Four for the Road
The four best cars for your highway vacation.
Summer is here, and there’s nothing more enjoyable than a good, old-fashioned road trip. Yet some cars are better than others when it comes to traveling in style and getting more smiles to the mile. Here we present four different rides for four different types of people.
Best for the Newly coupled: Audi A3 Sedan
Congratulations! You’ve met the partner of your dreams, and one of the early dreams of this new pairing is to hit the open road. However, reality does loom in the form of mortgage/rent payments, and although you both swoon over European style, you do have to keep to your collective senses when it comes to the budget. The answer is the Audi A3 Sedan. The A3 range includes a four-door sedan as well as a “Sportback” electric car and a compact convertible (which can fit four).
The sedan makes the most sense in that it provides European quality and panache while also delivering great fuel economy, spirited performance, and a bevy of high-tech features. Seating for five means that the family can expand a bit before a larger vehicle is needed. A turbocharged four-cylinder sends power to all the wheels should you option it, so this A3 is A-1 in inclement weather. Typical Audi build quality means vault-like doors, Teutonic touches (such as the Bauhaus-minimalist dashboard), and a strong resemblance to the $100k+ machines sitting nearby in the showroom.
Road trip top tip: This “baby” of the lineup can also be optioned with a 14-speaker, 705-watt, Bang & Olufsen sound system.
Base price: $32,500
Engine/horsepower: Two-liter inline-4 turbo with either 180 or optional 228 horsepower
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Drivetrain: Front or optional “quattro” all-wheel drive
Where to buy: Audi Colorado Springs, audicoloradosprings.com
Best for parents: Cadillac Escalade
Some say that one cannot have true luxury unless there is ample space. When a road trip looms and the confines of a sedan just won’t cut it, there’s one answer for the family that wishes to travel together and, um, not murder each other: the Escalade by Cadillac. Starting at around $75,000, the ne plus ultra of American SUVs is by no means to be confused with lesser sport-utilities.
The Escalade boasts a length of at least 17 feet (the stretch ESV version is almost two feet longer); a weight of around two and a half tons; and a honkin’, stonkin’ V-8 with 420 horsepower. Everything about the Escalade says “large and luxurious.” Smooth, silky leather jackets the seats almost everywhere your skin touches, and polished wood adorns the cabin much like that in a Maine yacht. The Escalade can seat up to eight in comfort, and it has an available Blu-Ray player with a nine-inch viewing screen, which means that, on a road trip, there’s less “are we there yet?” Moreover, more room means more space to store drinks and snacks. Luxury indeed.
Road trip top tip: The Slade has an interior rear-view mirror that streams rear-facing video, which provides an unobstructed field of view as compared with an old-fashioned glass mirror.
Base price: $75,200
Engine/horsepower: 6.2-liter V-8 with 420 horsepower
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Drivetrain: Rear or optional four-wheel drive
Where to buy: Red Noland Cadillac, rednolandcadillac.com
Best for empty nesters: Jaguar XJ
“Hooray—they’re gone!” Er, I mean, finally, you have raised your children to leave the house, and now you and your partner possess a desire to ride the black ribbon that runs over this gorgeous land. There’s only one option, and it’s elegant (it’s used by the British Prime Minister), it has a racing pedigree (its maker won the 24 Hours of LeMans race seven times), and it has more wood and leather inside than a Ralph Lauren store: It’s the Jaguar XJ, which is the English marque’s range-topping sedan.
Featuring more flavors than an ice cream shop, the Jag can be had in short or stretched-wheelbase form, and with a supercharged V-6 or V-8, this cat can roar with anywhere from 340 to 575 horsepower. Traditional, Old-World materials synergize with high-tech features, such as an 825-watt Meridian sound system and a vivid, 10-inch navigation screen. The XJ carries on Jaguar tradition by offering a soft ride and swift acceleration, and the option of all-wheel drive makes this cat sure-clawed on slick surfaces.
Road trip top tip: The “monarch” of the range, the XJL Portfolio, boasts cooling in all four seats as well as massaging functions for the thrones up front.
Base price: $75,700
Engine/horsepower: Three-liter, supercharged V-6 with 340 horsepower or optional supercharged V-8 with either 470 or 575 horsepower
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Drivetrain: Rear or optional all-wheel drive
Where to buy: Jaguar Colorado Springs, jaguarcs.com
Best for the Newly Single: Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Some say there is a lid for every pot, but until you find your matching lid, there’s no better car for a solo road trip than the American legend: the cozy, two-seat, Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. It’s been “America’s sports car” since its debut in 1953, and in 2019, it stands among the world’s best as an everyday, usable supercar. Remove the standard targa roof, hit the open highway, and watch your cares whoosh away. Power is supplied by a 460-horsepower V-8 that is surprisingly nonintrusive inside the car.
The modern ’Vette is light years away from the ones offered when you were in high school: They’re rock solid, they ride smoothly, and they have all the bells and whistles of luxury cars, including a sumptuous, leather-wrapped interior, a windshield-projected “heads-up” display, and a front-mounted camera that displays what that low air dam might encounter during parking maneuvers. You’re more mature than when you were in high school, so you probably don’t care about the 3.7-second 0-to-60 mph time or a top speed of 195. What matters most in the Stingray is that it’s one of the few conveyances that can clear the mind, which is great therapy for the souls inside it.
Road trip top tip: The current generation of ’Vette is the last that will be front-engined, according to those in the know. The eighth-generation car will have the same layout as a Bugatti: mid-engine.
Base price: $56,000
Engine/horsepower: 6.2-liter V-8 with 460 horsepower
Transmission: Seven-speed manual or optional eight-speed automatic
Drivetrain: Rear drive
Where to buy: Daniels Long Chevrolet, danielslong.com; Mike Maroone Chevrolet, mikemaroonechevroletnorth.com.