There is nothing that signifies car culture than going on an epic road trip. And some cars are designed for road trips. From fun convertibles to roomy four-wheel-drives, you have plenty of great choices for your next road trip.
When choosing the best road trip car, there are several factors to consider, including price, size, and gas mileage. You might need a car that is roomy with plenty of space for luggage and gear. Or, you might be able to drive a two-seater that has room for a duffle bag or two.
2020 Subaru Crosstrek
A good road trip car must be reliable, practical, capable, and fun, and few automakers satisfy those requirements better than Subaru. 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.
The HR-V’s biggest asset is its relatively 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 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.
Tesla Model 3
For years, electric cars and road-tripping were mutually exclusive; range anxiety kicked in before you got a chance to leave your state. Advances in battery technology make the latest crop of electric vehicles better-suited to long drives. The Tesla Model 3 has up to 322 miles of driving range in its Dual Motor Long Range configuration, so you can drive from Detroit to Indianapolis without needing to stop and charge.
When you do need to fill up, you can rely on Tesla’s growing network of Supercharger stations. There are thousands of charging points in each state so finding one is a breeze, especially if you plan ahead. Clever features — such as in-car gaming and Netflix streaming — will help you pass the time while your car sips electricity.
If a Tesla isn’t your thing, or if the Model 3 is too expensive, the Chevrolet Bolt is another great option for those seeking a zero-emissions road-tripper. It offers 259 miles of range, so it can drive from New York City to Washington, D.C., in ideal conditions, and it’s spacious enough to comfortably carry a full load of passengers and their gear.
You can zap the Bolt’s battery with about 100 miles of range every 30 minutes when it’s plugged into a DC fast charger, a type of station that’s getting much easier to find as America’s charging infrastructure expands, though keep in mind you’ll need a special charging port Chevrolet charges extra for. Alternatively, if you’re not in a rush, the Bolt gains 25 miles of range per hour plugged in when it’s hooked up to a 240-volt level two charger, which you can find outside of many hotels, restaurants, and other businesses.
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 differently. 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 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.
2020 Toyota 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 that 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 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 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 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 LS 400, 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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