If fuel economy is the top concern on your road trip, driving a clean-diesel car will allow you to save money without driving a tiny econobox.
In fact, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI is as roomy as a compact SUV and gets up to 43 highway mpg. It is powered by a new, 150-horsepower turbocharged, direct-injected clean-diesel engine.
Don’t let the Golf name fool you — the Golf SportWagen is larger than the Jetta SportWagen it replaced, boasting terrific head, leg and shoulder room for rear-seat passengers and a trunk that has 30.4 cubic feet standard and 66.5 cubic feet of storage when the rear seat is fully folded.
New available comfort and convenience features include a 12-way power driver’s seat, automatic air conditioning, Fender Premium Audio System and a unique infotainment system with a proximity sensor that senses a hand approaching and automatically switches to a finger-friendly layout. Standard safety features include six air bags and electronic stability control, as well as the new automatic post-collision braking system.
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Best vehicle for entertaining the kids
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander
Starting price: $22,995
No one wants to hear “Are we there yet,” so it’s helpful to have things inside the car to keep the kids busy.
In addition to the restyled exterior, the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander has a made-over interior with new seating surfaces and a 60/40-split folding rear seat with independent slide and reclining adjusters so you can separate the kids and still keep them comfortable.
There’s also a 50-50-split third row for additional passengers, but it folds flat to provide more cargo space, while the under-floor storage in the rear will come in handy to keep valuables out of sight.
It has an optional rear-seat entertainment system with a 9-inch DVD monitor, two sets of wireless headphones and an auxiliary video input.
Occupants will enjoy a smoother ride, thanks to increased body and suspension structural rigidity, redesigned suspension and more sound insulation, as well as a noise-isolating windshield and rear door glass.
The driver will appreciate the 166-horsepower, 2.4-liter engine that can get up to 31 mpg on the highway, and the new continuously variable transmission, which improves acceleration, performance, shift feel and torque delivery.
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Best car for rough roads, wet weather
2016 Subaru Legacy
Starting price: $21,745
Not everyone wants to drive alongside the ocean for their summer road trip. If a cool forest, wetter climate or dirt road beckons, a 2016 Subaru Legacy may be just the ticket.
It’s the only midsize sedan with standard all-wheel drive. Standard active torque vectoring uses a stability and traction control system to apply the brakes to an individual wheel when cornering.
The 2016 model has retuned electric power-assist steering and lane keep assist system, which adds one of the features in Subaru’s optional EyeSight safety system. The system includes adaptive cruise control, automatic pre-collision braking, lane departure and sway warning.
This family sedan has a 175-horsepower, 2.5-liter engine with a standard continuously variable transmission and gets an estimated 26 mpg city/36 mpg highway — the best of any all-wheel-drive midsize sedan.
Other features include a dual-zone, automatic climate control system, a 10-way power driver’s seat and Starlink system, which links the car’s infotainment system to a smartphone for hands-free connectivity for entertainment apps, live traffic alerts and text messages.
All models come standard with three rows of leather seats and second-row bucket seats, which have the Stow ‘n Go feature that allows them to fold easily into the floor at the touch of a button. Second-row captain’s chairs are available for additional comfort.
Other standard features include a power liftgate, rearview backup camera, air bags, stability and traction control and trailer-sway damping.
The Town & Country features an optional Uconnect Web system, which creates a mobile hot spot on the fly. The Super Center Console has integrated power outlets, storage designed for CDs, DVDs, notepads and wallets, and a pass-through storage space for larger items like a purse.
All Town & Country models are powered by a 283-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 paired with a six-speed automatic transmission that gets 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway.
Two of the three available engines offer best-in-class driving range to reduce time spent fueling up. The 240-horsepower, 3-liter, clean-diesel V-6 boasts a fuel economy that’s 43 percent better than competitive gasoline-powered V-8 SUVs, and features a best-in-class towing capability of 7,400 pounds.
Depending on the model, the Cherokee can get up to 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway and reach a driving range of more than 730 miles. The gas-powered, 290-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 has a driving range of 600 miles, tows 6,200 pounds and can get up to 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway.
For greater performance, there is a 360-horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8, with 7,400-pound towing capacity.
All engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. All Cherokee models provide luxurious interior features, such as reclining rear seats, a touch screen and easily identifiable knobs and buttons for audio and climate control.
Available features include the CommandView dual-pane sunroof and a 19-speaker, 825-watt Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system.