Although you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at our roads in a sprinkle of rain, the winters in San Diego are usually not very cold or unpredictable – especially compared to the winter weather in most of the rest of the country. But that doesn’t mean come spring and summer we aren’t itching to bask in the extra few degrees of warmth or hop in the car to go for a drive like we used to when gas wasn’t hovering around $3.50 a gallon.
We’re predisposed to take a road trip in spring or summer because that’s when the kids have breaks from school, but it’s also nice that the rest of the country is a little more aligned with our weather, making driving easier on us and our cars. The Great American Road Trip is an experience everyone should have at least once, and whether you’re taking the kids, the in-laws, your significant other, a group of friends, or are looking for solo time, here are our favorite cars for the open road.
Just remember: sometimes the point is to look outside the window as small towns and big cities pass you by. Best to take these rides out this season, because who knows how much gas will cost next year?
5 Best Cars for Road Trips
2015 Kia Sedona: The super-sized and super luxurious 2015 Kia Sedona SXL wowed us with luxury features, including two-tone nappa leather seating, second row reclining captain’s chair with footrest, two sunroofs that open, a more than adequate Infinity Premium Audio System, navigation, and one of the most compliant rides we have enjoyed from a minivan in a long time. This car glides over bumps yet drives smaller than it looks, and the standard 3.3 liter V6 puts out 276 horsepower, always keeping things interesting should another driver mistake this vehicle for a lesser minivan. If everyone in the family is coming, this is the best way to go. It can carry 8.
2013-2015 Honda Civic Si: These are the best years for the latest generation Honda Civic Si coupe and sedan thanks to a few drastic changes that improved the feeling of quality in the interior, overall power, increased refinement, and noticeably sharpened the braking power and agile reflexes of this iconic and affordable fun-maker. It comes only with a six-speed manual and we guarantee it is one of the best we have ever tried. You won’t regret a road trip in the Si!
2015-2016 Maserati Quattoporte/Ghibli: We had to include at least one far-fetched car on this list. With these two sedans managing to not only out-sexy any other luxury sports sedans in their price range, it is their almost Germanic feeling of robust build quality that truly satisfies many potential buyers. Both sedans feel hand built with passion yet with more steely minded Germanic precision that you might expect. Also, if you buy a Ghibli or Quattroporte and you even just have a passing love of music, tick the box for the Bowers & Willkins premium audio upgrade, which fills the car with 17 speakers and over 1100 watts of power all in surround sound. Ah, someday.
2014-2016 Volvo V60 T5 or T6 AWD R-Design Wagon: In 2015 Volvo released a “Cross Country” version of the V60 with all-wheel drive and a raised ride height, but we prefer the sportier look of the lower, more svelte and less Subaru Outback-ish regular V60 wagons (which come with some interesting engine choices). But this being a Volvo, the V60 of course boasts 46 cubic feet of cargo room, the most comfortable seats we have ever tested, as well as every active safety system imaginable.
What you may not know is that all V60 models, like the S60 sedan on which it’s based, are fun to drive. If fuel economy, plenty of power, and incredible smoothness is what you are after then a T5 Drive-E model with front drive and the state of the art Volvo designed 2.0 liter turbo and supercharged 4-cylinder (good for 240 horsepower) should more than suffice. But should your tastes run more towards the exotic and you love nothing more than the thought of smoking BMW 335i coupe owners away from stop lights, check out the semi-evil looking Volvo V60 T6 R-Design, which has an effortlessly quick 3.0 liter 325 horsepower turbocharged 6-cylinder under to hood.
2012-2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI: This rather affordable yet fun to drive family sedan is the ultimate high mileage road trip machine, thanks to its unerring ability to top 50 miles per gallon on the highway and potential range of about 800 miles per tank. The Passat TDI has an enormous trunk and a back seat big enough for NBA players. The ride is smooth and the driving feel is buttoned down and very Germanic. Models can be equipped with either a manual or automatic transmission but the heart of it all is the 2.0 liter 140 horsepower/236 lb. feet of torque turbo diesel, which is a peach of proven reliability. Really a can’t-miss choice.
James Hamel is a freelance road tester, auto journalist, and Motor Press Guild full member. Find past work at Autobytel.com and current work at iSeeCars.com. Contact James at [email protected]