
  • Best for: Couples

The Porsche 911 is the car for you if you’re looking for a combination of performance and comfort. The lavish interior make any long trip a comfy and enjoyable ride. It has four seats total, but plan to reserve the backseat as extra storage space for your luggage and other necessities. Like other sports cars on this list, the Porsche 911 has excellent handling and top speeds. This is the perfect car to take if you and your sweetheart are planning to explore the different wine routes across the world.

Dodge Charger

  • Class: Standard
  • MPG: 30 MPG
  • Luggage Space: 2 bags
  • Seats: 4
  • Best for: Friends

Dodge Chargers are fast cars with powerful engines and impeccable handling on the road, especially for a car of its size. This is a great car to take your friends along since its backseat can comfortably fit a couple adults and its trunk has decent cargo space for everyone’s luggage. Not to mention, its solid mileage merged with its remarkable speed can easily get you to your destination in no time.

Chevrolet Corvette

  • Class: Full-size
  • MPG: 22 MPG
  • Cargo Space: 1 bag
  • Seats: 2
  • Best for: Couples

This sports car is for the driver who likes to push the pedal to the metal while staying comfortable the whole ride. This car was created with the driver in mind due to its intuitive design and cushy seats that keep your mind on the road. Its powerful engine can get you from point “A” to point “B” in no time. Take a spin in this car with your special someone for your next heart-pumping road trip.

Now that you have ideas for the best road trip cars in your back pocket, there’s no excuse for you to put off planning the road trip of your dreams! If you need a few more stops on your family road trip, read through our list of road trips Americans recommend for families to see some of the country’s top picks. We also have a full guide for an east-to-west honeymoon road trip for any newlywed couple looking for a romantic and exhilarating experience on the road.

If you want a more unique route, you can set off on a literary road trip inspired by famous books in American literature. The possibilities are endless, just remember to get the best road trip car that fits your upcoming adventure!

Want to know the know most popular places to rent a car in America? These are the top favorites!
Los Angeles, CA
Las Vegas, NV
Orlando, FL
New York, NY
Denver, CO

Old man winter is around the corner, but it’s not too late to go on a sight-seeing trip to take in the fall colors, and enjoy the milder temperatures. Road-tripping in the fall has several advantages; restaurants, bars, and other attractions are far quieter than in the summer, and hotels tend to be cheaper in the off-season. The trade-off is that the days are shorter, but that’s what headlights are for.

Additional buyer’s guides

  • Best SUVs
  • Best diesel-powered cars
  • Best sports cars
  • Best family cars

Taking a long trip on the road is one of the most enjoyable experiences on four wheels, assuming you have the right car and group of friends. We can’t help much with the friends part, but we’ve compiled a list of the best cars to carry you across the country in style. We’ve factored in attributes such as fuel economy, comfort, reliability, and useful tech features.

We’re focusing on new vehicles, but we’ve added a few legacy options at the end of our list for road-trippers who would rather shop used. And, as always, buckle up.

2020 Subaru Crosstrek

A good road trip car must be reliable, practical, capable, and fun, and few automakers satisfy those requirements better than Subaru. Obviously, we’d love to take a WRX STI cross country, but the fuel-sipping Crosstrek makes our list for its rugged construction and well-rounded character. Plus, there’s plenty of room for speed and spoilers later.

With fuel economy ratings of 27 mpg city and 33 mpg highway, the Crosstrek is an apt choice for couples or small families looking to log some serious highway miles. All-wheel drive is standard, of course, and with 8.7 inches of ground clearance, this compact crossover will go just about anywhere you need it to, on or off the interstate.

2020 Honda HR-V

With the Fit, Honda proved a good value doesn’t always come with squished proportions and a chintzy interior. And, with the Fit-based HR-V, the Japanese firm added an extra dose of practicality to the mix.

Honda’s smallest crossover boasts 6.7 inches of ride height and an ingenious “Magic Seat” interior layout, which allows passengers to configure the cabin in five different modes — normal, split, tall, utility, and lounge. That means the car can easily ferry anything, whether it be luggage, bikes, tall plants, or even surfboards.

2020the HR-V’s biggest asset is its low cost, which comes both at the dealer (starting MSRP is $20,620) and at the pump (it returns up to 28 mpg city/34 mpg highway when ordered with front-wheel drive). Throw in a plethora of safety features and you’re all set.

2020 Aston Martin Rapide S

The Aston Martin Rapide S is not your typical four-door. One of the most aesthetically-pleasing sedans ever made, the Rapide S flaunts Aston Martin’s core values of speed, luxury, and style more effectively than most. We can’t think of a better way to cruise down the left lane than in this V12-powered stunner.

Speaking of V12s, the Rapide’s 5.9-liter mill churns out 552 horsepower (that’s 138 ponies per seat) and shuttles all of it to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic. Flat out, it’ll hit 60 mph in 4.2 seconds before reaching a maximum speed of 203 mph, which is more than brisk enough to get you where you need to go quick. But when you look, sound, and feel this good, you might consider slowing down a bit to enjoy it.

2020 Ford Mustang GT Convertible

What goes better with a great American road trip than an emblematic American car? Nothing, that’s what. The Ford Mustang GT is a legend through and through, and the sixth-generation model is the most refined version yet. It has the best interior of any pony car before it, and with an independent suspension setup front and rear, this horse can corner with the best of ‘em. Ford recently updated the model with more tech features, too, including an available digital instrument cluster that will let you keep an eye on key road trip metrics such as speed, distance to empty, and the tunes blasting through the speakers.

Let’s be honest, you don’t need a thumping V8 soundtrack for a successful road trip, nor do you need the open wind rustling through your hair. You definitely want them, though, and the Mustang GT Convertible happens to provide both. “GT” does stand for “Grand Tourer,” after all.

2019 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel Hatchback

Diesel-powered cars have been demonized in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal but they’re not all bad — we promise. The technology’s penchant for stellar fuel economy makes it a splendid choice for long trips because, put simply, the fewer times you have to stop the better. Chevy’s diesel-powered Cruze Hatchback returns up to 45 mpg on the highway, and that’s pretty difficult to argue with.

The engine is just one element of a good road trip car, but don’t worry, we’re just getting started. The Cruze Hatchback is, well, a hatchback, which means it has ample storage – 47 cu ft! – room for bags, snacks, and all your favorite trivia games. The ride can also be smoothed out with the optional “Z-link rear suspension” that enhances rear stability and will give you confidence when the weather turns bad. Chevrolet stopped making the Cruze, however, so you’ll need to find a used one.

2020 Ferrari GTC4Lusso

Ah, the practical Ferrari. The successor to the FF, the GTC4Lusso is a grand tourer in every sense of the word, as its gorgeously-appointed interior and quiet ride are offset by a 681-hp V12 and a trick four-wheel steering system. It does “GT” a bit differently, however, as the three-door configuration and shooting brake profile make this a head turner in more ways than one.

It may not have the storage capacity of an SUV (though Ferrari is working on that) or the fuel economy of a hybrid, but the GTC4Lusso is as easy to drive in the city as it is on the Italian autostrada, and the brilliant V12 will never, ever get old. These are the keys to life, folks, and don’t let anyone ever tell you different. This machine speaks tech, too. Ferrari recently added a large screen with a split-view function, as well as Apple CarPlay compatibility.

2020 Volvo XC90

We know Volvo can build safe, sophisticated, and elegant machines, but the levels of opulence found in the XC90 make us rethink our outlook on the brand entirely. Not only is the XC90’s interior one of the best we’ve ever seen in an SUV, its smart technology and excellent efficiency make it a no-brainer if you prefer your road trips with a group.

The available Bowers & Wilkins sound system is nothing short of fantastic in this car (a key factor for this list), and it can be shuffled between a variety of listening modes, including studio, concert hall, and stadium. The XC90 also features polished semi-autonomous technology for laid-back driving, and the tablet-style touchscreen interface is one of the most intuitive units on the market. Throw in an efficient T8 powertrain that somehow combines a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with a plug-in hybrid system and you have the ultimate long-haul cruiser for up to seven people.

2020Toyota Prius

While most of the vehicles on this list emphasize fun, style, or practicality, the Toyota Prius is nearly singular in its goal: Maximum fuel economy. The most fuel-efficient car on the road without a plug, the Eco model returns up to 58 mpg on the freeway and flaunts a total range of more than 600 miles. In a word? Wow.

Toyota made notable enhancements to interior quality and driving dynamics over the previous generation, improvements which will be appreciated if you’re forced to sit in the car for extended periods. Looking to save at the pump? The Prius is your best bet. Select the plug-in Prime model if you’re looking to add a few miles of electric-only driving to your trip without stopping to charge a battery-electric car.

2020 Mazda MX-5

The Mazda MX-5 Miata wrote the book on the modern roadster, so it’d be a travesty if we didn’t include it. The long-standing sports car is as close to perfect as an inexpensive two-seater can be, with an expertly-balanced chassis, a fantastic six-speed manual, and a tangible passion for driving you can actually feel through the steering. It’s one of the few cars that hasn’t gotten significantly bigger or heavier since its inception.

There aren’t a ton of bells and whistles here, but that’s not really the point. The MX-5 is about escapism done simply, and it emphasizes that better than just about any car on the market. It’s clearly best suited for solo or short two-person trips, but the fourth-generation model features just enough modern gadgetry to keep you busy if the brilliant engineering isn’t enough.

2020 Jaguar F-Type Convertible

Ok, we needed at least one more convertible for our list, and Jaguar’s stunning F-Type is one of the most evocative drop-tops ever put to pavement. It has the look, it has the sound — my goodness, the sound — and most importantly, it has the feeling. It’s also fast, agile, and surprisingly refined, as the suspension can be tuned depending on what surface you’re rocketing over.

Practicality obviously takes a back seat in this one (if there were back seats, that is), but people don’t buy V8-powered convertibles because of logic or reason. They buy them because they’re beautiful, stirring, and create a new experience every time you press the start button. Hell, if all you need is to get somewhere quickly and you can’t live without your three favorite suitcases, you’d probably just buy a plane ticket. For the rest of us, open up the throttle and enjoy the ride.

Lexus LS 400

With the new cars out the way, let’s take a short look back at a few legacy options. Lexus’ first vehicle, the LS400, was the product of a project called Circle F, which was Toyota chairman Eiji Toyoda’s vision to build the world’s best car. The result was something that shockingly still feels modern today, with a buttery ride, rock-solid reliability, and a tasteful interior that has stood the test of time. Speaking of sturdiness, the sedan’s 4.0-liter V8 is the only automobile engine to be rated by the FAA, meaning the 260-hp power plant is tough enough to power a plane. Seriously.

Impressive credentials aside, used LS400’s can be found for less than a few thousand dollars nowadays, which is an absolute steal for the amount of car you’re getting. Throw in reasonable fuel economy ratings of 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway and you might have the best budget road trip car in the world.

Volkswagen Westfalia Camper

Hate hotel rooms? Why not bring one with you?

From the 1950s to the early 2000s, a German company called Westfalia carved its name into the automotive history books by outfitting Volkswagen vans with improvised living quarters and pop-top campers. Various configurations were offered over the years, including those with sinks, folding tables, foldout seats, side tents, portable chemical toilets, stoves, and even refrigerators. Westfalia’s conversion division was purchased by DaimlerChrysler in 1999, sadly ending its partnership with VW.

Ford Crown Victoria

The Ford Crown Victoria was, is, and will always be everywhere. A favorite among police officers and cabbies, the Crown Vic is stubbornly reliable and cheap, and will probably outlive the Twinkie as the last remnant of humanity. If we include other vehicles built on the Ford Panther platform like the Lincoln Town Car and Mercury Grand Marquis, some 9.6 million of these beauties were built between 1978 and 2011.

Even though the car is the butt of many jokes, its floaty ride and smooth V8 make for a stress-free experience behind the wheel, and there’s plenty of cargo room if you’re not hauling baddies off to the slammer. Speaking of that, there’s also the side benefit of other motorists thinking you’re a cop, which should cut down on the rude road behavior we’ve sadly become accustomed to. A smooth car that actually makes people nice to you? What could be better than that?

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After a particularly long and snowy winter in New Mexico, I’ve been jonesing for a good old-fashioned warm-weather road trip. And I am not alone. Although most four-wheeled journeys these days are generally shorter than they used to be, road trips are still one of the great American pastimes, with 39 percent of all trips taken in 2016 happening on asphalt, according to an annual report on U.S. travel habits by MMGY Global, a travel and tourism marketing firm. And while you definitely don’t need a new car to start planning your next summer road trip, having a vehicle that’s tailored to your style of adventure never hurts. Here are some of my favorite new rigs to get you where you’re going.

Best for Families

(Photo: Courtesy Subaru)

Subaru Ascent ($31,995 and Up)

If the Outback you’ve had for the last 15 years somehow finally kicked the can, or you’ve added a few new members to the family since it rolled off the lot, consider the company’s new Ascent. The SUV is the largest model Subaru offers, and with seating for up to eight, you can bring the entire crew along for the ride. Optional rear captain’s chairs mean even adults will be comfy in the back row, and you get Subaru’s legendary safety record—the Ascent earned the highest safety rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Throw in all-wheel drive, 27 miles per gallon on the highway, and a 5,000-pound tow rating, and you can’t ask for more from a family hauler. Did I mention it has 19 cupholders? That’s 2.4 per passenger!

Best for Traveling Green

(Photo: Courtesy Toyota)

Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e ($28,820 and Up)

The Prius has been around since 1997, but 2019 marks the first time you can get one with all-wheel drive. We reviewed it in detail here, but the gist is that if you’re in the market for a fuel-sipping road-tripper, look no further. Its AWD system only kicks in below 43 miles per hour, but that should be fine for most mild gravel, snow, and dirt roads. While more traction is a nice addition, we still mostly love the Prius for its outstanding fuel economy. Even with the extra weight of an AWD system, it gets around 50 miles per gallon on the highway and has an 11-gallon fuel tank, so you’ll run out of gas before it does. It also boasts a surprising 65.5 cubic feet of cargo space, so while your footprint may be small, you don’t have to pack light.

Best for Getting Off the Beaten Path

(Photo: Courtesy Chevrolet)

Chevy Colorado ZR2 ($41,300 and Up)

If you’ll see more dirt than pavement on your next trip and want a rig that handles just as well off-road as it does on, let me lay it out for you: you won’t find a better truck for the price than the Chevy Colorado ZR2. It’s still expensive, but that chunk of change gets you 31-inch all-terrain tires, upgraded Multimatic DSSV shocks for a smoother ride and vastly improved off-road performance, and an optional 2.8-liter diesel engine that’ll tow 5,000 pounds and still get 22 miles per gallon on the highway. You also get skid plates, rock sliders, and front- and rear-locking differentials, so you’ll have no trouble handling whatever the trail throws your way.

Best Luxury Road-Tripper

(Photo: Courtesy Volvo)

Volvo V90 Cross Country ($52,550 and Up)

Luxury vehicles aren’t always the best choice for folks who intend to use their vehicle to explore and get outside, but Volvo’s V90 Cross Country bridges the gap. A low roofline makes loading bikes and kayaks on top a breeze, and a max of 53 cubic feet of capacity means everyone’s stuff has plenty of room inside. But you also get all the refinements you’d expect from a name like Volvo, with leather seats, wood and metal trim, a panoramic sunroof, and a touchscreen infotainment system all standard. And being a brand built on safety, it also has plenty of tech built in, including radar and camera technology that looks out for cyclists and large animals, even at night, and tools that help drivers avoid accidents by applying brakes and moving the wheel when needed. Throw in some rugged styling and all-wheel-drive capability and you get the perfect high-end road-tripper.

Best for Gear Junkies

(Photo: Courtesy Ford)

Ford F150 ($28,155 and Up)

Yes, full-size trucks are overkill for a lot of folks. But I’ll make the argument that these big pickups are the perfect adventure-oriented road-trip vehicles. Sure, they’ll handle just about any job you give them, but today’s pickups are designed to be just as good for daily driving and long runs on the interstate as they are for towing and hauling. And if you opt for the SuperCrew version of the F150, there’s a preposterous amount of space in the back, even for folks well over six feet tall. As for its poor fuel efficiency? With a max payload of 3,270 pounds and the ability to tow up to 13,200 pounds, you can easily load the F150 up with enough gear for four or five people, a task that would usually take two smaller vehicles to accomplish.

Best All-Around

(Photo: Courtesy Subaru)

Subaru Outback ($26,345 and Up)

I hesitated to put two Subarus on the list, but there’s a reason outdoorsy folks from all walks of life flock to the Outback: it’s safe, affordable, reliable, and can easily get you down that forest road to your campsite or up a snowy street to the ski hill. The brand’s Symmetrical all-wheel drive is really all you need for mild off-pavement driving and is actually better in snow than most traditional 4x4s. Plus, with up to 73.3 cubic feet of storage space, the Outback has a cavernous amount of room for gear, and its 108-inch wheelbase gives it a wonderful ride on the highway. It also tops out at 32 miles per gallon, so it won’t break the bank the way the F150 can.

Filed To: ColoradoTrucksFamily4x4CarsAutos Lead Photo: Courtesy Volvo

Soup Up Your Truck for the Ultimate Road Trip Vehicle

Truck owners tend to be pretty fond of their vehicles. Some spend hours a day making sure their truck is clean and shiny, and in top condition. Even if you’re not that dedicated, your truck can be an excellent companion. In fact, they’re often ideal for taking road trips and generally traveling around, especially if you want to go off-road. Whether you’re a solo traveler, a family, or a group of friends, your truck can serve you well when you go on a trip. There’s plenty of space for both passengers and luggage, and you might even hitch your accommodation to the back. With a few awesome add-ons and adjustments, your truck could be the perfect traveling pal.

Buy the Right Truck

If you want to have the perfect road trip truck, you should start off by buying the right one. If it’s not the right time for a new vehicle, don’t rush out and buy one. But if you’re considering a new truck already, you can shop with some particular requirements in mind. For example, if you want to tow a trailer with your truck, you should take a careful look at the towing capabilities of any model you consider. You should consider the truck’s gas mileage, how much space it has, and don’t forget how comfortable it is too. If you’re going to be spending long hours driving and perhaps bouncing around off-road, you want a comfy place to sit. Think carefully about the size and how easy the truck is to handle too.

By Public Domain Pictures

Get Better Fuel Economy

In the past, trucks have been famously fuel-guzzling. They’re still not the most economical of vehicles, but you can get more out of your truck today than you might once have done. If you want to go on long trips, you need your truck to have good fuel economy. You might be driving for a while without being able to stop for fuel. So even if you have some spare, you don’t want to use it up too quickly. If you want to make improvements, you could start by making some modifications. For example, a free flow exhaust system could help. Good aerodynamics for your truck can help too, and so can performing regular maintenance to keep it running smoothly. Driving steadily is also a good tip for conserving fuel.

Hitch a Trailer or RV

One of the best things about a truck is that they are ideal for taking a travel trailer on your trips. With a truck, you can attach a fifth-wheeler, which can give you plenty of living space for your travels. Part of the trailer sits over the bed of the truck, giving you more space. However, you need to be careful about selecting a trailer that’s right for your truck. The towing capacity of your truck isn’t the only thing to take into account. If you choose a trailer that’s too big, you could be crawling along the road. It will take you ages to get anywhere. If you have a particular size trailer in mind, it might be wise to pick a specific truck to tow it.

Boost the Suspension for Amazing Off-roading

Taking your truck off-road is one of the best ways to have an adventure with it. Trucks tend to be designed to handle a little rough terrain, but that doesn’t mean most of them can’t be improved upon. New suspension for your truck could make it much more capable for off-roading, and it could make it look awesome too. You can use an Ameraguard lift kit or something similar to raise your truck and give it killer suspension. Having a truck that can handle going off-road means you can explore further and create some thrilling fun. Your truck might be ready to go on some rough country roads, but it might need some updates if you want to get really wild.

By Max Pixel

Make Sure the Wheels Are Tough

Taking a good look at your wheels is also important if you want to go off-roading. But even if you’re staying safely on the highway, you want your tires to improve the performance of your truck. The right wheels can help to boost the fuel economy of your truck and give you better control while you’re driving. It’s also important to make sure that they’re balanced and aligned, so a check up for your truck before you go on a trip is a good idea. If you’re traveling in the winter, you might even want to consider tougher winter tires or using snow chains in some locations.

Put Together a Solid Emergency Kit

Any road-trip-ready truck needs to have the right supplies. Although they might not count as permanent or even big changes to your truck, there are lots of things you can make sure you always have with you. You should always be prepared for an emergency, including suddenly breaking down or running out of fuel. Making sure you have all you need to change a tire, repair a puncture, and do basic repairs for your truck will help you keep going on your journey. As well as having emergency items for your truck, it’s useful to have things for you too. A flashlight, plenty of water, and a tent are just some of the things that could come in handy if you get into any trouble.

Set Up Your Truck for Top Pet Travel

There’s nothing like taking your dog on an adventure with you. And some people even take their cats adventuring with them by training them to walk on a harness. If you want your truck to be the ultimate road trip vehicle and you love taking your pet with you, you need somewhere for them to be comfortable. For smaller animals, a travel kennel or carrier is often the best option to hold them. For larger animals, a pet barrier can sometimes be better because it helps you to section off part of your vehicle, keeping both you and your pet safe. You can get great dog cages that are useful for trucks too.

Make Your Truck Family-friendly

A truck isn’t necessarily the first choice of vehicle for anyone who has kids. They might not seem the most practical, but they can make good family vehicles. And if you want to take the kids on a road trip, a truck helps you make sure everyone has fun. Choosing the right truck should be your first step to getting a family-friendly one. Safety needs to be your priority, so look for the latest safety features. You can also modify your truck to make it safer. You’ll need to add car seats for your younger children to keep them safe. Of course, it’s not all about safety. Making the truck a fun place to be for your kids means providing them with entertainment too. Playing car games can only get you so far, so it’s always good to have backup. A stereo that will let you play any of your music and devices (with headphones) so your kids can watch TV and play video games will help to keep peace in the back seat.

By Max Pixel

Entertainment for You

As well as entertaining the kids, you want to make sure you don’t get bored. Of course, when you’re driving, you’ll mostly be concentrating on the road. But it’s still good to have something to listen to, especially when there are long stretches with nothing particularly interesting to look at. So a good sound system might be a priority for you. If you don’t already have a decent stereo, you might want to consider upgrading your truck’s audio. Whether you like to rock out to some tunes, listen to your favorite talk radio, or put an audiobook on, you should be able to enjoy great sound.

Take on the Ultimate Project

You could tow a trailer on your trip, take a tent, or sleep in hotels and motels along the way. Or you could modify your truck so that it can serve as your home on its own for the whole of your journey. With the right DIY know-how, you could take on an awesome project to turn your truck into a camper. You can build a bed frame that fits into the back of your truck and even use the space under the bed to store everything you need.

If this sounds like too much work, there is an alternative. You don’t have to build it yourself. You can buy a tent that fits into the bed of your truck, so you’ll always have somewhere to sleep. If there’s no comfortable ground, just put your tent up on your truck instead. Some of them even extend out from your truck to give you even more space. You can also buy a truck bed air mattress that you can easily fit for minimal hassle.

Trucks make excellent choices for road trips, especially if you’re planning on a long journey. Get your truck as ready as it can be if you want to have as much fun as possible.

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  • The 9 Best Road Trip Cars: Staff Picks

    Welcome to the most subjective argument to ever take place in the history of mankind. When it comes to road trips, what you’re driving is more important than where you’re going, what you eat on the way and what you listen to on the road — indeed, it may be even more important than who you bring along for the ride. We all have strong road trip car opinions, often driven by some form of nostalgia or aspiration.

    I polled most of the crew here for their picks and then prodded for extra justification to back up their (incorrect) opinions. As it turns out, our choices aren’t all that dissimilar, but “agree to disagree’ all the same, right? Perhaps you’ll find some inspiration — or consternation — below.

    Andrew Maness, Contributor: Mercedes-AMG E 63 S Wagon

    Explain yourself: A perfect power to comfort ratio.

    Anything else to add? The E 63 S Wagon checks all the right boxes. It’s a sleeper you can actually sleep in; it’s rare but you don’t have to be precious with it; it sounds phenomenal; it’s shockingly fast and you can get it with those top-notch Mercedes-Benz massaging front seats. Get it in the unassuming Diamond Silver Metallic over Nut Brown Nappa Leather with Natural Grain Ash trim for maximum “zen-den” effect.

    Where are you driving? After setting out along the Pacific at dawn, I’d head northeast up to Ojai to Highway 33, then on to Bakersfield to hit Highway 178 to Lake Isabella. Then all the way to Highway 190 that runs through Death Valley. From there it’s a quick shot to Vegas, north on Highway 93 to Great Basin National Park and Highway 50, “The Loneliest Road In America.” 50 East leads to Central Utah where there are otherworldly landscapes to be explored. Once I’d had enough of the desert I’d point the car north to Wyoming and Montana before looping back west through Idaho and Oregon for some of the most incredible roads in the country.

    Destination? Flathead Lake, Montana.

    Best road trip snack? Bananas and almonds.

    First song on your road trip playlist? “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin.

    What’s your personal road trip philosophy? Do have a general idea of where you’d like to end up each day; don’t feel the need to adhere to your plans exactly. The best road trips usually take shape after they’ve started, so don’t be too precious with your time. If you’ve got a passenger or two, always be open to their suggestions.

    What is the front seat passenger’s primary responsibility? Snack distributor.

    Essential Road Trip Gear: Andrew Maness
    Wilson Sun Sunglasses by Garrett Leight $346
    The Slider Lip Balm by Lucky Bastard $8
    Center Court Gilbert Crockett 2 by Vans $70

    Andrew Connor, Associate Staff Writer: Porsche 911 Targa 4S

    Explain yourself: The roof. Or occasional lack thereof. Top-down road trips are a delight, and the gorgeous, geeky retractable roof on the new 911 Targa gives you that open-air freedom with the flexibility and comfort of having a hardtop.

    Anything else to add? The “standard” Targa 4 is probably plenty of car, but fortunately, the S and GTS offer more power and suspension tuning if that’s your thing. I think if you are the type to buy a car like this for extensive road-tripping, the goldilocks-grade S model will have the right amount of power for Fun Time Driving without being too hardcore.

    Where are you driving? The hell out of the US, up towards Nova Scotia, making sure to spend plenty of time driving the sublime roads around Cape Brenton Island. Eventually ending up in Halifax to consume copious amounts of Salmon.

    Destination? Halifax.

    Best road trip snack? Trail mix, but for the love of god make sure you don’t drop an M&M and accidentally sit on it. I’ve been burned before.

    First song on your road trip playlist? “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. Cliche but a classic.

    What’s your personal road trip philosophy? Road-tripping, to me, is just as much about enjoying a car as it is going somewhere new, so take the scenic route when possible.

    What is the front seat passenger’s main responsibility? Navigation.

    Essential Road Trip Gear: Andrew Connor
    Espadrilles by Soludo $60
    Spotify Premium $10/month
    Clover Sunglasses by David Kind $295

    Nick Caruso, Associate Editor: Aston Martin DB11 V12

    Explain yourself: Easily the most beautiful, sumptuous V12 grand tourer available today.

    Anything else to add? The DB11 V12 is an absolute grand slam of a car. Aston is growing massively right now while hoping to hold onto its roots: a heritage of making sporting cars in the hand-built, British tradition that are as capable as they are gorgeous. Most “car guys” prefer the V8 version because it’s lighter and therefor sportier to some degree. This is my choice, though: a completely customizable automobile (I configured the one pictured myself) designed to be owned and driven by sporting gentlemen; fast and violent-sounding, yes, but also velvety smooth thanks to its liquid V12. It is ultimate comfort, devilish luxury and top-tier, future-grade design rolled into one with a heavy, heaping dollop of the brand’s 100-plus-year history on top. Opt for custom-fit luggage, or perhaps some beautiful pieces of your own, and point in the direction of a heavenly getaway in a stylish, equally-stunning paradise.

    Where are you driving? Start north on the California coast and wind down through Carmel-by-the-Sea, eventually winding my way to Montecito for a week of good food, ocean roar and, well, showing off my car.

    Destination? Coral Casino Club

    Best road trip snack? Whatchamacallit candy bars, but not to be eaten in the car. Sorry.

    First song on your road trip playlist? “Runnin’ Down a Dream” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

    What’s your personal road trip philosophy? Driving is my Zen place. I’ll drive for hours without making a sound, without the radio on, alone with my thoughts and the road. I love the way I can manipulate a car and optimize a driving route. Conversely, I cherish road trips with good company — provided my passenger has good music taste. Extra points if they can harmonize.

    What is the front seat passenger’s main responsibility? DJ.

    Essential Road Trip Gear: Nick Caruso
    No. 10 Weekender by Lotuff $850
    S140 Pivot Merino Button-Up by Outlier $198
    Google Pixel 2 XL by Google $1,398

    Bryan Campbell, Staff Writer: 1991 Buick Century Wagon

    Explain yourself: Space. You need to be able to feel like you can live out of the car. Because sometimes you have to.

    Anything else to add? This is the car I grew up in as a kid, which I affectionately, yet plainly referred to as ‘the blue car’. (We had an ’87 VW Scirocco too, that was ‘the black car’.) The Buick was dark blue with wood grain paneling over a dark blue velour interior. Was it the hottest place in the world in the summer? Hell yes. But there was so much room in that car it might as well have been a modern SUV. And on shorter trips where luggage wasn’t necessary, you can bet my sister and I were in the trunk making use of the rear-facing rumble seat, taunting drivers behind us. Plus, one perk to the velour upholstery was it provided serious entertainment on the trips up to the Poconos. Once it was dark enough, all you had to do was rub your hair on the seat back and give your sibling a visible taser shock of static electricity.

    Where are you driving? The most memorable trips were through snow storms up to Woodlock Pines to meet extended family for Christmas or New Years. I haven’t been back in years — I’m sure the place has modernized by now — but it was definitely a holdout establishment from the ’70s judging by all the decor.

    Best road trip snack? Jerky.

    First song on your road trip playlist? “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison. This song would always eventually blast through the tape deck, and as a kid I loved it every time.

    What’s your personal road trip philosophy? Bring enough sustenance to keep you going to the next gas station, because those are the only stops.

    What is the front seat passenger’s main responsibility? Navigation.

    Essential Road Trip Gear: Bryan Campbell
    Game Gear by Sega $78+

    Brian Leon, Contributor: Mercedes-Benz SL600

    Explain yourself: It’s a V12 Mercedes-Benz convertible.

    Anything else to add? The Mercedes SL-Class is simply the world’s favorite grand touring car. It’s been around longer than you have (probably) and though the current one may be the last, there’s a reason SL is the last word in drop-top luxury touring. For the money, the R129 generation (1989-2002) is my favorite, as it proves that boxy can still be beautiful. Capitalize on the current wave of 90s nostalgia and pick up one with a V12 for less than $25,000 in mint condition.

    Where are you driving? The Overseas Highway from Miami to Key West seems a fitting route for the SL. At just 127.5 miles, it’s on the short end of the road trip spectrum, but why not extend your starting point a bit further north along the coast? Like Savannah, or Myrtle Beach… or Portland, Maine.

    Destination? If you’re already down there, why not hit the southernmost point in the continental U.S.? At least it’s by the beach…

    Best road trip snack? Beef jerky.

    First song on your road trip playlist? Keeping it on theme: “Miami” by Will Smith.

    What’s your personal road trip philosophy? If you stick to the planned route, you’re not really on a road trip, are you?

    What is the front seat passenger’s main responsibility? DJ.

    Essential Road Trip Gear: Brian Leon
    Men’s Classic Cap by Mercedes-Benz $26
    Retro 49mm Sunglasses by Carrera $170
    UV Aqua Rich Sunscreen by Bioré $14

    AJ Powell, Assistant Editor: 2015 Subaru Forester 2.0XT Touring

    Explain yourself: It’s an AWD sleeper with a turbo. What more could you want in a road trip car?

    Anything else to add? I can say from personal experience that this car is a blast to go cross country and back in. It’s got enough giddy-up to be fun across middle America. More importantly, it has a vast dealer network to keep up with the scheduled maintenance and oil changes while on the road.

    Where are you driving? I’ve yet to check off a road trip through the South, so the ideal route would be to kit this thing out with a handful of bike racks and head down to Asheville. Once there, exploring the backroads in sport mode would be worth the trip.

    Destination? Asheville, NC.

    Best road trip snack? Haribo Sour Peaches.

    First song on your road trip playlist? “Winter” by TV On The Radio.

    What’s your personal road trip philosophy? Methodically planned down to where the closest Steak n Shake is at each fuel stop. Tire pressure? Check? Wiper fluid? Check. You get the picture.

    What is the front seat passenger’s main responsibility? DJ.

    Essential Road Trip Gear: AJ Powell
    Ruggedized Series Kekunam 3 Rooftop Tent by Tepui $2,100
    Mobile Powerstation by River $600
    Pismo Sunglasses by SPY $120

    Tyler Duffy, Contributor: Mercedez Benz W113 280SL Pagoda

    Explain yourself: Understatement. The 280SL is pared down from its predecessor SLs and sleeker than its successors. You won’t look like a doofus climbing out of gull-wing doors. There’s at least a 50/50 chance you can escape the coffee shop without being dragooned for a 40-minute conversation by an eager car enthusiast.

    Anything else to add? When former Mercedes F1 Champion Nico Rosberg cruises along the Mediterranean, he drives a 1970 280SL.

    Where are you driving? I depart my charming Carmel-by-the-Sea inn. I turn south on Route 1. I leave my worries and the ubiquitous Bay Area tech bros in the rearview mirror as I savor perhaps America’s most striking coastline. Leisurely lunch with a view. I turn around in time to arrive for my pre-cocktail hour massage, because in this world that’s entirely reasonable.

    Destination? Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

    Best road trip snack? Cinnamon Altoids.

    First song on your road trip playlist? “It’s Hard To Be a Saint in the City” by Bruce Springsteen.

    What’s your personal road trip philosophy? Leave earlier than any sane person would in the morning. Pace yourself with the liquids. Avoid lactose and legumes before traveling in polite company.

    What is the front seat passenger’s main responsibility? Navigation.

    Essential Road Trip Gear: Bryan Campbell
    Aviator Classic Sunglasses by Ray-Ban $153

    Will Price, Associate Staff Writer: 1996 Toyota 4Runner

    Explain yourself: Sickening trunk space. I don’t pack light on road trips. Why should I? This isn’t air travel. I can bring whatever I want, so long as I don’t encroach on others’s leg room.

    Anything else to add? The ’96 4Runner happens to be the car I learned to drive in. If you have the option (you probably won’t), you want the 4X4 stick shift model. Oh, and it needs to be red. Kismet led me to the man I rented this same car from some 10 years after learning to drive (in Puerto Rico of all places), and I’ll never forget bumping into cones while parallel parking or speeding up a mountain in it.

    Where are you driving? You’ve got to rent the 4Runner from a suspect shirtless man in San Juan, Puerto Rico — with cash — and take the 149 to the 143, then Route 10. This runs you through an exceedingly up-and-down rain forest on crumbling gravel roads one-and-a-half cars wide. The canopy becomes so dense inside the Toro Negro rainforest it may as well be night, and oncoming vehicles aren’t keen on using headlights (honking horns is customary when swinging around blind corners). After a slew of switchbacks and 75-degree uphill shots the foliage finally thins, and the sun comes back. The rest of the drive you’re looking up the slopes of the tallest mountain on the island, and down at Poncé and San Juan far and below. When you arrive at Kurt’s coffee farm, you’ll be treated to a freshly grown, roasted and ground cup of espresso in a gazebo at cloud level. Not a bad reward for your efforts. (Hint: if there’s a chance of rain, do not go.)

    Destination? Hacienda de Café Pomarrosa.

    Best road trip snack? Certainly not beef jerky (sue me). Road trip snacking should feed into other timeless road trip activities, like rolling the windows down. Hence, roasted peanuts (unshelled) are peak road trip snack.

    First song on your road trip playlist? “Triumph” by Wu-Tang Clan.

    What’s your personal road trip philosophy? We’ll stop however many times we damn well please. Might we be a bit late? Sure. Do we care at all? No. I don’t always agree with the classics, but it’s the journey that you remember, not the destination. Before I embarked on my first road trip without him, my occasionally wise father told me this: if you’re thinking about getting there, you’re traveling, not road-tripping. This is either one of those really insightful messages or me glamorizing my dad’s words too much.

    What is the front seat passenger’s main responsibility? DJ.

    Essential Road Trip Gear: Will Price
    Aviators by Persol $259
    Zinc Sunscreen by Babo Botanicals $22
    Slippers by Derek Rose $195

    Hunter D. Kelley, Associate Designer: 2018 Volvo V60 Polestar Wagon

    Explain yourself: The combination of stealth and power.

    Anything else to add? This is one of the coolest wagons out there due to its sleeper status. It has classic Volvo styling mixed with subtle high-performance hints that not everyone will pick up on. To most, it looks like a standard Volvo V60, but to me, those massive Brembo brakes and blue Polestar badge tell me everything I need to know. This is not your father’s wagon.

    Where are you driving? NY to LA as fast as possible.

    Best road trip snack? Pizza Combos.

    First song on your road trip playlist? “One” by Metallica.

    What’s your personal road trip philosophy? Speed when possible, but do so safely. Don’t forget to take in the sights.

    What is the front seat passenger’s main responsibility? DJ.

    Essential Road Trip Gear: Hunter Kelley
    Waze Free
    MacigMount by Scosche $18+

    The Used Cars We’d Buy Right Now For $10,000

    We took on the arduous task of window shopping for our favorites at the moment, and if we had to choose, we’d say these are the best used cars for the $10,000. Read the Story

    Nick Caruso

    More by Nick Caruso | Follow on Twitter · Contact via Email

    Gone are the days of road tripping while riding on a hot, sticky, vinyl back seat with no air conditioning to keep you cool. Modern creature comforts, like leather seats, automatic climate control, and navigation systems found in the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang make today’s road trips a breeze. No more relying on hand-cranked windows and constantly poking your brother for entertainment; these days, back-seaters can plug into all kinds of on-board distractions, like the totally tricked-out rear entertainment system in the Honda Odyssey, for hours of road tripping without backseat arguments!

    And no set of preparations or packing lists are complete without a checklist of road trip essentials — those items you’ll wish you’d stowed on board before leaving on your family trip. Don’t road trip without these items!

    1. FIRST AID KIT. Stay prepared for the unexpected with a basic set of essentials: bandages, gauze, antibiotic ointment, antacids, pain management (aspirin, ibuprofen), antihistamines for allergic reactions and burn cream. Bonus extra: tweezers for splinters (and for ticks if you’re spending lots of time outdoors)
    2. JUMPER CABLES. Don’t skimp on cheap cables. Invest instead in a set that’s made with heavy-gauge, insulated wires (the lower the gauge number, the heavier-duty the jumper cables). All sets take up roughly the same amount of space in your trunk.
    3. TUNES! Build a digital playlist everyone can contribute to — it’s a great way to learn what everyone’s into. Hit on a song everyone likes, and you can plan another road trip to catch a concert together.
    4. ROAD TRIP GAMES. When the drive gets longer and the passengers are getting restless, break out some road trip games in order to make getting there fun for the whole family!
    5. SNACKS AND DRINKS. Bad snacks are whack! Stock a tote of your favorite crackers, nutbars, and jerky, or even toss together a homemade bag of kettle corn the night before you get on the road. A mini-cooler of your favorite bottled water or iced coffee will provide a little extra refreshment. Double-baggie some ice for emergency drink coolers or first aid relief.
    6. MOVIES AND PODCASTS. Download plenty of digital media, including these great podcasts, so you’ll all have something to watch or listen to, when you’re tired of watching and listening to each other.
    7. MASKING TAPE. For creating backseat borders to give your kids designated, no-touching real estate on those really long excursions (see Les Nessman’s groundbreaking imaginary borders concept for the WKRP office).
    8. MOBILE DEVICE CHARGING CABLES. Dead devices tell no tales. They play no videos. They display no emails.
    9. POWER INVERTER. Look for a DC-to-AC inverter that you can plug into your accessory port; this setup lets you plug in your home devices and run them as long as you’re on the road. To run several laptops at once, look for an inverter in the 400- to 500-watt range.
    10. ELECTRIC BLANKET. You can find plug-in blankets online that plug into your car’s 12-volt accessory port for toasty heat when your car’s own heat isn’t enough. This article’s author packs one in his trunk. It’s a cozy red, plaid flannel number that’s come in handy more than once.
    11. BATTERY BOOSTER. These small jumpstarters plug into your accessory port and work like an extra car battery to give your car battery extra juice for starting. Look for a jumpstarter in the 600-amp range; if you live in chillier climates, pack a jumpstarter that provides 1000 amps of starting power. These units often have USB ports so you can juice up your mobile devices too.
    12. EXTRA PLASTIC BAGS AND A ROLL OF PAPER TOWELS. It’s smart to keep these items in your trunk for cleaning up unanticipated messes. Don’t ask us how we know.
    13. TRIP LOG. This is a 99-cent, black-and-white composition notebook, stowed at arm’s reach in the family car to document notable stops, silly situations, and quote-worthy utterances. This will serve as a great permanent record of your travels.

    BEFORE YOU LEAVE

    All ready to roll? Before you head out on your road trip, make sure you do the following:

    • Check your engine oil level
    • Inflate your tires to the recommended PSI (pounds per square inch) pressures (this will help you get the best possible MPG on your trip)
    • Download trip maps to your phone (don’t get lost in the event you lose cell coverage!)

    Product and company names may be trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of third-party entities. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by these entities.