Different drivers have different priorities when evaluating road trip vehicles. For some, a roomy and comfortable cabin is important; all the better for hauling the gaggle of friends — or the spouse and kids — who'll be coming along for the ride. Drivers with an enthusiast bent are more likely to favor a vehicle sporty enough to make the journey a thoroughly engaging one. And frugal-minded folks might value fuel efficiency most of all.
We asked our Edmunds editors to cull their road trip favorites. Here are their picks, listed in alphabetical order.
"Nothing kills a road trip dead in its tracks like whiny passengers going on and on about feeling cramped and not being comfortable. The Equinox takes care of that with a stadium-size cabin, highlighted by a backseat that offers ridiculous amounts of rear legroom — the rear seat slides back so far, its lucky occupants will feel like they're in another ZIP code. This may be a compact crossover, but its digs are anything but.
"Did I mention that the rear seatback reclines like Uncle Burt's chaise lounge? This works in your favor since it encourages your fellow travelers to shut the heck up and log some snooze time while you savor peace and quiet behind the wheel. And while every journey has its bumps in the road, they're a lot less jarring in the Equinox, thanks to its smooth and gracious ride quality." — Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor
"With 137 cubic feet of storage, the Suburban gives you enough room to stash tents, sleeping bags, bedrolls, Coleman stoves, Costco-size cylinders of beef jerky, and an adult Labrador or two. A vast roof ensures you have plenty of surface area for surf- and snowboards, bikes and kayaks. And now, let's forget that third row. Literally. In its best moments, it's awkward and bulky. Leave it behind. Doing so opens a vast cavern for essentials and napping quarters.
"For all-terrain road trips, a 4WD Suburban is unmatched. Its power and sturdy iron means you won't wince when a submerged rock pokes the door sill. Parts are widely available, so you'll never fear much downtime. Sure, a loaded 'Burban can get expensive. And it swills fuel (that's why you're taking friends). But in return you get a civilian-issue transport tank, with a command center for the driver that encourages long motoring hours in relaxed repose." — Dan Frio, Automotive Editor
3. Ford Flex
"The Ford Flex wins my road-tripping heart with its roomy, comfy seating for 6 or 7 (depending on whether you get the second-row bench seat or the second-row buckets), minimum of 20 cubic feet of cargo space (maximum is 83 cubes), and funky, catch-your-eye semi-retro styling. Throw in the optional mini-fridge, Sync, nav system, multi-panel rear sunroof and 4,500-pound towing capacity, and it's darn-near perfect. Even without all the extras, it's still a large crossover with almost all of the versatility of a minivan, but with none of the soul-crushing minivan stigma (if you care about such things).
"Need further proof of its stature in the rest-stop-to-rest-stop superiority contest? Out of all the long-term vehicles at their disposal, our director of vehicle testing and his family of four chose the Flex for their bi-annual family vacation to Oregon not once, not twice, but three times. Doesn't that say it all?" — Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor
"I've made the drive from Los Angeles to Denver, Colorado, so many times it has become my standard for measuring a good road trip car. It's a demanding journey, 1,000 miles of the most extreme conditions and the most beautiful scenery in the country. The Hyundai Genesis fills all my requirements. First, it's roomy even in the backseat, with ample legroom and panoramic windows for taking in the scenery. I also need a big V8 to climb over Vail Pass, elevation 10,675 feet. Most cars are left breathless by the ascent, but the Genesis, with the 4.6L V8, is up to the challenge. Finally, a good road trip car needs to deliver the power, and high speeds, with a sense of quiet effortlessness — no shouting required from front to backseats.
"And the Genesis provides a bonus, at least for me: It is unpretentious and even affordable at a starting price in the mid-$40,000s. Last, and certainly not least in my book, 26 mpg on the highway leaves that much more to spend on dinner and a hotel." — Phil Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor
"I nominate the Mercedes-Benz E350 Bluetec because it checks all the boxes concerning what I want in a road trip vehicle. And what's in those boxes? In no particular order — great seats (with heaters), a roomy cabin, strong performance, navigation and a good audio system with iPod hook-up.
"Oh, and of course fuel economy that both eases my conscience and allows me to travel more than 600 freeway miles before refueling. All the coddling and quality of a big-name luxury car with the fuel mileage (24 city/33 highway mpg) of a nondescript compact. Works for me." — John DiPietro, Automotive Editor
"If I'm going to cover a huge distance, I want a flagship luxury sedan. And as much as I adore the Jaguar XJL, the very best flagship luxury sedan is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. It's magnificently built to a degree that you can only appreciate once you've driven one...or sat in one, for that matter. In fact, as beautiful as the S-Class is to drive, it may even be better to experience it as a passenger. Whether in back or front, it can recline you, heat you, cool you and massage you.
"All outboard passengers can even get their own COMAND electronics remotes (and accompanying screen) that control virtually every car system. But why the S63? Well, the S400 will get you better fuel economy and range, but I'd rather have the seductive growl and thrust of the AMG twin-turbo V8, thank you very much. Anything less would be uncivilized." — James Riswick, Automotive Editor
"Clearly, this is not an all-purpose road-trip car. It won't hold masses of luggage. Its realistic maximum human capacity is two. But for a long weekend getaway — particularly if it involves a twisty road such as the Big Sur stretch of California's Highway 1 — the 911 has no peer. If the trip involves stops at nice restaurants, you'll find that valets will give you a prime parking spot. And even at your more colorful roadhouses, you'll get plenty of thumbs-up.
"If you like an extra helping of the elements when you travel, you could go with the Carrera Cabriolet for its power soft top. The Targa model will get you a generous sunroof. But neither is required. The basic 911 is the perfect expression of 'two for the road.'" — Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor
"The Porsche Panamera Turbo is the best road trip car. Period. It's the only car in my book that embodies the 'all things to everybody' concept. It bolts to 60 mph in a mere 3.7 seconds yet it can comfortably transport four full-size adults. The Panamera rails through curves like a much smaller sports car, and it also glides down the highway in isolated luxury. That means this big Porsche is as at home on long, featureless interstates as it is on tight, twisting mountain passes.
"Some might be turned off by the exterior styling, but once they've experienced all the Panamera has to offer, appearances suddenly matter a lot less. In the days I spent with a Turbo model, I simply could not log enough miles. I found myself taking the long way home every chance I had." — Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor
"When you're driving the Volkswagen GTI, you can hear those roads calling out to you. You know, the ones that dive off into the unknown, so you're never sure if you'll end up at Sonora Pass or the World's Largest Ball of String. The GTI is my kind of ride because it's alert and agile enough to drive every mountain pass in the Sierra Nevadas in a single day (which I've done), and calm and comfortable enough to cruise down the Interstate to the Circle K and eat a corn dog (which I've also done).
"It's an adult-rated rally car, plus the big windows give you a high-def view of the onrushing landscape. The only accessory required is a road atlas, because no electronic navigation system shows squiggles small enough for an adventure with a car like this." — Michael Jordan, Executive Editor
"The Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI is an excellent choice for a road trip. Its wagon body style makes it easy to load and fit plenty of cargo, while its turbodiesel engine provides more than enough torque to handle changes in elevation and passing maneuvers on the highway.
"This Jetta also performed admirably in our third Fuel Sipper Smackdown, where it had an average fuel economy of about 40 mpg over roughly 800 miles of driving. Some people may be put off by the wagon body style, but while there is a TDI version of the Jetta sedan, we actually prefer the Jetta Sportwagen, since it has more in common with the smaller Volkswagen Golf. Both cars share the same sporty front end and many of the same high-quality interior pieces. If you want a fuel-efficient alternative to an SUV, look no further." — Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate