10 Best Road-Trip Cars

August 1st, 2014

2012 Subaru Outback

The summer months are quickly coming to an end, a sad reality we all know too well. But before you welcome the inevitable shift in seasons, why not hit the road for one last taste of summer? August is road-trip season—a time of year best enjoyed traveling the whole way on the road, bringing only what you can fit into your vehicle. Whether you’re taking a week of vacation, a weekend getaway or a long day trip, your vehicle will be pretty important.

You’ll want to be comfortable for that ride. And what could be more important than comfort when driving across the country? Well, probably a smooth ride, reliability, fuel economy and enough room for whatever stuff you happen to bring with you. The only really important thing about a road trip is enjoying it. Whether in a sedan, SUV, crossover or wagon, these vehicles will get you, your friends or family, and your stuff where you want to go. So hit the road, take a scenic route, and enjoy these last few weeks of summer.

2014 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class

10. Luxury, comfort and size. What else could you ask for on a road trip? The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class may be a a bit on the higher end of this list’s price scale, but we couldn’t think of many other cars we wouldn’t mind for traveling long distances. The GL-Class has some pretty fuel-efficient trim options available (trims like the GL350 BlueTEC can offer up to 26 highway mpg). No matter which GL-Class you drive, it comes with Mercedes’ standard 4Matic all-wheel-drive (AWD) system, which can conquer any road or weather. All this is complemented by some extreme comfort and space, and the GL offers 93.6 cubic feet of cabin space with second- and third-row seats folded. All this adds up to an incredibly good ride for even the longest road trips.

2014 Chrysler 300

9. The Chrysler 300 is the quintessential car for the American road trip: It’s big, fast, powerful, can seat 5 comfortably and still has plenty of room for all your suitcases and duffle bags. The base model starts at $30,995, but for that you get leather seats, Chrysler’s excellent Uconnect infotainment system with a 8.4-inch screen and a powerful 3.6-liter 6-cylinder engine pushing out 292 hp. That’s more than enough to get you comfortably from coast to coast, but if you want more, consider upgrading to an SRT version, which will swap the 6-cylinder with a 6.4-liter 8-cylinder Hemi. Those 470 ponies will surely be helpful if you want the trip over as soon as possible.

2014 Ford Taurus

8. Following the 2010 redesign, the Ford Taurus offers some of the best comfort you can find in a midsize sedan. And with the Taurus, you don’t have to worry about space. The trunk is absolutely huge, and it won’t take a Tetris master to fit in all your baggage. Despite its size, the Taurus also has great fuel economy, meaning fewer stops on the road (well, unless you really want some rest).

2014 Mazda Mazda3

7. As far as small cars go, few are better all-around cars than the Mazda3. The Mazda3 was redesigned for 2014 and has been earning high praise from practically everyone. Thanks to its sleek, sexy design, high-grade materials, well-designed interior, excellent infotainment system, reputation for reliability and general fun-to-driveness, the Mazda3 has been a huge winner for Mazda. Where the car is really able to shine, however, is on a road trip. Only on a road trip can all these advantages be put to good use, with road trippers desiring the comfort the car has to offer, along with solid reliability, good navigation and 41 mpg on the highway. While it may not be able to take down some of our other favorites on a straightaway, take it out on the twisties, and it’ll put a great big smile on your face. The twisties are where it counts, too, as good road trips often involve a lot of exploring back-country roads.

2015 Chevrolet Suburban

6. The Chevrolet Suburban is not so much a car as a statement. It’s big—really big, in fact “big” might not even do it justice—it’s huge. But that can be a good thing, at least when you’re trekking hundreds (if not thousands) of miles with people and gear. After all, how many other cars on the market today can seat 9 and still have enough room for all your stuff? If you’re looking to pack up the whole family and get where you’re going without having the kids drive everyone insane (the Suburban has a plethora of USB and power ports to keep them occupied with their smart devices), consider America’s oldest continuous nameplate (the Suburban has been in production since 1935) for your summer excursion.

2014 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

5. Some call the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet quirky. Others just call it strange. Both are correct. We really like the thought of taking the CrossCabriolet across the country. It has plenty of room, reasonable gas mileage and AWD. And there isn’t anything quite like the feel of enjoying the top down and driving through a strange town while people you don’t know are gawking at the spectacle you drive. Unfortunately, after 2014 the Murano CrossCabriolet will be no more, and we are a bit sad to see it go.

2015 Honda Fit

4. Don’t let the size of the Honda Fit fool you—it has room for an incredible amount of stuff. You can store whatever you’ll need to bring in this seemingly small package. The subcompact has 5 seats, though seating more than 4 may get a little cramped. The rear seat can also completely fold down, upping the cargo space from 20.6 cubic feet to an impressive 57.3 cubic feet. The Fit offers its drivers the benefits of tight handling, good fuel economy and more cargo space than you realize. Although not ideal for a large group, the Fit is a perfect fit (get it?!) for a couple of friends traveling the distance.

2014 Toyota Highlander

3. The Toyota Highlander is a classic road-trip vehicle for the whole family. Its three rows of seats can comfortably fit 7 people. That said, the Highlander is still plenty big to accommodate any of your road-trip cargo needs, as the rear rows of the seats can also be folded to create more than 40 cubic feet of cargo space. With that kind space, you can pack anything you could possibly need to bring on a Highlander road trip. This SUV also has the AWD you need to tackle even the most scenic of routes with a beautifully smooth ride.

2014 BMW 3 Series

2. If you’re going to take a long road trip, you might as well do it in style and comfort, which is exactly what the BMW 3 Series delivers. The 3 Series has always been famous for the choice it offers, with a myriad of options allowing you to turn your 3 Series into everything from a docile luxury people carrier to a mad performance machine. With sedan and wagon body styles available, you have your choice as to exactly how much gear you want to haul on your trip. While the higher-performance versions do come with a lower fuel mileage rating (which is totally worth it to many buyers), consider BMW’s stunning 328d for your road trip. No, the 328d will not be quite the same as the 335i, but its 2-liter turbodiesel is no slouch either, pumping out 280 pound-feet of torque and delivering 45 mpg on the highway.

2015 Subaru Outback

1. The Subaru Outback can do it all. It’s comfortable, reliable and extremely versatile. Originally a trim of the Subaru Legacy, the Outback got broken out as its own trim in 2000 and hasn’t looked back since. Over that time it’s become a bit of a cult icon, popular with everyone from soccer moms to hardcore outdoor enthusiasts. Thanks to the car’s rock-solid reliability, 8.7 inches of ground clearance and large cargo area, it can pack up all of your stuff (and 4 of your friends) and get you wherever you want to go. Add to that Subaru’s exemplary Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system and the Outback will get you back from wherever you go, too.

What new car would you like to take on a road trip?

-jharrington and zwaller

Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Shopping for a new road-trip vehicle?
Bring along CarGurus’ mobile app to help check prices, find good deals and research cars on your smartphone.

Used Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
Used Chrysler 300
Used Ford Taurus
Used Mazda Mazda3
Used Chevrolet Suburban
Used Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet
Used Honda Fit
Used Toyota Highlander
Used BMW 3 Series
Used Subaru Outback

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  1. John M. Garrigan
    October 12th, 2014 at 22:50 | #1

    Idiot writer. The best vehicle for a road trip would be a minivan. The best of all worlds.

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