QotW: What’s the best road trip car for the whole family?

When car enthusiasts talk about the best drivers’ cars, it’s usually selfish. Taking off for a long drive in the Z is fantastic when you’re young and free, but once the kiddos come along you’ll something bigger. By all means, have your weekend sports car or GT, but why suffer when traveling with the brood? We’re looking for a vehicle that can carry two parents, 1-2 kids, and all associated gear for multi-day road trips. It should be reliable, comfortable for passengers, and get decent mileage. But — and this is the part that makes it challenging — it must also be fun to drive.

What’s the best road trip car for the whole family?

The best comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s your favorite automotive invention?

Answers from last week ranged from the practical, like Jeremy A.’s unassailable argument for radial tires or Jim Daniels‘ case for the 5-speed manual, to the whimsical, like kyushanerd‘s nomination for the high roof or Dimitry Mochkin‘s suggestion of the retractable headlight.

Alan elected the underappreciated moonroof, while, a different Alan made a strong case for the reliable Japanese car in general. speedie went for modern conveniences like heated seats and rain sensing wipers. We almost dismissed Kevin H.‘s appeal for blind spot warning systems, because aiming your mirrors properly will usually take care of the problem, However, as we read further we realized he was talking about the benefit of having those systems on other cars. We were totally convinced, and that’s why he’s this week’s winner:

Blind Spot Warning systems (BSW).
As a lover of pre 90s vehicles, most of the cars I have owned do not have the safety technology that most people take for granted today. Yeah my exhaust is usually boisterous and my automotive style leans more toward flamboyant, but the type of people who settle for bland CUVs and the largest monster truck they can afford (I live in Texas) aren’t the most “road aware” people.
I guess my favorite automotive invention should fall under Heard Immunity. The masses are being nannied so that I can safely drive my old, not always correctly working, sometimes-headlights-don’t-work, non-ABS, overpowered, windshield-wipers-are-for-show, death wagon… I mean; my classic Japanese daily.
I know that some of you probably drive SUVs or other “I’m too man enough to just get a minivan for my family” vehicles, but I thank you. Even you help keep the road fun and safe for me, who chooses to drive something that is slightly more safe that a motorcycle.
With BSW technology you will always know I’m there weather you can see me or not… or even care if I’m there.

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

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14 Responses to QotW: What’s the best road trip car for the whole family?

  1. Scotty G says:

    It has to be fun to drive, too? Bummer, I was going to say my former 1986 Nissan Stanza 4WD 5-speed wagon. Although I thought that it was fun to drive, not many others would. I think I’ll stick with that, at least I read a few other replies and realize how far off I am.

  2. Sammy B says:

    Not at all by today’s standards, but at least in the 80s and into the early 90s (until the 55 speed limits were raised), our 1984 Toyota Van seemed to do really well.

    We sometimes took out the middle row so my brother and I had lots of space. I remember playing hot wheels on the floor while he laid on the 3rd bench listening to music on his Walkman. Or if we kept the seats in, folding them into a bed for the longer trips.

    Fun to drive? Certainly not a sports cars, but it had a decent-for-the time stereo (digital tuner/cassette & graphic equalizer!), dual AC, cruise control, and a 5MT. And with the kids entertained in the back, this adds up to a not necessarily fun, but comfortable drive.

    With my own young family in our pre-minivan days, my wife’s Matrix XRS 6MT or my Mazda6 wagon V6 5MT both were really good AND fun for 1-2 kids on 5 hour trips to see the grandparents. So maybe ask me this question again in 20 years 🙂

  3. MikeRL411 says:

    My old 1970 Buick Electra barge. Auto pneumatic self-leveling suspension and a trunk big enough to live in. This was the Electra LTD model, every accessory except the tape deck, no CD decks in 1970. Buick would make an initial LTD run to ensure that available accessories were mutually compatible and did not mutually interfere with available mounting space. Once verified, these engineering prototyped were sold as LTD models. Boy could it run !

  4. Fred Langille says:

    I didn’t have a family when i had it but, I drove all over Germany in my 1981 Datsun GX Coupe that I added a sunroof and Bose stereo system. While being stationed there as an Army 1LT, I had gotten into volkssports, a type of athletic event either walking, swimming or biking. That car took me and my hiking buddies all over southern Germany and, yes to the monastery brewery that Playboy had touted as the best beer in the world at that time! With the 5-speed, I had not problems either on the Autobahns or, town roads. Comfort was great and, my (German) girlfriends liked the car’s looks and enjoyed riding in it. It was my first ever Japanese car but, due to personal reasons, I sold it prior to returning to the U.S.A.

  5. エーイダン says:

    Either a 1950 Monarch coupe or an early ’50s Hillman. Proof? Those were the cars my grandma was in on road trips throughout the 1950s with her uncle and her first husband respectively. Though if you asked me, based off my own experiences a 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser Touring Edition finished in Merlin blue. That little machine carried myself, my mother and grandmother everywhere between Dauphin, Manitoba deep into northern Michigan and back again. Moved house with it in 5 trips, including vintage china cabinets and chairs. The fondest memory though is when we drove through Riding Mountain National Park after the frost coated every tree. Every time I see a glass chess set I always am reminded of the frost coating every tree for miles and how it looked the forest was carved from ice.

  6. Bob says:

    Last summer we rented an Infiniti Q70L and it was a great touring car to drive on a 2,200 mile round trip jaunt to FL and back.

  7. Lee L says:

    I’d have to go with a 4th or 5th gen maxima-

    1. Great looking cars
    2. Plenty of room (maybe not by modern standards)
    3. VQ Engine – good power and reliable
    4. Manual Transmission available – Fun factor
    5. Comfortable

  8. Kevin H. says:

    In the spirit of Japanese Nostalgic Cars and at the risk of sounding cliché like a Paul Walker fanboy; the R33 GT-R.

    Let’s also not think about cost and availability. I’m also assuming the kids are 12 years old or younger. I have teenagers and no back seat is good enough for them, not even my 2017 minivan.

    With all that being said, I’d like to delve into why I think an R33 GT-R is the best road trip car.
    Power, handling, and comfort. The R33 is a true grand tourer. Front-engine, rear-wheel bias AWD, and weight make for a great grand touring car. The chassis and suspension dynamics will make long curvy mountain interstate roads give your body the Gs of a fighter jet. The weight will soak up most of the imperfections of the road. On the long interstate straights, the RB26DETT will provide lots of opportunities for you to get a speeding ticket.

    The back seats may seem like a problem, but they are bucket in design and provide more room than you would think for a coupe. Also, the interior is cloth, so as you and your family spend more hours in the GT-R your back and butt will not soak in sweat.

    I don’t need to talk about back roads or city roads, we all know how amazing the Skyline can perform in those scenarios.

    But let’s be real: the best vehicle for families in any situation are minivans, PERIOT!

  9. Saii says:

    Toyota Caldina GT-T. Plenty of space being a wagon. Plenty of pulling power with the 3S-GTE, and 4WD to get you everywhere from snowy mountains to the beach. Its a Toyota so it will never break. The interiors are also surprisingly comfortable, bigger than the corolla, while still being basic and bullet proof.

  10. Jonathan P. says:

    Did a fivish hour car trip in my family’s 2007 Ford Taurus SE with the 3.0L Vulcan V6. We stuffed the trunk and the cabin and still sat fairly cozy inside. We weren’t too crowded, from what I remember. It’s about as fun to drive as you make it fun to drive. It’s a dang reliable car, or has been for us. An example would be that one day, it was snowy and icy, I went around a corner too fast, and plopped it belly first into a ditch, got pulled out, and it’s still good. the most major maintenance done to it lately was the starter was replaced about a year ago, tires and alignment, and my Dad replaced to fuel filter just recently, other than that, just regular oil changes. Which reminds me, it’s probably due…

  11. Gamble says:

    When you’re driving many hours a day i don’t think any car is thaaaat fun, so i’d go with any old JDM van with decent cruise control, great visibility and space, and curtains to keep the sun off of you if need be.

  12. Michael K. says:

    Sadly, I don’t think there are any modern Japanese cars that fit the bill. Crossovers are all handle like crap and the SUVs get piss poor mileage. So it would have to be a wagon. If it’s a family car I would want it to be relatively safe (modern) too, and the only car i can think of that meets those requirements is a 2011-2014 Acura TSX Wagon. All the other wagon options are from Europe – BMW 3-Series, Mercedes E-Class, Volvo V60, and Buick Regal TourX (an Opel).

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