All seasons are good seasons for a road trip, but the appeal of the road becomes even stronger in the summer. There something enticing and somewhat irresistible about the feeling of freedom associated with driving down the open road with your friends, listening to a specially crafted mixtape filled with road trip songs. This may be the effect of the sun on our skin or the many iced caps we drink, but eventually, we all surrender to the burning desire to go on an adventure at one point. Depending on the itinerary, and budget, not everyone will leave for their journey driving the same vehicle. To help you pick the best car possible, we have created a comprehensive list of the best road trip cars based on specific needs you may have.
One thing is certain, regardless of your budget, the experience will be even more memorable behind the wheel of one of the following vehicles:
Cargo space first
Volkswagen T1 Westfalia
Let’s start with one of the most iconic road trip van of the last 70 years: the Volkswagen T1. Synonymous with exploration with a little retro touch, this van will always be highly sought after by VW enthusiasts and the most nostalgic of us. With their timeless rounded shapes and high reliability, it is not surprising that the 6 generations of this model are still popular.
If camping style vacations are not your thing, you can even push the Volkswagen camping adventure even further with the T1 Westfalia. Complete with fold-out beds, plywood interior, and sink, this vehicle contains everything you need to experience the ultimate feeling of vintage freedom!
The advantage of the Westfalia van is that it is not much bigger than a regular car but you can sleep comfortably and even cook on a small stove. You will be able to access parking spaces reserved for cars which might not be possible with a bigger truck. A T1 van can also go unnoticed along a road or in the forest if you decide to stay there for the night and save on accommodation costs.
Toyota Sienna XLE Limited AWD
The most expensive and extravagant minivan is an ultra-convenient way to travel. Very few vehicles can compete with the Sienna when planning an adventure with a large family. Would the kids like to watch a movie? No problem! Spread out on the third-row bench to take a nap? Go for it. Pick up a lot of souvenirs? There’s more cargo space than you’ll need. Furthermore, the fully equipped version of the Toyota Sienna features an AWD powertrain to allow you to go even further off the beaten track!
Right upon release, the Sprinter took the commercial van market by storm, replacing the Ford E-250 has the go-to choice for electricians and construction workers of this world. After some time, Mercedes expanded its offering to include all sort of interesting and customizable features to target other types of buyers. One of these groups is outdoor enthusiasts and road trippers in general.
The Sprinter offers a spacious interior for those who would like to sleep comfortably at night instead of sleeping in a tent. It’s simply ideal for long-lasting comfort while driving and you’ll get more cargo space than you could ever dream of. You can even easily drop a full-size mattress in it. There’s simply nothing better for a group road trip!
It is important to mention that the Sprinter is a modular van, that is to say, it can be arranged and customized in many different ways. Very popular with owners of vehicle fleets and construction contractors, it can also be arranged into a fully-equipped camping car. Many models can be fitted with the same features you would find in a bigger motorhome for a fraction of the price. If you plan on renting a Sprinter for your upcoming road trip, think of inquiring about the availability of a camper model from your car rental service.
Summer is for road trips in convertibles
Alfa Romeo Spider Duetto
It would not be summer without a ride in a convertible car. If you’d like to mess up your hair in style, Alfa Romeo is the car brand for you. The elegant Italian design, combined with lightweight construction, really makes these cars stand out of the crowd. A stroll on winding country roads? No problem! Any Alfa Romeo, and most especially the agile and daring Spider Duetto, is ready to take on anything you throw at it. From their innovative design to their amazing handling, Alfa Romeos are considered some of the most seductive and fun-to-drive cars ever made.
The only disadvantage of these Italian-made vehicles is without hesitation the questionable reliability. Alfa Romeo is not absolutely not recognized for the reliability of its vehicles within the automotive world. Besides, replacement parts can be quite difficult to find and the labor can be more expensive than with a more common car model.
Before you go on an adventure behind the wheel of the Spider Duetto, be sure to have it inspected from one bumper to the other before you leave for your road trip to avoid the unpleasantness of finding yourself stranded on the side of the road during your vacation.
Ford Mustang GT convertible
A little less unique and not as refined as the Duetto, the Ford Mustang GT convertible is no less ideal for a car trip, whether you plan to go down to Florida, take Route 66 or cross the Rockies. Although it offers little cargo space, you’ll love the power and sound its V8 engine, well-established badass reputation, and the windy feel in your hair – more than enough to stick a smile on your face for the rest of the trip!
Moreover, the Mustang is an easy and affordable car to maintain; a definite must if you plan to do a lot of mileage during your road trip. On the other hand, fuel consumption can quickly become a major disadvantage because of the big block hidden under the hood. Keep this in mind when the time comes to book your Mustang at the rental service counter.
Fun and nothing but fun
Volkswagen Golf R
With its typical German look, functionality, and stiff driving, the Volkswagen Golf R guarantees fabulous car trips. Without forgetting its impressive all-wheel-drive powertrain system that will keep you on the road even if you have to cross the Rockies in deep snow. Her agility will keep you entertained and, although it’s one of the smallest cars on this list, we believe it’s also the one with the most character, which makes a big difference on the road.
If lack of space is a major disadvantage for you, be aware that Volkswagen offers optional roof boxes that significantly increase the available cargo space. Rest assured, however. What the Golf R is lacking in space, it will make it all up with what it has to offer in terms of driving pleasure.
Mercedes Benz E63 S-AMG 4MATIC
If you’re planning on cycling, climbing, surfing or skiing during your road trip, the Mercedes-Benz E 63 S-AMG 4MATIC will be a great addition to the game and will make you feel just like home. Then, when the time comes to go at full speed towards your next destination, the 577hp engine will allow you to reach 60mph in no more than 3.7 seconds!
Worth mentioning, the Mercedes AWD 4MATIC transmission is one of the best mass-produced transmission available on the market. The purchase price of the E63 is higher than most other cars on this list but luxury and comfort comes with a price tag, even on holidays!
Do you plan to go on an off-road trip? A 4 × 4, such as the Jeep Wrangler, can allow you to easily cross difficult roads while ensuring a minimum of comfort for long highway drives. The biggest disadvantage with the Jeep is the rather limited cargo space, especially if you plan to drive topless and remove the side doors. On the other hand, a host of accessories are available to remedy this problem. Whether it is a trailer hitch or a cargo box, it’s easy to increase the available space to be able to carry a tent, mountaineering equipment, a surfboard or anything that goes through your mind.
Make sure to have you Jeep checked regularly if you often drive off in the boondocks. The dust found in the trails can easily clog the engine air filter and quickly make the fuel consumption rise quite drastically.
Comfort first and foremost
Spending hours in a car while you reach your destination can become exhausting, especially when the seats are uncomfortable and the suspension is way too stiff. As beautiful as it is cozy, the Cadillac ATS occupies a place of choice in our list of the vehicles we would recommend for a memorable road trip. This compact luxury sedan offers everything you need, from a choice of two engines including a 4-cylinder turbo and a powerful V6 as well as an exciting AWD powertrain.
The name Cadillac is already well-known for its luxury and comfort but, on top of that, the ATS also offers a spacious rear cargo area and both engines are more than able to pull a small trailer if the trunk is not roomy enough for you.
While the ATS comes with a slightly higher price tag and a lower fuel-efficiency when compared to several sedans of the same type, it offers a better driving experience and greater reliability than its competitors. This vehicle is perfect for you if you plan to buy it for the long term and intend to go on multiple road trips in the years ahead.
Efficiency is the key
Toyota Prius V
The Prius has evolved considerably from what it was when it was first released in 1997: an expensive and ugly hybrid with few accessories and poor handling. The new and redesigned extended hatchback Prius V model now offers a complete entertainment system, a huge touchscreen, and a plug-in electric engine.
Driving one of these on your next road trip will simply save you a fortune at the gas station in addition to being entertaining for the occupants during long trips. It’s nice to travel, but not when refueling is taking up the most of your vacation budget. The Prius V is not the fastest car you can find or the one that looks the best, but it’s comfortable, spacious and practical. And with all the money saved, you’ll be able to treat yourself and your friends even more than originally planned.
Taking out the big guns
Dodge RAM 1500
If, on the other hand, you need an exceptional hauling capacity to tow a big trailer or a boat, the Dodge RAM 1500 is what you need! It’s the perfect pickup for camping enthusiasts, water sports fans, and anyone who needs to tow something bigger than normal.
The RAM 1500 has a very large loading capacity for motorized sports lovers and ATV or side-by-side nuts. Even better, it’s one of the most economical trucks on the market. A point not to be overlooked when thinking about going on an adventure in a full-sized pick-up truck.
A little bit of everything
Volvo XC70 T6 AWD
Here is another all-wheel-drive, but a little more spacious this time. The Volvo XC70 T6 AWD is ideal for road trips because of its exceptional safety rating and divine comfort.
Yes, you may look like twice your age when you are behind the wheel of a beige Volvo. No, this car may not have been your dream car as a kid. However, the 3.0-liter turbo engine under the hood can get you to 60mph, and way beyond that, in no time even while hauling a mid-size trailer.
And if you suddenly come across a rough gravel road, the XC70’s 4WD powertrain and generous ground clearance will protect you. This Volvo is a good compromise between sporty driving, fuel-efficiency and driving pleasure. It is perfect for large families and unforgettable road trips with friends.
Subarus are among the most reliable vehicles on the market. Regardless of weather conditions, the Forester, in particular, will be a very safe vehicle to drive rain or shine. This small SUV will be especially useful if you plan to go up north or if you plan to ride on snowy roads. It is also perfectly suited to install kayaks and bicycles at the back or on the roof.
The rear cargo area is more than spacious and will easily hold all your camping equipment without any problem. On the downside, Subaru vehicles are often less fuel-efficient than the competition primarily because of the use of Boxter engines. Consider yourself warned.
Porsche Panamera Turbo
The Porsche Panamera Turbo is a perfect blend of style, space, comfort, and performance. No matter where you’re going, you’ll always enjoy the wonders of high-end German engineering when driving a Porsche. And a 4-seater powered by 500hp is not at all that common. If you want to make head turn will cruising down a busy downtown street, this car is the one you need!
The budget required to drive one of these is higher than most other vehicles on this list and may not be for everyone but the benefits you’ll get will make you forget this little detail in no time.
On the other hand, the maintenance cost of such a car is often astronomical. I would strongly discourage you from choosing the Panamera if you are planning a 2500 miles road trip across the US. But who knows? Maybe you do have the budget! In that case, it might be wise to check the cost of renting it and compare it to the purchase and long-term maintenance cost of a Panamera to be able to make an informed choice.
No matter what car model you choose for your next road trip, make sure you plan to make sure you get the most out of your vacations. Check your route, the type of roads and the expected weather conditions and find a suitable vehicle based on that. Calculate the total distance you intend to travel and estimate the total cost of fuel and maintenance. Choose a car that meets your needs and that you can afford. Nothing is more unfortunate than to come back from a memorable trip and to still be paying for the bills years later. But, in the end, remember to not overthink it and try to predict everything since the best road trips are often those that end up being filled with unexpected experiences!
With this thought, I wish you all a nice road trip!