Regardless of where you live, the weathermen seem to be offering the same warning: It’s going to be a scorcher. We’ve seen heat waves hit nearly every part of the globe this summer, and despite coming off one of the most brutal winters on record, we’re already tired of the heat and humidity here in Boston. Being in the northeast, central air conditioning isn’t a given. However, unless you paid Porsche for a new Boxster Spyder, you’ll most likely be able to find some relief in your car.
Whether it’s thanks to luxurious interiors, easy connectivity, or impressive amenities, these 10 cars are can’t-miss options when you need to beat the heat this summer. So shut the doors, roll up the windows, and crank the A/C, because that wind-in-your-face feeling won’t help when the hygrometer is reading close to triple figures.
10. With indented stripes on its sides that recall the woodies of ’60s and ’70s California and a square, boxy rear end not terribly far removed from that of a VW Microbus, the Ford Flex has always had a cool look. Its flat roof offers passengers plenty of headroom, even in the third row, and its available 3.5-liter turbocharged Ecoboost V6 provides plenty of get up and go while still getting respectable mileage. An active parking assist system can help take the stress out of parallel parking, and the Flex’s optional multi-panel Vista Roof ensures the interior will be bright and sunny in good weather. But it’s the optional refrigerated console for the second row that will really help the Flex beat the heat of summer. With enough power and room to cool up to seven 12-ounce cans, four half-liter bottles, or two 20-ounce bottles and a freeze mode that can accommodate ice cream and popsicles, no one in a Flex should feel the need to break a sweat.
9. Could there possibly be a worse feeling than coming back to your car—usually from someplace nice and cool, like a mall movie theater—and realizing that while you were comfortably watching Chris Pratt fight with dinosaurs, your car was turning into an Easy-Bake Oven in the sweltering parking lot? Thankfully, the kind folks over at Toyota have built a Prius that allows drivers to avoid this horrifying eventuality altogether. The Toyota Prius uses its Solar Roof Package to power a ventilation system that maintains an interior temperature consistent with the outside ambient temperature. This means that, although it won’t run an air-conditioning unit to actually cool down the vehicle while you’re away, it will ensure that when you return to the car, it will be no hotter inside than outside.
8. We’re sure when you think of “staying cool,” hell isn’t the first thing to pop into your mind. But the Hellcat 6.2-liter, supercharged V8 certainly makes the Dodge Charger one of the most fun and powerful options to beat the summer heat. Though it’s true that the Hellcat engine in Dodge’s power-hungry sedan is sure to generate a ton of heat, the Charger has plenty of features to ensure you’ll feel as cool as you look. Dodge made certain to stack as many comfort features as possible into this 707-hp beast. After all, the Charger is a family sedan despite its over-the-top power. With features like ventilated front seats, cooled cupholders, and automatic temperature control (humidity sensors automatically activate climate control based on the driver’s ideal comfort levels), the Charger is the perfect car to get the family from 0-60 in 2.9 seconds on a nice summer drive.
7. Have you ever wondered how comfortable a spaceship seat must be? Even traveling to the International Space Station—a mere 249 miles above Earth—takes at least 2 days by Soyuz capsule. That’s a long time in a tight space, so you figure the seat must be something special. Nissan, inspired by NASA’s measured “neutral body posture,” brings the “fatigue-free” Zero Gravity seats to the 2015 Nissan Murano. Developed for a weightless environment, the always ergonomically comfortable Zero Gravity seats alleviate driver fatigue and encourage good posture. This, coupled with your typical climate-comfort features, such as ventilated and cooled front and rear seats and automatic climate control, makes the Murano a great option for finding refuge from the heat, and, with those NASA-inspired seats, you can sit there for hours on end.
6. The Mazda MAZDA6 has recently been recognized as a worthy competitor to two of the car world’s most established brand names in one of the hottest automotive segments out there: midsize sedans. Honda’s Accord and Toyota’s Camry have offered comfort and capability for decades now, but critics generally agree that neither offers a particularly compelling driving experience. The Mazda6, on the other hand, lives up to Mazda’s Zoom-Zoom marketing message, with our reviewer calling it a blast to drive no matter where he went. It’s a great-looking car, too, on the outside and perhaps even more so on the inside. Equipped with strong safety ratings and a bounty of the latest tech, the Mazda6’s interior looks and feels fantastic, with clearly marked and within-easy-reach controls. The Commander controller knob for the infotainment system works well, and our reviewer appreciated that the Mazda6’s adaptive cruise control was less eager and aggressive in its braking than other similar systems. The Mazda6 doesn’t have fancy gimmicks to keep occupants cool, but it’s a great car available at a good price that not everyone recognizes as the value it truly is. And doesn’t that make anyone who owns and drives a Mazda6 cooler than the hordes of highway travelers in Accords and Camrys?
5. The Cadillac Escalade has two features that makes it a very good candidate for summer driving: It’s big and comfortable. But Cadillac also manages to throw in a ton of features that are sure to lower the mercury level a few more notches. The Escalade keeps cool with features like dual front climate-control zones, beverage coolers, cooled storage compartments, cooled front seats, and an auxiliary engine cooler. Alright, so that last one isn’t for inside the vehicle. But if you aren’t satisfied with just sitting there in the air conditioning, Cadillac steps up the luxury offerings with features like massaging front seats and the CUE technology interface. CUE brings apps like Pandora, Bluetooth, and 4G LTE for up to 7 devices. The Escalade will allow you and your friends to survive the summer heat with tons of comfort and fun.
4. Summer is the time of the year for tailgating. Who needs to sit in the freezing cold and snow during football season when you can hang out in the oppressive heat radiating off the tarmac while you play KanJam and cornhole (bean bag toss, baggo, bags, whatever)? Luckily Honda kept all you summer tailgaters in mind when it released the Honda Ridgeline. The Ridgeline is the ultimate tailgating machine, not just because it can comfortably seat your 5-man tailgating crew or because its 5-foot pickup bed is just enough room for your grill and your bagholecorntoss games, but because it comes with a built-in, watertight ice chest. So if you’re going to a baseball or soccer game, heading to a concert or show, or just hanging around in a parking lot, the Ridgeline and its ice chest will keep your food and beverages ice cold.
3. Introduced in 1968 as “the finest Jaguar ever,” the flagship XJ-Series offers a world of luxury to any passenger, though those of substantial stature would likely prefer a long-wheelbase version, as well as a supercharged engine any villain could happily put to use attempting to escape the wheels of justice. (Interesting, by the way, that Jaguar bills itself as the automaker preferred by villains, given that England’s royal families and Prime Minister call the XJ one of their official cars.) Available with a 12-cylinder engine until the early ’90s, the XJ has always offered plenty of power, and the current version offers the same palette of powertrains available in the magnificent new F-TYPE, from a 340-hp 3.0-liter supercharged V6 to the 550-hp 5.0-liter supercharged V8 that powers the elite XJR and F-TYPE R. That much power can no doubt provide a plenty hot ride, but anyone who needs to keep cool can simply take advantage of the long-wheelbase version’s heated and cooled front and rear seats with 4-zone climate control. That should help prevent anyone from getting sweat-stuck to the XJ’s fine leather seats.
2. Speaking with someone considering buying a Ford C-Max the other day, we touched on the topic of the car’s, shall we say, “distinctive” exterior. Put more bluntly, the C-Max is an unattractive car. The person interested in the C-Max, however, commented that, if they were to make the purchase, they would get to enjoy the car without having to see the exterior—after all, the majority of their time spent with the C-Max would be inside it. It’s a compelling argument: The interior of a car is more significant than exterior style. In this regard, the BMW i3 is entirely a game-changer. Looking at the i3, phrases like “design philosophy” suddenly seem to have merit. We mentioned how impressive the Mazda6’s interior is, but it still conforms to a traditional interior layout. The i3, on the other hand, looks like no other car on the road. There is no center tunnel dividing the interior of the car. The dashboard is unobtrusive. The upholstery makes use of sustainable materials, covering minimalist-styled seats raised to a slightly higher-than-normal position. The interior looks fantastic, is easy to enter and exit, and would be an ideal place to spend a few hours on a hot summer day.
1. Back when he was still calling the shots over at Volkwagen Group, Ferdinand Piëch was struck with the urge to build a supercar. He wanted a machine that would position VW alongside the market leaders in luxury and performance—namely, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Thus, the Volkswagen Phaeton. Piëch famously requested that his super sedan be capable of cruising at 186 miles per hour on a 122-degree-Fahrenheit day, all while maintaining a steady 72-degree-Fahrenheit interior temperature. Needless to say, you shouldn’t hit those speeds on U.S. roads, but the Phaeton will keep you cool no matter how hot it gets outside. Best of all (for shoppers, at least—less so for Volkswagen), this super-premium sedan has depreciated significantly since its release. The W12 trim (that’s right, this all-wheel-drive monster has a 6.0-liter W12 engine) originally sold at an MSRP north of $100,000. Today, it’s not hard to find used options for sale at one-fifth that price. If you’re willing to settle for the V8 (original MSRP around $75,000), you can find one even cheaper.
What car keeps you cool when the weather’s hot?
-John Harrington, Matt Smith, and Steve Halloran
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