Buying Guides

Road Trip Vehicles That Move You in Comfort and Style

Load it up, pack 'em in, and hit the open road

Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief

There's no bad time for a road trip (okay, maybe tornado season and the dead of winter are lesser choices), and getting out on the open road is good for the mind. But not every car is cut out for the long miles and long seat time for driver and passenger. We've chosen ten vehicles that stand out in the crowd. Each one of these vehicles boasts excellent levels of comfort, good cruising manners, and the kind of driving enjoyment that makes a difference between brutal exhausting from hours of driving and relaxation away from the rigors of daily life.

2017 Volvo XC90

Best

for the style conscious

  • PROS: The best front seats in the industry, excellent infotainment system, three rows of seating, great sound insulation.
  • CONS: Small storage cubbies in front aside from the deep armrest compartment, peculiar stop/start knob, four cylinders in spite of turbocharging and supercharging might feel hampered at higher elevations when the vehicle is packed with gear and bodies. Hybrid model is overpriced for the mediocre efficiency it delivers.

The XC90 is one of the best large crossovers we've ever driven, and there's good reason why. Not only does it have a beautiful exterior, it's truly comfortable inside for those seriously long trips on the open road. Step inside, and you're awash in a truly artful cabin that looks like none of its competitors. The top-trim gas model, the T6 Inscription, is truly quick thanks to turbocharging and supercharging. It drives very well but can't compete with the driving dynamics of the current Audi Q7.

2017 Dodge Durango

 
  • PROS: Aggressive and attractive styling, true 7-passenger capacity, easy to use Uconnect infotainment system, serious towing abilities, strong engine choices and even a monster 475 hp SRT version is available.
  • CONS: Thirsty with the V8 engine, plasticky interior bits.

This is one road-tripping SUV that takes its role seriously. The Durango is one of our favorite 7-passenger SUVs because it means it, with plenty of space for the family and the gear. For something this size, it actually drives surprisingly well and also provides plenty of utility for the long haul. The superb available dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system keeps the peace.

2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

 
  • PROS: The only full-sized hybrid sedan on the market, huge amounts of room for all occupants, great driving dynamics for such a large sedan, miserly fuel consumption, pretty quick for a hybrid, no longer looks geriatric.
  • CONS: Dash design could use an upgrade, infotainment system screen looks low rent.

Don't laugh at the Avalon. What started out as a car geared towards the AARP set is now a great car to drive and supremely comfortable. Set out on the open road in the hybrid version, and you'll get 40 city/39 highway. It also will travel under 20 mph in purely electric mode. There's also plenty of space for everyone, including your luggage.

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class

 
  • PROS: Ultra-smooth ride makes it a stilted S-Class, luxurious appointments, excellent engine options with solid power delivery, smooth new 9-speed automatic transmission, GLS450 can tow 7,500 lbs.
  • CONS: Gets seriously expensive when optioned out, third row is a bit cramped, no more diesel powertrain offered.

When it comes to big road trip steeds that cosset you, the GLS Class SUVs are excellent. There's gobs of room in the first two rows, fine leather and wood, as well as one of the best rides in SUV-dom. The new transmission shifts like butter and adds quickness, and if you truly want more, you can add features like a trailer hitch to bring your boat, temperature-controlled cupholders, power-flipping second-row seats, a self-parking system and a surround-view camera, depending on the packages you're willing to pony up for.

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Best

for trail lovers

  • PROS: Great on road and even better off road, extremely comfortable interior, excellent safety scores, well-appointed in affordable Limited trim, excellent SRT and Trackhawk versions are truly fast.
  • CONS: Firm ride may not be luxurious enough for some, handsome but undramatic styling may not be eyecatching enough compared to competitors, fuel economy is just ok.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee is the best it's ever been and just right for a family road trip thanks to its comfort, technology, space, and driving manners. The Uconnect infotainment system is easy to operate and can provide endless streaming audio for miles. Seamless controls for audio and climate make it easy to make adjustments while driving (and while the kids are screaming), and should you desire to go off-roading on your vacation, you're ready with the available Selec-Terrain Traction Control System with five modes.

2017 Honda Pilot

Best

for the large family

  • PROS: Good driving manners, truly cavernous space for people and stuff, more than respectable gas mileage for its size and segment.
  • CONS: Audio system needs functional knobs instead of touch controls for volume and tuning, automatic transmission is rough, looks like a minivan, access to third row is tough.

The Pilot is a capable vehicle for bigger families that need to tote a lot on vacation. The current generation has true 7-passenger capability and a whopping 83.9 cubic feet of storage with the 2nd and 3rd rows folded flat. You can even get a rear entertainment system that will ensure the kiddos remain entranced mile after mile. Just don't expect a lot from the front infotainment controls, which can be frustrating to use.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas

 
  • PROS: Real room for seven, good driving manners for such a big vehicle, well-executed interior with good fit and finish, affordable price for a German SUV.
  • CONS: Engine could use more pep in all trims, no all-wheel drive in 4-cylinder trim, small gear storage options in front.

The Touareg is going away, and the new Atlas is here, created for the American market and our large tastes. It couldn't come soon enough for the embattled VW brand, and it's just right for a family road trip with its ample space, real three-row capacity, and composed driving manners. It also happens to have an excellent 6-year/72K-mile bumper-to-bumper transferable warranty.

2017 Audi Q7

 
  • PROS: The best driving dynamics of any 7-passenger luxury SUV, beautifully executed interior, Audi Virtual cockpit is an excellent tech tool that makes driving easier and more entertaining, superb optional premium sound system is a pleasure to listen to.
  • CONS: Somewhat bland styling for such a pricey steed, could use more small gear storage options, tight third row.

The Q7 is one of those 7-passenger SUVs whose driving enjoyment is beyond expectation. Rather than dreading thousands of miles of open road, you'll look forward to helming this. It's even better with the great (but expensive) Adaptive Chassis package that gives the Q7 tauter handling. It also happens to be really, really comfortable, especially in the first and second rows.

What do you need in a superb road trip vehicle?

  • Comfortable seats all around.
  • Ample cargo and gear stowage space.
  • On center steering that doesn't require much adjustment on highways.
  • A smooth and quiet ride that doesn't sap occupant energy levels.
  • Good seating position and visibility.
  • Available adaptive cruise control with lane keep assist.

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