Traffic sucks.Automakers love to show us commercials with these evocative scenes of fantastic roads surrounded by dramatic scenery, with nary another car as far as the eye can see. It’s just man and machine, and an exhilarating jaunt on that alpine road, or in the open desert, or maybe it’s that coastal highway. The reality of course, is most people have to deal with the daily crunch, the crushing sea of cars on roads and freeways, more taillight than tailspin. But the daily obstacle that makes getting to the office or dropping kids off at school a mind-numbing chore, doesn’t have to be all that horrible.
There are a few cars, for one reason or another, that make traffic almost — dare we say it — tolerable. Take a look at six vehicles that just might make your weekly commute a little more pleasant.
Lexus RX350Back in 1998 when the first iteration of the Lexus RX — the then ’99 RX 300 — went on sale, we doubt product planners at the luxe Japanese brand could have imagined the success the uniquely shaped SUV would have. Now 17 years on, the formula is still working.
The RX benefits from an exceptionally ergonomic cabin that feels like a capsule of comfort; everything is cushy and padded. While Lexus might want us to believe the RX 350 is also very capable off road, make no mistake, this is a city runabout. The soft ride ensures few of those road imperfections translate into the cabin. Even the most basic models come with a 7.0-inch screen and 12-speaker premium audio. If you regularly haul passengers, an optional dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system means they’ll be happily distracted too.
Inside, with the windows up, you’re insulated, almost removed from the outside world, in your own personal capsule of comfort. And when you’re stuck in the thick of traffic, that’s a pretty desirable proposition. Lexus is expected to show off the next-gen of its popular SUV sometime later this year, and we're sure it'll be just as cosseting as ever.
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Dodge ChargerThe name Charger likely conjures up images of grand burnouts or screeching drag races, but owners know another little secret: this great American sedan is one of the most comfy rides around.
If you’re going to be sitting for a while, the Charger’s wide, cushy seats — with just the right amount of bolstering — almost invite lounging. Dodge calls the interior of its muscle car a refined command center, and that’s not a far exaggeration. The instrument cluster is attractive, the gauges are sporty, boasting white numerals enclosed within a red ring backsplash, and the Uconnect infotainment system is intuitive and easy to use.
Spatially, the full-size sedan boasts plenty of room for all, making it a great way to get around, even when you can’t do it as quickly as you might like.
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Mercedes S550 sedanDialing up things up considerably, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class represents the pinnacle in luxury sedans, at least shy of Bentley and Rolly-Royce territory. Refinement is apparent seemingly everywhere you look and touch.
We’ve sat in a lot (seriously, a lot) of driver’s seats, but we’d be hard pressed to find one that is clearly nicer than that found in the S-Class. A 16-way power driver’s seat will ensure you can find the right position, and while the cabin is driver-centric, passengers will happily laze, recline, perhaps use the massaging-seat functions, or drift back into the pillow-top headrests, with the worries of the world floating gently away (we’d assume). The list of options doesn’t stop there, with multicolor and multi-zone mood lighting, as well as a bonafide cabin fragrance system. As far as premium audio systems go, the optional Burmeister one is as good as any available in a car today. Passengers seated in the rear can use the folding trays for their laptop or tablet, making productive or recreational use of time in transit.
The list of plush options is long, and Mercedes-Benz’s cush sedan may not be in the budget for many, but one thing is clear: If you’re going to be enclosed in a car trudging through traffic, the S-Class is one of the most pleasant ways to do it.
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Honda OdysseyNot to be overlooked, the Honda Odyssey minivan is a clever seven-passenger hauler, with plenty of room and some much appreciated ingenuity. While the Odyssey is surprisingly one of Honda’s best-looking vehicles, it’s inside where you can see some real attention to detail.
There are five trims, and the upper tiers will get you a sunroof, a plug-in electrical outlet like you’d use at home, an available rear-seat entertainment screen, and even a vacuum cleaner to clean up after the little ones... humans or otherwise. But it’s the second row that we especially like. Engineers have designed the sliding seats to allow for an open middle row, or you can slide the seats together to make entry and exit to the third row a simple proposition.
If you need to fit one more, the Honda Pilot is a great way to shuttle eight passengers, and the redesigned 2016 Pilot that goes on sale this summer also boasts a new, larger 8.0-inch media screen, an improved navigation system, and 5 USB ports to plug into.
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Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTSports cars are generally best on dynamic open roads, or on a track, but we recently experienced the exact opposite of that. Driving the Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT in the thick crawl of LA traffic — after some beautiful canyon runs — we discovered that some of what we love about a beautifully styled performance machine like the Vantage, was even heightened in this scenario.
For starters, there’s the attention. Let’s be honest, it feels kind of cool to have people craning their necks, checking out your ride. And even in the case of Aston’s most modestly priced car, you get that gratifying engine growl, that sonorous look-at-me-i’m-driving-something-spectacular exhaust note that alerts everyone within a hundred feet of your presence.
Bear in mind, too, that stop-and-go is pretty much always in first and second gear, going twenty, thirty miles an hour. Even in stop-and-go traffic, the short burst acceleration and accompanying growl offer a little fun in what would be an otherwise dull scenario.
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Cadillac EscaladeThe Escalade has had a storied run as the premier attention-seeker's SUV for a long time, and with good reason. Inside, quality leather, Alcantara, attractive metal and wood finishes are all in harmony. The cabin is spacious, the ride is smooth, and engineers have gone to great length to ensure that its newest iteration of the luxe SUV is the quietest yet.
For the driver, the higher ride height means being able to look out and asses your surroundings. We’re not sure of the psychology behind it, but somehow being able to see far ahead of you — even if it’s all red taillights — puts you at ease. Once you process that there are a sea of cars ahead, and that you won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, you can enjoy the plushness of the cabin, make a phone call, or find that song that will transport you elsewhere, if temporarily. Passengers will appreciate the space, materials, and quiet and smooth ride, too.
If you’re going to be stuck in traffic, inside the well-appointed cabin of an Escalade is a pretty good place to be.
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