By on July 1, 2019

Today marks the start of that nebulous week in which the Fourth of July lands on a Thursday. A good many people will pretend to do some semblance of work today. Goof off on the second, then pack it in early on the third. Friday? Just make sure not to buy a car with a build date of 7/5/2019 is all I’m saying.

We’re giving you a fictional budget of $30,000 with which to buy a new rig to take on this weekend’s road trip. Be sure to consider fuel mileage, fun, and family before signing on the imaginary dotted line, mmmkay?

Know this about today’s question as well: you can miss the mark a little bit if you’re confident in your negotiating skills or there’s proof if significant cash on the hood. My pick, for example, is the 2019 Dodge Durango SXT, a machine which retails for just over thirty grand yet is advertised by FCA itself as under $30,000. Alert readers will remember this pick from a different QOTD last year.

It can carry the whole family and their gear, plus it looks aggro enough for my annoyingly extroverted tastes (yet I chose the color purple; go figure). The base Durango and has a raft of snazzy standard features like tri-zone climate control, so let’s all give a shout out to big-business economies of scale. That Pentastar V6 engine and rear-drive architecture will serve well into the next epoch, as well.

How about it? What’s your $30,000-ish pick for this weekend’s road trip?

 

[Images: FCA]

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42 Comments on “QOTD: Road Trip Wheels...”


  • avatar
    gtem

    Highest trim of Grand Caravan I can get into. Our family is currently my wife and I, our 2 month old, and our two dogs. Throw in the (folded) dog crates, portable crib, stroller, and that Durango would be filled to the gills. As it stands, our Town& Country has been a godsend. Climbed through the hatch (folded third row) and changed the baby on the top of a cooler yesterday in fact.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      I rented one recently, a brand new GT version. I REALLY liked how comfortable the driver seat was. From now on, I will gravitate toward these on the Emerald Aisle.

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      Rented a Grand Caravan for a trip with family/mom/in-laws to NYC last summer. Everybody complained non-stop and my mother-in-law almost fell out while trying to exit. Not sure why the step-in height is so enormous. From my perspective, I was pretty confused by its multimedia interface and thought it was pretty gutless.

      I guess it depends on what you frame of reference is. We leased a 2015 Chevy Traverse for two years and did multiple trips with 7 people and everybody loved it. It was a wonderful long distance cruiser for the family. Handled like a European car, too.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        How does a Chevy traverse have a lower step-in height than a Caravan? That just plain doesn’t make any sense.

        “Everybody complained non-stop”

        Sounds like a fun bunch to be around LOL

        • 0 avatar
          vvk

          > Sounds like a fun bunch to be around LOL

          You got me the right way :)

          > How does a Chevy traverse have a lower
          > step-in height than a Caravan? That
          > just plain doesn’t make any sense.

          Much lower. Big surprise for me. There is about a foot between the bottom of the vehicle and the floor:

          https://www.dodge.com/content/dam/fca-brands/na/dodge/en_us/2019/grand-caravan/vlp/mobile/2019-dodge-grand-caravan-vlp-hero-mobile.jpg.image.1000.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Oh, I see what you might be talking about, the Caravan stores its stow and go seats in that “mystery depth” that also makes the rear rows of seats a bit closer to the ground than would be ideal. I will say, I love the stow and go capability, have used it a few times already to haul furniture from in-laws.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Agree 100% re the benefits of the Grand Caravan. For years each fall, I rent a vehicle for moving kids to and from residences/student housing, touring around the province/local states, a one day golf excursion, and general duties.

      After trying numerous vehicles and types of vehicles from large and medium pick-ups to SUV’s, CUV’s and large sedans, we all agree that the Caravan is the one vehicle that best meets all of our requirements.

      Seating position, ability to carry people, belongings, dogs, equipment, etc in comfort nothing we have tried is better.

      Our only dislike are the ‘buttons’ used for the HVAC and radio. Would far prefer old school dials/knobs.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Yeah I never understood why some car manufacturers turned the HVAC blend door control (feet/face/defrost) into a single button that you have to cycle through. Either give every setting its own button or a rotating dial as you say.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    In no particular order:

    1) Buick Regal TourX
    2) Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium
    3) Dodge Grand Caravan SE Plus with captains chairs, power driver seat, and upgraded larger Infotainment screen with nav

    I’m just not into true SUVs and a pickup is too much Cheddar in 2019. The TourX is under appreciated, the Outback is the safe choice, and when it comes to a roadtrip, nothing beats a minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      crush157

      As above the Buick Regal Tour X

      They can be had for a bit over $30,000 in top trim guise with all the incentives there are…. As I bought one for just this reason last year!

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Sedan guy here. Mine would be the stately, old-school, huge-trunked, quiet-n-comfy Chrysler 300. With all the incentives out there, I could easily get new Ace of Base version out-the-door for less than $30k.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      I like this one: https://bit.ly/2RLMmRD

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The 300 routinely sells for far under sticker, at least in V6 versions. You could do better than an Ace of Base version for your $30K, if you wanted.

      Me, I’d go for an S with the panoramic sunroof, driving aids, and navigation.

    • 0 avatar
      loner

      Really like the 300. My family rented one last week on vacation, after someone drove off in the Charger R/T that we were originally assigned by the rental company. Doh!

      Only problem with the 300 is the trunk, which about 7/10 scale to the rest of the car. Pack lightly for your trip!

  • avatar
    jack4x

    Miata if I can find a babysitter.

    The best Pacifica under $30K if I can’t.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    SUV-Dodge Durango SXT

    Minivan-Dodge Caravan SE I like the GT trim but that was dropped.

    Wagon-Buick Regal Tour X

    Sedan-Chrysler 300 I think you can find a S trim for just under $30k

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    “Just make sure not to buy a car with a build date of 7/5/2019 is all I’m saying.”

    Being totally pedantic I know but… If your car wasn’t built in the USA then July 5th is just another Friday.

    BTW yes I bought a new car but no I’m not telling you right now. Just completed a 3000 plus mile two week family vacation in it and I’m writing it up to see if the editorial staff around here is interested.

    Until then, silence. ;-)

  • avatar
    kkop

    Dodge Challenger R/T; best road trip car we’ve ever owned. Smaller kids can sit in the back, lots of luggage fits in cavernous trunk.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Since my family consists of, well, me, I’ll take a base Mustang convertible. MSRP is $32k and there’s $2k cash on the hood right now.

    I had an I-4T hardtop on a rental last summer for 2 weeks in Maine. Sporty enough around town, but still a relaxed highway cruiser, and even with the automatic, I had a couple tanks get close to 30mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      I haven’t ridden in the current-gen Mustang convertible, but I’m inferring from you comment that the top is nicely sealed? I recently did an 8.5-hr drive in an ’06 Saab convertible. I went in with relatively high expectations as to its comfort and quietness, and it met or exceeded them. Good to know the Mustang’s top is interstate-friendly too. Disclaimer: My baseline for convertibles is “rusty 1970ish Skylark with unlined top.”

      Here’s how you know you’re older than the person reviewing the car. AUTOMOBILE’S Mac Morrison says of the EcoBoost Mustang, “This car’s $895 Performance exhaust is a must-get option….” To me, spending $895 to make your car louder is the height of insanity.

      • 0 avatar
        eggsalad

        You infer poorly, my friend :) My rental was a hardtop, but since they gave me a budget of $30k, I went for the convertible on this fantasy road trip. I have no experience with the current convertible, but if I’m spending someone eles’s money, I’ll take the risk.

      • 0 avatar
        nrd515

        I spent a little more than that on my last car doing that. About $1000 total on the SOLO Mach-X catback including install.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8av4H0ZgpWk

        Worth every penny!

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    2019 Mazda MX-5 Club, 6-speed, zero options. With destination, it comes in at $29,000 (Edmunds True Market Value for this area.) That means leaving out the desirable Brembo/BBS package, but a limit’s a limit!
    Since most of my road trips are taken with one other person, we’d pack light, do laundry along the way, and take a couple of weeks to head out west, keep the top down, and soak in the fun that the MX-5 provides. And then use the $1,000 under the $30,000 saved for a good back adjustment because a two week road trip in a car that small…ouch! But it would be worth it.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I’m one person, have no need for vast amounts of power, have been lusting after a Challenger (the V6 is just fine for me). The pornstar V6 can return decent smileage for its size. I’d go for a plum crazy Challenger GT.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      “The pornstar V6 can return decent smileage”

      Hmmm.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      It’s fine, I guess, but the Scatpack’s 485 HP, is just fine for me.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        That’s just it, I don’t know of a place where I could adequately use that power and the car is a moose anyway. It isn’t going to handle, at least if the 300 is any indication. I know my driving skill stops at being assertive enough to make my decisions but watchful enough to avoid other people who dither. I’ve never really had to correct for a rear end thays sliding, unless you count an Astro van that’s trying to go wayward on a slick ramp in January.

  • avatar
    vvk

    Sounds like the new RWD Explorer is the way to go instead of Durango.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Can’t buy a factory purple Explorer though.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Sir, I sold one in late 2004. Dark burgandy-purplish MY94 Ford Explorer V6. I remember it well, the buyer was a total meathead who needed something to run his kid-on-the-way around in. I don’t think he traded anything, and I think we sold it for 4 or 4,5; don’t remember the miles.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’d pick a Road Glide Special.

    If I’m forced to choose a car I’d go with a ’19 Cruze Diesel sedan (I checked there are still some new ones available) just to see how high I could hypermile it.

  • avatar
    jh26036

    For $30k, I can probably sneak a brand new Accord Sport 2.0T 6MT into the budget.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    The Durango is an interesting idea, but for me, there is no better (new) distance cruiser than a minivan. More room, easier to get in and out of.

    Even the old “classic” Grand Caravan isn’t terrible at long distance hauling, though the vocal rasp of the Pentastar is noticeable in the old vans, not so much the Pacifica. Put your phone in hotspot mode or buy a hotspot so everyone can use their devices and roll on. Or, if you’re like me and have one child (or adult) who cannot look at screens heads down, buy a portable DVD or Blu Ray system. I use to rail against those systems, but the factory Blu Ray player in our Sienna helps to eliminate the “are we there yet” question. I don’t know how my folks did it. My kids still notice things out the window too.

    Runner up would be the big FCA cars, the nod going to the more plush 300 series. But I’ve put miles on an SXT Charger rental and it excelled at it, even in V6 form. The V8 could be dangerous for me (and not found less than 30k) because I had a Ram V8 rental and it was effortless at moving, even into extra-legal speeds.

  • avatar
    teddyc73

    “aggro”? Good lord.


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