With the world ever so slowly beginning to free up again after the Covid pandemic, your thoughts might be turning to planning a big getaway from it all – or, in other words, you’re considering putting together a long road trip, rather than just getting on an aeroplane and flying to the Costa del Sol like usual. But which are the best cars for such an intrepid motoring adventure? Read on to find out our top 10 vehicles for heading out there and seeing the world in a whole new way.
1. Ford Mustang 5.0 V8 Convertible
Best for a…: Route 66 homage.
The first car on our list is an obvious one. Think road trips, think driving the 2448-mile entirety of Route 66 from downtown Chicago all the way out to the Santa Monica Pier in California. ‘The Mother Road’ takes you across 3 time zones and 8 states of the USA, showing you some great sights along the way, and what better car to epitomise this slice of Americana than a convertible Ford Mustang? Of course, leasing a Mustang soft-top in the UK and then getting it shipped over to Chicago isn’t going to be the easiest thing in the world to do for your holidays, so perhaps think of a homage to Route 66 over on these shores – perhaps driving along the A66 for numerical neatness, or going full east-to-west in the UK from Lowestoft to Pen Dal-aderyn in Wales… OK, maybe not, but how about travelling from John o’ Groats to Land’s End, all without using motorways? With a soft-top Mustang and a 5.0-litre V8 burring away up front, the length, particular itinerary and grandiosity of your Route 66 homage merely boils down to the scope of your imagination – because the Ford will make this journey feel deeply special, whatever you ultimately decide to do.
2. Tesla Model 3 Performance
Best for a…: Summer jaunt to the Nordkapp.
The Nordkapp is the northernmost point of the European mainland and it becomes a magnet for tourists in the 2 to 3 months of summer Norway gets, mainly because of its striking and remote beauty. So why not get a ferry across to the bottom of Norway and then head on up there in your car? Not only will you get to see one of the most spectacular landscapes of all in this northern country, but you’ll have an ‘extreme’ landmark at the end of the trip which you can tick off on your own personal bucket list. But why do it in a Tesla Model 3, you might ask? Isn’t driving an electric car all that way going to be difficult, especially in a colder climate? Well… no, actually. Because Norway has been an ‘early adopter’ of electric vehicles (EVs), it in truth has one of the best Tesla Supercharger networks in the world, with ultra-rapid recharging points stretching right up the Scandinavian country from south to north. So you should be able to see the Nordkapp (and all the rest of Norway) in your Model 3 Performance, with its 340-mile range, with no bother at all.
Best for a…: Lengthy glamping trip.
Could we really have suggested anything else for this? Sure, road trips can be all about the journey and less about the destination, with many people using the long stretches of time in the car to make a jaunt feel special. But why not make the best of both worlds in the magnificent Volkswagen California camper van? It might not be able to tear up sinuous mountain passes like a supercar would, yet its high driving position and quality interior allow you to amble along in it, sight-seeing to your heart’s content in ultimate luxury. Better still, when you’ve had enough driving for one day in the Cali, you can pitch it up and sleep in the thing at the end of the night. This, frankly, is the ultimate glamping experience – not sleeping in a yurt somewhere in the depths of Shropshire. It gives you the freedom of any road you care to choose, safe in the knowledge that your bed is coming with you no matter which point of the compass you follow.
4. Mercedes-AMG A45S
Best for a…: The North Coast 500.
Since Visit Scotland, the main tourist board north of the border, decided to link together a series of majestic driving roads at the very top of the country into one official 500-mile loop, holidaymakers have been flocking to the North Coast 500 ever since – providing a monetary boost for the more remote parts of the Scottish mainland. The route starts at Inverness Castle and heads out west, before picking up some truly spectacular coast roads that carry you up and over the very top of the mainland of the British Isles to Thurso and then John o’ Groats, before you head back down the A9 to Inverness. The problem is, the NC500 – as it is known in the shorthand – has become almost too popular for its own good, so it can often be thronged with slow-moving tourist vehicles, camper vans and coaches as a result. What you need, then, is something small, wieldy, possessed of huge power for overtaking opportunities (as and when they safely arise), and preferably with 4-wheel drive, for both added traction and the sure-footedness that will undoubtedly be needed in Scotland’s famously capricious climate. And, thankfully, the 421hp, AWD Mercedes AMG A45S hyper-hatch fits the bill perfectly; it’s the ultimate NC500 machine!
5. Toyota Supra 3.0
Best for a…: Tour of European track days.
You fancy going to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium for an open track-day meeting. Or you’re going to break your duck at trying out the infamous Nürburgring Nordschleife toll road, aka the ‘Green Hell’. Or maybe you’re going to ‘pop’ down to Ascari, just outside Ronda in southern Spain, to have a look at what a race resort is really like. Clearly, you’re not going to be taking the kids – they’d be bored stiff by this sort of venture. And so there’s only going to be 2 of you, maximum, making the pilgrimage. You therefore need a car that’s practical enough to take plenty of luggage, comfortable enough to do the long distances on public roads between home and your preferred race circuit (or circuits, if you’re bagging more than one on the trip) in graceful style, and which must then be entertaining in the extreme when you get it to the track in question. The best car for this job is therefore the 3.0-litre Toyota Supra – it has a whopping 290-litre boot, complete with a big hatch for easy access, it can cruise smoothly with the best of them, and then its 340hp turbocharged straight-6 engine and rear-wheel-drive chassis will put a smile on your face once you cut loose out on the circuit.
6. Volvo XC90
Best for a…: Long family vacation.
If you’re planning on going lengthy distances in the car with a young family onboard, you’re going to need something big, comfortable and capable of swallowing clobber. That inevitably means a 7-seat SUV and our favourite for the job is Sweden’s Mk2 Volvo XC90. It comes with a variety of plug-in hybrid petrol-electric drivetrains but the best thing about this is that, where rival SUVs with plug-in capabilities have to lose their rear-most row of seats or sacrifice some boot space for the stowage of battery packs and electric motors, the XC90 has to make no such concessions – it was designed with electrification in mind from the start. Not only that, but it’s a beautiful thing to look at and sit in, and it'll whirr you through hundreds of miles in a single hit in the epitome of luxury, comfort and near-silence. Apart from the kids asking ‘are we nearly there yet?’ at every 15-minute interval from way back in row 3 of the seating, that is…
7. Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
Best for a…: Guilt-free trip to the Alps.
You’ve booked to go skiing at Val Thorens but you can’t turn up in some bellowing V8 petrol-powered behemoth, as it wouldn’t be ethical in these climate-conscious times. Similarly, you’re not about to drive the 700-odd miles down there in a Renault Zoe, as the journey to the Alps wouldn’t be a huge amount of fun in the first place and then you’re going to turn up at one of the most desirable, fashionable destinations in the world in the electric equivalent of a Ford Fiesta. Instead, you need something prestigious but electric, something good at motorway driving yet capable of a bit of light off-roading and wintry driving skills at the far end. Something big enough to take cases in its boot and look good with a set of skis strapped to its roof. Step forward, then, the Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo. Doesn’t matter whether you go for the ‘entry-level’ 4 or the top-dog Turbo S, this lifestyle EV estate is sure to turn heads for all the right reasons as you approach your chosen pistes, because it’s utterly brilliant and zero emissions, to boot.
8. Audi S8
Best for a…: South of France escapade.
You need something discreet. Something fast. Which can shove a bit. Then you want the Audi S8, just like Larry did that time. It might look like a sombre executive car that’s best reserved for wafting VIPs from the airport to a central business hotel in some large European city somewhere, but the S8 has a 4.0-litre biturbo V8 related to the one found in the Audi RS6 under its bonnet, which means 571hp and a sub-4-second 0-62mph time. So if, say, you needed to quickly pop into the middle of Nice and then very suddenly leave Nice again at high speed, there is no better car for evading the relevant authorities… sorry, we mean, other holiday traffic, than the subtle but superpowered Audi S8.
9. BMW 540i xDrive Touring
Best for a…: All-corners mega-trip.
No car can do so many varied things as well as the BMW 540i xDrive Touring. A kind of ‘master of all trades, jack of none’, if you will. So if you’re thinking of doing it all on your road trip – as in, putting pins into a map of Europe in as widespread a pattern as you can think of and then linking them all together in one epic expedition – this is definitely the car for you. It’s the Touring (estate), so the boot is more than big enough for all your cases, although if you need to carry more stuff you can strap more clobber to its roof rails. The interior is high-tech, sumptuously appointed and spacious, so long driving distances are going to be done in unsurpassed luxury. Its 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-6 petrol with mild-hybrid technology will achieve up to 35mpg on the combined cycle, which is incredibly frugal on fuel considering it has 333hp and will fire the 540i from 0-62mph in just 5.2 seconds. It’s a BMW 5 Series underneath, so the chassis is sensational for those times when you encounter those enticing and deserted driving roads, and yet with xDrive AWD traction it’ll cope with the worst weather Europe can throw at you with aplomb. In short, point the BMW 540i xDrive Touring in any direction you like and just keep driving – because it will comfortably deal with anything that comes its way in the aftermath.
10. Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
Best for a…: An off-road excursion!
What if your road trip doesn’t actually take place on roads? What if you’ve found some remote scenery that you can drive through in something rugged and tough? Then rejoice: you’ll be wanting a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Even though it’s optimised for off-roading, if you’ve got a long stretch on the public highways in the first place just to get to your scenic automotive playground, the Wrangler will soak that up easily. And then, when you get it away from the tarmac, the Rubicon will come into its own. You can even remove large parts of its bodywork and glasshouse if you want, turning the Jeep into kind of a huge beach buggy on stilts if you’re in sunnier climes. Genuinely, for those who want to venture off into the wild yonder, the Wrangler Rubicon 4-door has no peers which are similarly affordable.