This past weekend, I took a bit of a drive. Well, to be honest, it was slightly more than a “bit” of a drive. I drove 1,400 miles across North America, for a total of 24 total hours behind the wheel in a span of three days. This gave me quite a lot of time to think. My mind danced through an incredible array of topics, but kept returning to the road and to the cars on it. As the hours flew by and the miles slowly racked up on my odometer, I looked at the other cars on the highway, mentally ranking them in terms of their usefulness for a trip like mine.
As it’s summer, you owe it to yourself to take a few days to enjoy the nice weather and see something new.
Before we get to the five best cars to do that in, there were some vehicles that almost made the cut and still deserve a mention.
Ford Explorer: It carried me halfway across the country in sumptuous comfort last weekend. It’s also like driving an Abrams tank, which can keep you entertained for at least half your voyage.
Toyota Prius: Perfect for those who want to save on gas, fear sunlight and regularly read David Foster Wallace books. Its hyper-miling capabilities can’t be understated, nor can the intense amount of hatred it will earn you.
Ford Mustang Convertible: It’s nice to travel across the country with the wind in your hair, especially in one of Detroit’s most iconic creations. It becomes less nice when an inspection reveals that the suspension was designed by William the Conqueror and that it burns through fuel faster than a flaming oil rig. However, it isn’t as offensively terrible as the Chrysler Sebring convertible, which everyone over the age of 60 who has lost the will to live owns. If you’re looking for a convertible to do your trip, this is probably your best bet.
Bentley Continental GT: The road trip car for plutocrats that have made fortunes in things like aluminum, drug running and renting out time with their female friends, this is the only car I can think of that regularly attracts more hate than the Toyota Prius. This is a shame, as it’s actually a remarkable machine. It’s W-12 engine will waft you across the country on a silent cloud of the protests of your exploited workers, and its quilted leather seats will cradle you in a tender embrace as you swerve madly to avoid the bricks thrown at you out of trucks in West Virginia. On second thought, it’s better to fly.
Now, without further ado, the five best cars for the Great American Roadtrip:
5) Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon
Despite its age, this 90s throwback has a lot going for it in the road trip game. Models that still work come standard with a 5.0 or 5.7-liter V-8, depending on which engine the manufacturers decided to throw in on the day it was built. In addition to the large, powerful engine, the wagon body allows for a maximum amount of cargo space. This car also has some serious sentimental value, as, for many years, this was the vehicle of choice for families on long trips. Bonus points if you can find one with the original fake wood paneling.
4) Honda Odyssey
What the station wagon was to families of yesteryear, the minivan is to the families of today. While it would be lovely if we could all drive hyper exotic Italian supercars across the nation, reality rudely prevents this. It is very hard to fit multiple suitcases, your spouse, two children and a panting Labrador into a Lamborghini Gallardo, no matter how creatively you use the trunk. That’s where the minivan comes in. Right now, there is simply no better way to transport a family and everything that they could possibly need for a weekend away. When it comes to minivans, the Odyssey is the best available by a large margin, despite its woeful infotainment system, which appears to run on Windows 95.
3) Volvo Wagon
In many ways, the Volvo wagon is a logic-driven, compromise vehicle. Honestly, it doesn’t look good, its gas mileage isn’t spectacular and it will never win any of the races that you get into in the middle of Ohio while trying to avoid dying from boredom. However, it does provide freakish storage space, legendary reliability and, more so than any other car on this list, safety. Volvos go with safety like Scions go with hair gel and regret. They’re synonymous. That’s a good thing on a long road trip.
2) Jeep Grand Cherokee
To be honest, most midsize American SUVs could be put into this spot. The Jeep barely edges them out simply due to its extreme versatility. A top of the line Grand Cherokee comes complete with endless gadgets, decent fuel economy and the ability to drive through any road conditions. It has a supremely comfortable ride and enough space to bring along anyone and anything you need.
1) Volkswagen Minibus
Are you stressed over Honda’s infotainment system and the Buick’s use of the precious forest as an exterior decoration? Are you still concerned about the OPEC oil embargo? Are you one of the few people who aren’t lying when they claim to actually like the Grateful Dead? If so, you probably already own a VW Minibus and should simply stop reading this article. If not, you may want to invest in one all the same. You can pick one up cheap in most areas. There is room to sleep, carry enormous amounts of cargo and play a half court game of basketball – all at once. The VW Minibus is, without a doubt, the most iconic road trip vehicle in American history. It’s rolled through history and shows no signs of slowing down.