Ask the Best and Brightest: What's the Quietest, Most Comfortable and Economic Long Distance Cruiser?

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

TTAC commentator JollyJerry posits the following:

I’m looking for some recommendations and insight on highway cruisers that would coddle me and my girlfriend on a long multi-state road trip. I’m a tall lanky guy at 6′ 4″, so the Scion xB has been a perfect car for me so far. It’s definitely the wrong car to take for a long trip because it hurts my back, and I can’t stand the engine, wind, and road noise after a few hours. Here’s a list of cars I’ve been researching just to give an idea of what I’ve been looking at on TTAC and other sites: Ford Crown Victory / Mercury Grand Marquis / Marauder Toyota Avalon Chevy Impala / Monte Carlo Chevy Caprice Lexus LS Chrysler 300M Pontiac Bonneville Hyundai XG350. The ideal car would be cheap (

Robert Farago
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  • Charleywhiskey Charleywhiskey on Oct 05, 2009

    A well maintained late '90s Eldorado would meet your budget and comfort requirements with good power and decent fuel economy. Whatever car you pick, be sure to invest in a good pre-purchase inspection by an independent technician.

  • Renvoi Renvoi on Oct 05, 2009

    I have a '99 Buick Park Avenue 3.8 L V-6; it is an ideal road trip vehicle. I am 6'3", and I can fit comfortably into the front seat and leave plenty of room for an adult to sit in the back behind me. There is a trap door that leads to the trunk, so during a long trip you can bring along a cooler with cold beverages for your passengers. It averages 23 MPG (according to the odometer) but still has good power. My grandma gave it to me with about 60k miles 3 years ago, and aside from dings all over the place it has been very reliable and has run well. The main problem I have encountered was the transmission slipped for a few months a couple of years ago; my cousin owns a mechanic's shop and claims that '99 Buicks are notorious for having faulty transmissions (a claim I have been too lazy to verify).

  • Escapenguin Escapenguin on Oct 06, 2009

    I see lots of recommendations for really old cars. Problem is, at around 60,000 miles, it seems at least from my experience, a lot of rubber parts on cars start to go. Especially if the previous owner(s) was/were a little... enthusiastic. Hoses, vacuum tubes and gaskets go poof in the night. Whenever I decide to tear something down on my 1998 Prelude, I cringe the whole time, and it's usually warranted. /me sigh Recaros won't fix how loud xB Gen 1s are on the highway, but you may not care that much. However, is it really worth the expense to hunt down a used ride if you're just going to get rid of it after the trip? I suffered through driving my SL1 for hours and hours up and down the east coast multiple times. All I paid for was gas and oil changes. Otherwise I'd try to find a Buick, any Buick, with low miles no older than 1998. I like my Skylark, it's bulletproof and endearingly primitive, but the other models are better by leaps and bounds.

  • KixStart KixStart on Oct 06, 2009

    If it were me, I'd get a late '90's Camry with a 4. It will have over 100K miles but if it has been properly maintained, it should be good for quite a few trouble-free miles. Consider a Solara if prices on those are lower in your region. When you get back, you can readily sell it for not much less than you paid. Or, if fuel prices spike, maybe for more than you paid. You might want to look for a higher trim level to get a quiet one with a good sound system. I'd also check CR and see what they think of a Mazda 626. They should be pretty cheap by now but were quiet and comfortable and got pretty good fuel economy and were lively enough. Again, you might look at higher trim levels. I think Mazda's are under-rated but I could be wrong. Check CR. I've also seen late '90's Honda Accord Coupes with reasonable mileages at $5K asking price for a manual with I4. The thing about comfort, though, is that what's comfortable for my back and tailbone might not be right for yours. It all depends on having enough headroom and having the right seat.