When it’s time to make tracks — whether you’re escaping the daily grind or heading to the next adventure — few things will make or break your time on the open road more than the vehicle you’re piloting. Sometimes it’s best to tailor your ride to the destination; sometimes, the car itself should play more of a starring role in your road trip story than your map waypoints do. Why not go all out? From fun-to-fling to made-to-cruise to needs-to-be-seen, we dreamed up our ten fantasy road trip cars, one ideal for every getaway.
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If you want to bomb around on snowy mountain roads with three friends.
A Ferrari with four-wheel-drive. At first blush the notion seems blasphemous, but consider that Ferraris, while beautiful and perfect in so many ways, are all inherently evil. Ferarris are sin on rolling stock: a practice in pure, unbridled indulgence to the tune of speed, wealth and ostentation. So check the blasphemy option box and get a svelte, four-seat (the first “F”) hatchback coupe with four (the other “F”) V12-powered wheels. Skiing road trip? A slalom though rainy mountain roads? Perfectly dry roads where you don’t even need four wheel drive? All perfect. Hand us the keys to a vicious, grip-heavy prancing horse and we’ll find a reason to get away.
’78 Firebird Trans Am Special Edition
If you’re running from the altar and/or the law (mustache not included).
Let’s say you’re a bootlegger running interference for your speeding, semi-trailer driving, booze-smuggling accomplice and his dog and you pick up a runaway bride along the way, attracting the suspicious eye of an unshakable sheriff. Or let’s say you just want a big, flamboyant, devil of a car born in the oil-crisis-and-disco decade and made especially for melting asphalt — with T-tops and a gold screamin’ eagle on the hood, to boot. If you’ve got a mullet, even better: this baby’s got muscle out front, room (and a couple extra seats) out back. (Full disclaimer: no matter how pristine your ’78, you’ll never hold a candle to Burt. So don’t kid yourself.)
Tesla Model S
If you can stop for several hours every few hundred miles.
The future of road trip travel is here: 300-mile bursts (maximum range between charges) in a whisper-quiet, roomy, tech-laden sedan that’ll trounce near everything else on the road and at the drag strip. Tesla’s all-electric Model S sedan may look unassuming, but because the batteries are stored in a flat tray under the cabin’s floor, there’s more passenger space than you’d expect. Almost 100% of the car’s functionality — save the actual driving part — is controlled via a humongous touch screen console in the dash. And because electric motors develop 100% of their torque at zero RPM, this stealthy sedan will rocket to 60 in just over 4 seconds.
VW Golf GTI
If you’re a practical performance nut on a budget.
Volkswagens are notoriously cute. Older models are somewhat cartoonish, but even back in the day there was a certain je nais se quoi about VWs that made you sort of happy just looking at ’em. Call it the Love Bug effect. Sure, the Golf GTI has compromised over the generations, adding creature comforts here, a rounded feature there — plus a lot of weight all over — but it’s kept the important bits in place: a six-speed bolted to a 200-horsepower engine; four doors and a hatch out back; not to mention fling-able driving dynamics and plaid upholstery. It’s just right for a few fun friends and the open road.
Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
If you want to turn heads on- and off-road.
If your adventures involve less-than-paved thoroughfares but you can’t stoop so low as to get a proper truck (can’t have the Joneses pegging you as tacky), Land Rover’s got the solution for you. Stylish and suitable for the road or light trail (or just the “two track” between the country road and your cabin in the woods), the Evoque is a small crossover with striking concept car looks. Even with its off-road cred, sticking to populated places is what this Land Rover’s good at. And should you come across a freak snow storm or minor flood, you’ll be able to wade through with aplomb.
Rolls Royce Phantom
If you’re a high roller looking to roll in a Rolls.
Most road trips are a casual affair: you throw some duds in a weekend bag, toss it in the trunk and hit the road, hoping for clear skies and high mileage. But the elite do it in the back seat… of a Rolls Royce. Take the Phantom for a weekend in the country away from the proletariat, and remember you’ll need to put your driver up for the night, lest he bunk in the car (though who’d blame him?). Or ditch him entirely and drive for yourself, because this hand-built Brit is powered by a 6.8-liter V12. Packed with bespoke comfort, it’s also ogle-inducing and able to gobble miles of roadway without flinching. Though if you’ve got nearly half a million bucks to spend on a car, why not pay your vacation to come to you?
If your inner hippie wins out over every rational instinct you have.
After a long U.S.A. hiatus, the Eurovan reappeared for a while around the turn of the millennium. A perennial favorite among a very certain set of the population, the EuroVan was an updated take on the Westfalia vans of days past — vans converted into moving campers, replete with small kitchens and pop-up camper roofs. Last decade’s VW van offered a pop-up top option too, providing sleeping quarters for four people. VW wedged a 200-horse V6 under the hood (rather than in the far back as in its earlier iterations), nearly doubling the power of the original vehicle. If you’ve got no destination chosen and might end up camping out, why not camp in your ride? It’s what Cheech and Chong would do.
Porsche Cayenne Turbo
If you can’t fit all your friends in your 911.
Quite controversial when it was first announced (like its Panamera sedan sibling was years later), the Cayenne SUV is to Porsche what trilogies are to summer blockbusters: profitable and popular, even though the glory and success of the original instant classic was all we thought we wanted. But if it’s existential justification you need, note the Cayenne can go places its progenitor, the 911, cannot (which should be clear from a quick look at the two). The big, turbocharged SUV can swallow all your family’s luggage and still have room for, well, your family. It’ll tackle off-road duty, blast around the track at 172 MPH and hit 60 in less than 4.5 seconds. Not bad for a truck posing as a sports car… but is it really posing at all?
BMW E39 M5 Touring
If it existed.
Maybe the ultimate sleeper, the M5 has always been a drool-inducing fantasy for most car nuts. A souped-up version of BMW’s near-perfect 5 Series sport sedan, most M5s over the years haven’t been visually conspicuous, preferring to flex their muscle in less immediately obvious ways. The E39 generation might be the pinnacle of the M5 progeny — its clean, unassuming lines disguised a tire-burning, hairpin-ironing beast. A 400-horsepower, 5.0-liter V8 controlled by a six-sped Getrag shifter made quick work of the pavement. But the ultimate expression of the E39 M5 was the Touring version — a one-off wagon that never made it to production, despite how obviously incredible it would have been. Next time you’re going to kill our dreams, BMW, will someone please check with us first?
If you are eccentric. Or simply don’t value your own comfort (or life).
Man A is a principled individual, and owns a skeletal, frighteningly quick and agile British track car because he thinks every driving experience should be a pure one. He’ll take his toy for a quick spin downtown or on the track. Man A is charming and eccentric; he likes what he likes. Man ‘B’ is eccentric and does zany things because he is literally psychotic. He takes his skeletal British track car on long road trips because he has no regard for his hip joints or spine. He doesn’t have any luggage, doesn’t care about being rained upon or going deaf or getting stone chips in his face. He tries to pass semi trailers by driving beneath them. Though Man A and Man B have similar interests, they probably won’t see eye to eye on everything. But hot damn do they both have fun.