With more and more people spending their vacations on the open road, we at About Cars decided it was time for a second Top Picks list of our favorite road trip cars. Here, then, are ten more cars well suited to the long-distance road warrior in all of us.
The Chrysler Sebring is one of the only convertibles on the market that can comfortably accommodate four people plus a decent amount of luggage and shopping. It's got excellent road manners and comes standard with plenty of comfort and convenience features, all for a decent price. Sebrings don't hold their value particularly well, so bargains abound on the used examples.
The Grand Caravan's Stow 'n Go seating really comes into its own on long trips. If you're loaded up with people, the under-floor storage is a great place for muddy boots or other things you'd rather not have rolling around the interior. Prone to sudden fits of antiquing? Just drop the seats into the floor to make more room. Sure beats wishing you'd removed the seats before you left home.
This is the full-size family wagon for the 21st century. The Magnum R/T carries over the tradition of the big honkin' V8, though V6 models have plenty of power. Wood-grained sides have given way to crisp, macho styling, and the land-yacht handling has been banished--the Magnum's Mercedes-sourced chassis allows it to keep up a surprisingly rapid pace through the curves. It offers all-wheel-drive and the R/T will tow as much as 3800 lbs. (Review link is for the mechanically-similar Chrysler 300.)
Dodge's new full-size van is a carbon-copy of the European-market Mercedes Sprinter. While aimed primarily at the commercial market, the Sprinter's choice of 8 to 10 seats, three wheelbases, two roof heights, and fuel-efficient turbodiesel engine (22 mpg city/24 highway) with 10,000 mile oil-change intervals make it a sensible choice for serious road trippers. Compared to traditional Detroit vans, the sprinter has a heavier payload (3963lbs/1800kg) but lower towing capacity (5,000lbs/2273kg).
I'm into stretching my travel budget, so when it's just Robin and I on a weekend jaunt, the Honda Insight makes a sensible choice. I've been able to squeeze more than 60 highway miles out of a gallon of gas and still keep up a decent pace; even leadfoot Robin finds it difficult to get much less than 50 MPG. In an eight-hour day of driving, we can save $20-$30 in gas. For us, that's the difference between eating at Maurice's Fine Seafood and Lenny's Clam 'n' Shake Shack.
I've driven the six-hour LA-to-Phoenix run in at least two dozen different cars; none left me feeling as relaxed or refreshed as the Lexus LS430. Its luxury goes far beyond the leather and wood interior and Mark Levinson stereo. Dynamic cruise control, which slows down or speeds up to keep its distance behind the car ahead, eases the stress of congested freeways, while the big V8 makes short work of slow-moving trucks in the mountains. It's like a first-class airline seat with a steering wheel.
The Miata is my favorite car of all time. It puts as little as possible between the driver, the road and the great outdoors. That's why it makes such a great traveling companion. The top is easy to open and close, and few cars are as enjoyable to drive on a twisty road. There's only one drawback: The trunk is miniscule, so if you travel by Miata, pack light.
Think of Mazda's minivan as a Honda Odyssey that was left in the dryer too long. The MPV's small size and sporty handling make it the most car-like minivan you can buy. It's also city-friendly and easy to park. Just make sure you "test-fit" the interior before you buy. The second-row has plenty of room, but the third-row seat, while adequate for smaller kids, is a mobile prison sentence for anyone over 4' tall.
Who says safety has to be taken so seriously? The 9-3 sedan scored top marks in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's front, side and rear impact collision tests, and its one of the About Cars road test team's favorite cars to drive thanks to its invigorating handling and snappy turbocharged engine. Like to travel with friends? Get the 9-3 sedan. Prefer the wind in your hair? Opt for the 9-3 convertible. Considering how small their country is, those Swedes sure know how to travel.
The turbodiesel (TDI) Passat proved its mettle on a trip through through the Arizona desert this past summer: 107 degrees outside, cruise set at 90 MPH, A/C blasting, and we still averaged 32 MPG. And did I mention that this was a station wagon? Now you see why I love diesels so much! The Passat is not just miserly; it's also big, comfortable, and entertaining to drive. It's smaller sister, the Jetta TDI, is just as enjoyable, plus its fuel mileage rivals the hybrids. Go team TDI!