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The best cars for road trips

The best cars for road trips

The holidays are with us and you know what that means? Road trip!

Time to dust off the suitcases, fossick around for your swimmers and snorkel, load it all up and head out. Hey, don’t forget the kids while you’re at it!

And don’t forget that some cars are much better at the long haul than others. Bearing that in mind,  we’ve collected some of our favourites out of the CARS24 inventory for you to check out.

Happy travels!

Ford Everest

The Ford Everest is one of those vehicles that can just about do anything, which makes it pretty handy for a road trip.

For a start, it’s an SUV that has up to seven seats, so it can fit a heap of people. Of course, row three is very much for shorter humans. And of course, if you do choose to fill the Everest to the gunwales with people, there’s not that much room left to haul luggage.

That’s when you attach a trailer. Thankfully, the Everest has a tow capacity up to 3100kg.

The Everest is based on the Ford Ranger ute, but it’s a nicer vehicle to drive and ride in over a distance because it’s quieter and has a different rear suspension design utilising coil springs that make it more compliant when it comes to dealing with bumps.

The Everest also upgrades from the Ranger in having a set-and-forget full-time all-wheel drive system that means you can drive on bitumen or gravel and not have to worry about twiddling any dials. You start doing that if you want to go seriously off-road and need low range or the locking rear diff.

If you don’t want any of that, there are cheaper rear-wheel drive Everest models as well.

The Everest comes with a choice of turbo-diesel engines - a gruffer and older 3.2-litre inline five-cylinder, or a 2.0-litre bi-turbo four-cylinder that mates with a busy 10-speed auto. Both do a decent job.

Holden Commodore

So maybe it sounds a bit risky to recommend a car that isn’t in production any more sold by a brand that doesn’t exist.

But the beauty of the Commodore is its commodious in size, very capable on rough Australian roads – for which its ride and handling was tuned – and pretty thrifty once you get out of town.

Now, a bit of a clarification here. We are talking about both the last of the locally-made Commodores, the VF, and the imported ZB here. They are very different cars but when it comes to their ability to road trip they do coalesce.

Among the VFs, we’d recommend opting for a 3.0- or 3.6-litre V6 with automatic transmission rather than the thirstier V8 that is also more expensive. Also, avoiding the tougher-riding sports-tuned suspensions of the SV6 and SS models might be a good idea.

The Sportwagon is also the better tourer than the sedan, offering much better space utilisation. A flaw in the sedan is the lack of a folding rear-seat, which limits ultimate luggage capacity.

The ZBs were offered as a hatch and wagon, both of which were very functional. But again remember, the sportier the chassis tune the harsher the ride and the bigger the engine the bigger the fuel bill.

Kia Carnival

Sometimes you just have to move the maximum amount of people and gear at the one time over a long distance. For those situations there aren’t many better choices than the Kia Carnival.

The Carnival excels for road trips because it is quiet and comfortable. Of course, it’s not one that would get the heart of a boy racer pumping, but it’s pretty cool if you get excited about bang for your buck in terms of space.

Even with all eight seats engaged there is still plenty of luggage space in the boot to stack some suitcases. And when you’re about to depart or have just arrived, the sliding side doors make entry and exit for passengers easy. Unlike some SUVs, you certainly don’t have to be Houdini to escape the third row.

The majority of Carnivals you will find on CARS24 come with a 3.3-litre V6 petrol engine that drives the front wheels via an automatic transmission. It is enthusiastic but does like a drink, which is understandable considering it is hauling a heavy load.

Harder to find is the 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel four-cylinder, which is far more frugal despite its smaller size and gives nothing away in terms of performance because of its significant pulling power.

And don’t forget, a relatively youthful Carnival will still be covered by Kia’s transferrable seven-year warranty.

Mazda CX-9

A multiple award winner in the family SUV segment, the CX-9 faces up to some mighty competition from the Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento and Toyota Kluger.

But there’s an added air of prestige the CX-9 produces over and above the competence we expect from all these vehicles. It’s a cool way to travel and not just because of the effective climate control!

The CX-9 can fit as many as seven passengers over three rows, although it’s really for kids back in row three. All of them – except maybe the passenger in the middle of row two – are well looked after by well-shaped and comfortable seating and a quiet cabin.

The CX-9 drives well for a vehicle this big and heavy. It is one that rewards the driver, although the passengers may feel the occasional bump penetrating their tranquil progress. That reflects a typical Mazda chassis set-up on the slightly firm side.

Progress is swift thanks to the 2.5-litre turbo-petrol engine that powers the CX-9, add in that sure-footed handling and a long road trip will be over sooner than you know it.

Lexus ES300H

Sometimes you just want to get where you’re going with a minimum of fuss and maximum of waft. That’s where the Lexus ES300H comes in.

Underneath an exterior with just the slightest suggestion of attitude and a beautifully appointed and spacious interior are the front-wheel drive mechanicals of the Toyota Camry.

But don’t hold that against the ES300H because those mechanicals are, if nothing else, reliable.

The ‘H’ in the name signifies this the version of the ES motivated by a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain. There’s no plug to attach a cable to or any range anxiety. Its two electric motors can only take charge at low speed and for a very brief amount of time.

Really, what the e-motor does is provide mostly unnoticed supplemental power to the 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine that aids performance and fuel economy.

Subaru Outback

Originally a long-legged version of the Subaru Liberty wagon, the Outback usurped the donor vehicle years ago.

Through the generations the Outback has earned a reputation as an outstanding crossover vehicle, equally capable of negotiating suburbia, highways, gravel roads and even moderately challenging bush tracks.

A constant of its evolution have been horizontally opposed (boxer) four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines and all-wheel drive grip. It’s a rare and effective combo.

Unlike some brands, Subaru doesn’t make a big deal about the localisation of its car for tough Aussie roads, but it’s done it for years and it really shows in the way the Outback makes comfortable progress.

The Outback allies that with a big cabin that offers sprawling space in the rear seat for two adult passengers (yes, theoretically three can fit) as well as lots of baggage space in the boot.

In fact it’s fair to say functionality is the emphasis for the Outback be it the driving, the accommodating or the cabin presentation. It’s not salubrious, but it is very effective.