It's hard to believe, but it's that time of year again. The holidays are upon us, meaning that it's almost time to pack up the kids and set off on the long trek to celebrate with friends and relatives.
We're right there with you, half-excited, half-dreading it. There are just so many factors you can't control, like the traffic, the kids' moods and the weather that these long journeys become a true test of our mental resolve.
Fortunately, there is one thing you can control that can drastically change the outcome of your road trip: the car you take it in. For families that travel a lot, there are a few different vehicles out there that we think are much better than others, due to their quiet rides, roomy interiors, safety features and reliability ratings. Here are five of our favorites.
5. Nissan Pathfinder
Sticker Price: $28,850 - $41,350
Invoice Price: $26,309 - $37,686
Fuel Economy: 20 mpg city, 26 mpg highway
The redesigned Nissan Pathfinder is a comfortable, family-friendly crossover with plenty of room for the kids, as well as their stuff. The quiet smooth, quiet ride is ideal for long stretches of highway and its EPA-estimated 26 mpg means you won't have to constantly stop for gas. Inside, the Pathfinder can seat up to seven people and is available with comfort and technology features like Around View parking aid (which is one of our favorite features in cars, period), heated and cooled leather seats and navigation.
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4. Lexus RX 450h
Sticker Price: $46,410 - $47,810
Invoice Price: $43,625 - $44,941
Fuel Economy: 32 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
The Lexus RX 450h doesn't come with a third row, unfortunately. If you have more than two kids, you'll have to get something bigger or deal with hours of "stop touching me!" shrieks. The RX 450h is still a great family road trip vehicle, though, due to its super well-appointed interior, fuel-economy (it is a hybrid, after all), safety, strong reliability rating and remarkably quiet ride. And with its cavernous trunk you can fit everyone's luggage, too.
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3. Ford Explorer
Sticker Price: $29,600 - $40,780
Invoice Price: $27,898 - $38,027
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway
The Ford Explorer has been a top family choice for years and years now. Its newest generation, which was released for the 2011 model year, continues that tradition. The Explorer can seat up to 7 passengers, comes with all kinds of optional features, has a roomy interior and is easy to drive. It also comes chock-full of standard and optional safety features including seven airbags, blind-spot sensors, lane-keep assist and inflatable rear seat belts.
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2. Chrysler Town & Country
Sticker Price: $30,765 - $41,595
Invoice Price: $29,534 - $39,497
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway
Minivans are an obvious choice for a family road trip vehicle. We're especially fond of the Chrysler Town & Country because of the way it puts a luxurious spin on what is traditionally a "functionality first" segment. The T&C is super quiet, has great stain-repelling seats and comes with all kinds of comfort and convenience features. The best thing about this minivan, however, is its Stow 'n Go seats. If you're in need of more cargo room, the second and third row seats simply fold right into the floor, instead of needing to be removed and stored somewhere outside of the car.
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1. Acura MDX
Sticker Price: $42,290 - $56,505
Invoice Price: $39,186 - $52,195
Fuel Economy: 20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
The Acura MDX is our top vehicle for the family road trip. This luxury SUV is safe, super comfortable, comes with Honda's legendary reliability, full of great tech features and is as smooth and quiet as any vehicle out there right now. The available adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist on the MDX work remarkably well and are absolute musts on long, boring treks during which driver fatigue plays a big role. The MDX also can seat up to seven people and comes with a huge cargo area.
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