Nearly half of all Americans take a summer vacation, traveling an average distance of 284 miles each-way. To cover that much pavement and still be in a good mood when you arrive, you’d better be in the right vehicle. We rounded up several cars that’ll make your summer travel easier, depending on the type of vacationer you are.
For the large family:
When you’re heading out the door on vacation, the last thing you want to worry about is squeezing your luggage and recreational gear into the car, like a complicated game of Tetris. We found SUVs and trucks that can easily accommodate your family and your camping equipment, beach chairs, dogs, and a complete sand castle construction set.
- Chevrolet Suburban — The key to maintaining family harmony is having a third row. Up to eight passengers fit comfortably in the Chevy Suburban, so each kid can have their own personal space. Plus, that third row can be folded down to offer up 76.7 cubic square feet of cargo space for your luggage.
- Chrysler Pacifica — This minivan also has a third row, but it’s much more accessible for young children to squeeze in and out of thanks to a pair of captain’s seats serving as the second row, making this a good option for younger families. The second row can even fold into the floor to increase cargo space.
- GMC Sierra — Sure, a pickup truck has plenty of room for rafts, surfboards, and camping gear, but what about cabin space for the family? Enter the GMC Sierra, with enough space for six family members to sit comfortably. The crew-cab model offers four doors, for seamless entry and exit.
- Infiniti QX80 — A luxury SUV with enough V8 horsepower under the hood that parents will never have to hear cries of “Are we there yet?” from the backseat. Often compared to the Escalade, the QX80 offers nearly all the same luxury with a smaller price tag.
For the outdoor enthusiasts:
Summer reawakens the dormant adventurer in us all. Camping beneath the stars, reaching the summit on an alpine trail, navigating waterways by canoe — it’s all accessible if you have the right vehicle.
- Jeep Wrangler — The Wrangler is still the SUV to beat when it comes to extreme adventuring. Whether you’re crawling across rock, cruising the beach, or fording a stream, the Wrangler pulls through. Plus, most Wranglers can be customized to add any number of performance parts, including suspension lift kits, off-road lighting kits, and rock rails.
- Subaru Outback — The Subaru Outback was designed for recreation. The wagon boasts an impressive 8.7 inches of ground clearance, adjustable roof-rack rails for kayaks and storage bins, and an optional tow hitch for lugging mountain bikes or even small-sized trailers. An optional number pad lock means you can safely stash your keys outside your vehicle before hitting the trail or hopping in your kayak.
- Land Rover Discovery Sport — If you like the feel of a luxury SUV but don’t mind getting it a little dirty, the Land Rover Discovery Sport is a good choice. The compact SUV offers up 60 cubic feet of cargo space and 8.35 inches of ground clearance, making it a sturdy choice for off-roading. If you’re feeling extra courageous, the Land Rover can even climb a 45-degree incline.
- Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro — Built for hitting the old dusty trail, the 4Runner TRD Pro features Crawl Control driving mode for navigating particularly bumpy stretches. A quarter-inch aluminum front skid plate bolted below the grill shields the undercarriage from harm.
For the long-distance roadtrippers:
Nothing says summer like the all-American, cross-country road trip. Pick a car with better gas mileage and that means less time at the pump and more time cruising the open road.
- Toyota Prius – This classic hybrid has set the gold standard, earning up to 58 mpg in the city and 53 mpg on the highway. The Prius is a fairly affordable hybrid that’s highly ranked among compact cars for its roomy interior and smooth ride.
- Kia Niro — If you require a bit more room but don’t want to sacrifice fuel economy, try this hybrid subcompact SUV. It boasts up to 52 mpg in the city and 49 mpg on the highway. The Kia Niro is certainly an eco-friendly SUV alternative to the typical gas-guzzling utility vehicles.
- Mazda Mazda3 – The 2016 Mazda3 is not a hybrid, but it nearly performs like one. Enjoy 30 mpg in the city and up to 41 mpg on the highway in this versatile vehicle, available as a hatchback or sedan.
- Volvo V60 — This stylish hatchback is a far cry from those old wood-paneled station wagons of yesteryear. But it still feels just right on a cross-country family excursion. Upgrade to the T5 Premier for all-wheel-drive and other creature comforts.
For a windswept look:
Picture this: the sun on your shoulders, the wind in your hair, and the Pacific Coast Highway stretched out endlessly before you and your cherry red convertible. Someone should write a song about it.
- Chevy Camaro SS Convertible — A speed demon encased in fittingly hair-raising sheetmetal, the Camaro SS Convertible provides all the power, handling, and steering you’ll need to turn the open road into your own personal racecourse.
- Mazda MX-5 Miata — The MX-5 is just like your summer vacation—light, sporty, and way too quick. A throwback to roadsters of yore, this updated version of the 1990 Miata feels like a classic with all the modern trimmings.
- Ford Mustang GT — Among the most iconic cars ever made, the Ford Mustang GT still looks as good as it did back in 1969. (Okay, maybe not quite that good.) Do yourself a favor and splurge on the 435-hp, 5.0-liter V-8. Your adrenal glands will thank you.
- BMW M4 — The BMW M-series is synonymous with performance, and with good reason. These machines zip through green lights and hug turns tight. Wearing loose hats with the top down is not advised.
For an all-American summer:
Sure signs of summer: hot dogs on the grill, Fourth of July fireworks, and the roar of American muscle. Your friends will forget all about those fireworks when you pull up in one of these rides.
- Chevy Corvette Z51 — The quintessential American sports car, remastered. Upgrade to the Z51 performance package for an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, improved suspension, and more stuff you’ll definitely thank us for.
- Dodge Challenger Hellcat — The Hellcat specs look like something out of a sci-fi movie: 707 horses. 199 mph top speed. 650 foot-pounds of torque. All at the push of a pedal.
- Shelby Mustang GT350 — Go from stop sign to 60 mph in a measly 4.3 seconds in Ford’s super-powered version of its pony car.
- Dodge Viper — Like its namesake, the Viper exudes power and precision. Parking one in the driveway will set you back, but it’s about the most fun that money can buy.