Buying Guides

2018 Best Vehicles for Summer Road Trips

Make it a summer to remember with the right wheels

Wade Thiel, Senior Staff Writer

With the summer months here, it's a good time to think about road trips. One of the most important parts of a fun road trip is the car. You need a vehicle that's well-suited to the trip. Do you travel with the whole family or just your significant other? Do you hit twisty roads or are you a highway cruiser? Getting the right car for your style of travel will mean you enjoy vacationing even more. Here are some of the best road trip vehicles available for the 2018 model year.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica

Best

for Family Trips

  • PROS: Fantastic cargo space, strong V6, good steering and handling for a minivan, top-notch infotainment and rear-seat entertainment.
  • CONS: Throttle lag, a bit tough in tight parking spaces and urban environments.

If you have a big family that you like to take summer vacations with, look no further than the Chrysler Pacifica. With three rows of comfortable seating, a cavernous cargo area, fantastic rear-seat entertainment system for the kiddos, and one of the best infotainment systems in the business, the Pacifica is not only the best minivan for road trips, it’s one of the best minivans you can buy. Thanks to a strong V6 engine and good driving dynamics, the entire family is bound to enjoy the journey just as much as the vacation destination.

2018 Dodge Durango

Best

for families who tow

  • PROS: Comfortable and spacious, strong powertrain options, capable of towing a heavy trailer, excellent infotainment system, masculine exterior, and spacious cargo area.
  • CONS: Interior materials could be better, addition of rear-seat entertainment system takes up interior storage space.

When we drove the Durango at an event, a Dodge PR representative called it the ultimate dad-mobile. What he meant was that the vehicle is masculine and powerful while still being extremely practical. With either a V6 or V8 under the hood, the model comes with plenty of power. It also has three-rows of comfortable seating and a spacious cargo area. From a technology standpoint, the model has FCA’s fantastic Uconnect system, and there’s an available rear-seat entertainment system. Pair that with the fact that it can tow up to 8,700 lbs when properly equipped, and you have a vehicle that’s basically ready for any kind of trip you can imagine.

2018 BMW 4 Series Convertible

Best

for sunshine lovers

  • PROS: Convertible top goes down quickly, handles well, strong engine lineup, top-notch interior materials, and comfy seats.
  • CONS: Putting the top down reduces your cargo space, rear seats are a little tight.

There are lots of convertibles out there. A small roadster might be a hoot to drive, but the tiny trunk is limiting. There are several four-seat convertibles out there, but one of the best for road trips is the BMW 4 Series Convertible. It drives wonderfully on any road, offers plenty of power, and it has a pretty spacious trunk by convertible standards, even with the top down. The model has about 13 cubic feet of space with the top up and all of 8 cubic feet with the top folded. That’s plenty of room for some vacation bags. If it’s just you and your significant other you can always throw additional gear in the back seats, too. That might not be such a bad idea, as the rear seats are a little too tight for backseat passengers to enjoy themselves over a long haul.

2018 Genesis G80 Sport

 
  • PROS: Strong twin-turbo engine, supreme comfort, excellent warranty coverage, plenty of room to stretch out.
  • CONS: Heavy curb weight, interior provides almost too much isolation.

Looking for a luxury sedan that makes for an excellent road trip vehicle? Look no further than the Genesis G80 Sport. Whether you’re cruising down the highway for hours on end or shooting along a curvy mountain road, the G80 Sport delivers. It is a little too heavy for the truly technical roads, but it still performs admirably, and with an interior as sumptuous as the G80’s is, you’re bound to enjoy yourself no matter where you’re driving. It’s comfortable for five people and sports a large trunk. All this at a price much lower than BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Audi, or any other luxury automaker.

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Best

for hypermilers

  • PROS: Excellent fuel economy, bold new look for 2018, good handling, much improved infotainment system, smooth ride, comfortable for all occupants.
  • CONS: Brakes can be touchy, CVT feels a little slow.

If you want a real fuel-sipper for long highway road trips, look no further than the new 2018 Toyota Camry. It is sportier and much better than ever before. The 2018 model year takes the Camry to new heights, and the hybrid model just adds to the equation. With a fuel economy of 51 mpg city and 53 mpg highway, you’re going to be able to do most of your summer vacation road trip on one tank of gas. Pair that with sleek exterior looks, high-quality interior materials, comfy seats, and a spacious trunk, and you have the perfect road trip machine.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Best

for off-roaders

  • PROS: Plenty of strong engine choices, capable off-road and on-road, excellent infotainment system, comfortable and spacious interior.
  • CONS: No third row of seating, design is getting a bit dated, stopping distances could be better on most trims.

Going off-road during your summer vacation? The Jeep Grand Cherokee has you covered. Jeep’s top-of-the-line model offers unparalleled off-road performance in its segment and an on-road driving experience that’s very respectable. The model comes with FCA’s superb Uconnect infotainment system, comfortable seats, and higher class interior materials than you might expect. It also has plenty of room for bags and other gear. Jeep offers a variety of trim levels all with their own unique twist on the Grand Cherokee’s formula, so you can find the version that best fits your lifestyle.

2018 Subaru Outback

 
  • PROS: Tons of space to get comfortable, quiet and upscale-feeling cabin, large cargo area, mild off-road capability.
  • CONS: Dull to drive, annoying CVT, slow infotainment system.

Is the Jeep Grand Cherokee overkill for how you plan to use your vehicle? Consider the Subaru Outback. With a good standard all-wheel-drive system and plenty of mild off-road capability, the Outback is a perfect happy medium between a typical car and a serious off-road machine. Its spacious, upscale cabin and large cargo area make this model a smart choice for a variety of road trips, especially if you plan on enjoying the great outdoors. The infotainment system is good and offers plenty of features, but it’s a little on the slower side, which can be frustrating. Also, the driving experience isn’t exactly thrilling, so don’t expect to feel like a racecar driver on a twisty road. All that said, you can go most places in an Outback, and when you arrive, you'll be fresh and ready to explore.

What to look for in a good vacation vehicle

  • Plenty of comfy seating and cargo space.
  • Good entertainment options and numerous charging ports.
  • Enough horsepower and good driving dynamics.
  • Smooth ride and available adaptive cruise control.

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