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.
We dream up our road trip fantasy rides
It's hot to hatch
In the States, we know that size still matters. And just like dinner portions, Americans love their bigger cars and trucks. But times, they are a changin’, and the current crop of hatchbacks just goes to show that manufacturers are putting in a lot more thought, time and money into developing small cars that work big. Driving a hatchback no longer makes you look like you were holding the door when they were handing out real cars. The combination of solid styling, creature comforts and great fuel economy (and, sometimes. wickedly good performance) has young and old alike turning to 5-doors options. We drove five of the best for a month and came away with a new appreciation for the hot hatch.
Gatsby's Great Garage
Jay Gatsby had it all, except perhaps the presence of mind to dial down the drama so he could hold on to the good things, namely cars and bikes that would stand the test of time for unrelenting beauty and elegance. The art deco era, spanning over two decades, influenced design internationally — and vehicles were beneficiaries of this arty approach to industry. So much of what was built in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s now only exists in the hallowed halls of museums and collectors’ garages as we drool upon this glorious motoring past. Gatsby’s greatness could’ve remained had he chosen to drive one of these beauties into the West Egg sunset, leaving Daisy behind in a cloud of rich exhaust. Fresh for Baz Luhrmann’s full throttle cinematic interpretation of the landmark Fitzgerald novel, we’ve collected 10 of the finest art deco cars and bikes ever built.
Starpower trumps horsepower
Weeding through Hollywood’s entire crop of iconic movie cars in the hopes of arriving at an agreed upon best of list is like trying to choose the sexiest Victoria’s Secret model — it can be grueling work, but the research isn’t exactly painful. Car guys are a picky lot, especially when looking to the silver screen: Some go weak in the knees when they hear an American V8 rumble to life slightly out of frame, while others are gaga for the svelte silhouette of a European exotic on a twisty backdrop. A select few believe the essential chase scene is the deciding factor, while yet another breed is only happy when the director has chosen an “appropriate” vehicle for the character driving, regardless of whether the movie was even watchable.
The GP Team’s collection of petrolheads put all of these variables into play, entered into
deep philosophical debate and eventually agreed to disagree so we could present you with our picks for the best movie cars ever. Gentlemen, start your arguing engines!
Tops be droppin'
Summer isn’t nearly as enjoyable without top-down driving. As much as we’re fans of hardtop automotive design and the way a sweeping roofline catches the eye, we have to admit that the clear growl of an engine and the wind in your hair makes the warmer months that much better. Even a drive up Pacific Coast Highway in a cream-hued 1995 Chrysler Sebring Convertible can be a pleasure (as long as no one actually sees you). Bully for you, convertibles are better than ever — gone are the fussy tops, the anemic engines, and silhouettes that would make Quasimodo cringe. The crop of current convertibles range from modern nostalgia to supercar power players, but one thing they all do is make your motoring pleasure good for all the world to see.
Four doors to heaven
Certain cars don’t seem to make much sense, yet somehow make it to market anyway. Whether it’s because of design or practicality issues, these red-headed stepchildren of the automotive world rarely succeed. The Porsche Panamera had some of the warning signs of those real-world failures. More potent than the base model but not quite as maddening as the Turbo S, it still bears the bulbous but muscled body the Panamera design has become known for. We got behind the wheel on some California roads to see if ze Germans could reconcile this nonsensical creation.
Stirs the senses, not the wallet
When we found out the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA ($29,900 Base) wouldn’t be available stateside till September, we were willing to do anything to get our hands on it early; we even pondered selling our souls to the devil. Fortunately, we didn’t have to go quite that far. All we had to do was fly to the South of France for a day and half of driving. Yes, we spent 26 hours in the air to get 13 hours behind the wheel of this sub-$30,000 German ride.
The 10 That Got Away
Some concept cars are the stuff of dreams, and some make a justified beeline for the crusher. But then there are the truly glorious ones: the concepts built just for show, never meant to be anything more than the Paris runway model of the automotive world, or those lucky few that see their design elements actually influence production cars, even if they themselves never make it to the street. Tragically, for many of the best, somewhere between an auto show debut and the fevered, hopeful dreams of auto enthusiasts, some kind of childhood-hating shutdown switch gets flicked by faceless bean counters. In honor of the fallen, we take a look at 10 of the best concept cars that only ever got to lay rubber on the auto show floor.
The Ultimate Dreamliner
Bentley is undoubtedly a mega-luxury brand that backs up ridiculous comfort with serious performance. Take the 2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible ($240,000 base), for instance. Though its looks and interior are nearly pornographic in their excesses, it’ll also punch you in the throat and drink your beer without hesitation. After taking it for a drive in non-ideal conditions — and almost wrecking it on the icy streets of Squaw Valley — I got firsthand experience on why the brand is held in such high regard.
Everything you need to know
Four-wheel-drive used to be synonymous with
mullets off-roading in the minds of most consumers. Like many buzz-worthy specs originally developed for enthusiasts and professionals, though, some variant of the general principle was soon rushed into vehicles of all stripes by manufacturers. It’s a shift Muddin’ diehards still cuss about over tallboys at dusk, but there’s no denying that a new generation of a sure-footed cars with better handling in tricky conditions has benefited drivers everywhere.
Today, finding the perfect match between driving ability, fuel consumption and price first requires an honest evaluation of your own motoring needs. With that soul-searching behind you, understanding the differences between various four-wheel-drive (4WD) and all-wheel-drive (AWD) offerings (and everything in between) will make buying your next ride that much easier. Our comprehensive guide is here to help.
Time to meet the winners
Imagine spending years designing, redesigning, engineering and finally building a car — only to have public opinion weigh in on your baby. No pressure, right? Well, at this year’s New York International Auto Show, plenty of brands did a damn good job. We were tantalized by some of what’s to come: cars that will certainly hit production in some form or another (and thank goodness for that). From track beasts to practical and attractive sedans, we rounded up the cream of the crop, in our humble opinion. Take a look at the 10 best in show.
One hell of a legacy
The SLS AMG by Mercedes-Benz is truly the 300SL Gullwing reincarnate. Only the resurrected version is so much faster, you’ll wonder what happened to your eyebrows. How do we know? We got behind the wheel and watched it make people’s necks sore.
The claws are out
Car guys dream of acquiring their own personal track monster. Some are bare bones beasts, as comfortable as a ride on the Coney Island Cyclone; others bear witness to modern sport-luxury. The Jaguar XKR-S GT clearly falls into the latter category, and the automotive world is a better place for it. Check out the nifty bits that $174,000 buys the fortunate in our breakdown of this masterful vehicle.
From isn't to IS
The suburbs of Austin, Texas are hilly, colorful and vast, and look especially pretty when seen out the windshield of the latest, all-new sports sedan. They’re even better looking when reduced to a racetrack blur. The 2014 Lexus IS F Sport has been redesigned to look sexier, feel more solid and drive harder, and recently gave us the distinct pleasure of melting scenery around the track at Driveway Austin while testing out its sporting mettle.
A bargain German sex symbol
Frankenstein is alive and well
The Geneva Motor Show always showcases some of the most original (and still tasteful) automotive works out there, and the Italdesign Giugiaro Parcour is one of them — though no one’s quite sure what category it falls in. Part Lambo Gallardo, part SUV and all badass, the Parcour was designed as an “all-terrain GT” car.
Making SUVs fun again
In the hallowed halls of Gear Patrol, you’ll occasionally hear a whimper, nay, more of a subdued weeping, when we get wind of a car that appeals to our senses that we’ll never be able to get here in the states. The BMW Alpina XD3 Bi-Turbo is an SUV we can get behind (but not behind the wheel of).
Luxury within reason
On the heels of the NSX concept last year and the brand new entry-level ILX, the longer, leaner Acura RLX looks nothing like the car it replaces, so we were piqued when Honda’s luxury division invited us up to Napa to experience all the RLX has to offer. Fine wine and luxury cars. Makes sense to us.
If Ferrari Spiders and Lamborghinis Spyders seem like commonplace cabriolets to you, and “Overkill” also happens to be your middle name, you’ll want to get in touch with the folks at upscale tuner Brabus for their latest birthing from the fifth circle of hell, the 800 Roadster. What started out as an “ordinary” Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG with a 621 hp V12 is surgically enhanced both inside and out, transforming it into the world’s most powerful roadster.
Short of a polar bear club dip in frigid waters or a morning yoga session with a Victoria’s Secret model, nothing gets you started like a hot cup of joe… or 321 horsepower to the rear wheels. We at least imbibed in the latter two as we visited a couple of Chicago coffee spots in the new Cadillac ATS 3.6L Performance. Clearly an upgrade from the 4-cylinder turbo version, the V6 3.6-liter packs its own lunch and brings the dessert, too.
Ready to fight
Spain, known for Flamenco dancing, bullfighting, tapas. Supercars? Not so much. Manufacturer Spania GTA aims to add that category to the Spanish vocabulary with its Spano, just unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show. This isn’t some number built in an automotive nut’s garage in Valencia. It boasts some of the best technology the automotive world has to offer.
Don't be ashamed of going topless
The wraps just came off the Corvette Stingray Convertible, which will be sold alongside the hardtop in the fourth quarter of 2013. Powered by the same potent 6.2-liter LT1 V8 engine with 450 hp, the convertible sheds the metal for a fully electronic top that can be deployed or retracted at speeds of up to 30 mph. It’s the perfect new recipe for fast, top-down driving, American style.
Just introduced at the Geneva Motor Show, the Spyker B6 Venator Concept should prove to be a step in the right direction for the Dutch exotic car maker. With more pronounced design features than the C8 Aileron, the Venator houses a powerful 385+ hp V6 engine that’s positioned behind the cabin for optimal performance and balance. It also may possess the most beautiful interior this side of a Bentley.
It's environmental, really
Ferrari’s supercar legacy is not only alive and well, it’s now hooked up to hybrid power for the first time. Making use of a HY-KERS system that generates 160 hp on top of the V12′s already crazy 780 hp, the all-new Ferrari LaFerrari should get to 60 in less than three seconds and top out at 217 mph. But it’s not all go and no show. The beautifully designed supercar is both fluid and muscular, making use of more organic design elements than the car it replaces. The sum of these parts? A supercar easily worthy of the Ferrari name.
The Wraith Wonder of the World
We expect that buyers of the new Rolls-Royce Wraith (~$325,960) will be equal parts man of mystery and crazy affluent. Just unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, the Wraith maintains the brand’s upper-crust heritage while delving into a level of visible aggression that’s new and refreshing.
When fast isn't enough
If the 991 isn’t enough for you, look to the all-new 2014 Porsche 911 GT3 to satisfy your greedy longings. The GT3 delivers some serious firepower in the form of a 3.8-liter flat six engine that puts 475 hp to the rear wheels, giving the GT3 a 0-60 time of 3.3 seconds and a top speed of 195 mph. The question isn’t whether the GT3 is right for you, but are you man enough for it?
On the verge of being released for the drooling public in Geneva tomorrow, the Lamborghini Veneno has enough hard edges, wings and vents to make the prospect of a carnauba wax a serious headache. That in-your-face exterior should be well partnered with a purported 6.5-liter V12, snorting out 740 horsepower to rocket the Veneno to 60 in under three seconds and providing a top speed of 220 mph.
The King of Beasts
If military-grade Humvees or the “run-of-the-mill” bores you to tears and you simply can’t afford an M1 Abrams tank for your off-pavement adventures, look to Mercedes-Benz and their perfectly over-the-top G63 AMG 6×6. Yes folks, that’s six-wheel-drive, with enough torque to warp the earth’s crust (if that’s your thing). The limited-production beast is the result of a partnership with Austria’s Magna Steyr and is based on the military version of the Mercedes-Benz G320 CDI — and it’s positively bonkers.
True British Muscle
Aston Martin recently decided that being one of the most prestigious and sexiest car makers on the planet wasn’t enough. They needed to be audacious. Their execution of this? Surgically transplanting the 6.0-liter 510 hp V12 from the DBS into their smallest and lightest offering, the Vantage. The Carbon Black edition adds carbon-fiber side strakes, lightweight carbon fiber and Kevlar seats, piano black accents and gloss black painted wheels, which convey the same kind of ballsy aggression as the drivetrain underneath that extruded aluminum body. Read on for a video and photo essay of this Brit stunner.
If ever there was a hot-hatch-segment-defining car, the VW GTI would most likely be it. And perhaps aside from the heavy and globule-like Mk4, each one has been coveted in its field. The 2015 Volkswagen GTI, the seventh generation of the German pocket rocket, will ratchet things up once more.