Everybody writes about which cars to choose for a cross-country road trip, but nobody talks about the right cars to pick for shorter distances. What if you wanted to find the ultimate car for a weekend trip or a couple hours drive to see grandma?
The perfect car for this amount of time and distance has different requirements than a car that will take you across the nation, so we broke down all the prerequisites and determined which cars you should take on a short to mid-distance journey.
What is a Short Distance Road Trip?
A short distance road trip is definitely longer than a trip to the store or the mall, but way shorter than a 3,000 mile trip from California to New York.
What are some instances that you may want to drive for this amount of distance? For example, you may want to head to the beach for the afternoon from your inland city. Or, you may want to visit a vineyard that is a few hours away. There could also be a drive to a big mall in your area that is in the next city or state over.
Generally, we define a short distance road trip as a drive that is anywhere from 2 to 6 hours each way. You wouldn’t call it a full-blown road trip, but it is long enough to warrant a high amount of comfort and space for you and your passengers.
Short Distance Cars – Requirements
For distances of this length, we have a lot more flexibility in identifying the ideal car to take. You wouldn’t need to worry about gas mileage as much. Also, it is short enough to be within the range for many electric vehicles, so they are viable options here, too.
Also, while some extra space would be nice, you don’t really need a huge 7-seater with a large trunk to fit weeks of luggage. There just needs to be enough space to carry a few overnight bags.
Comfort is also paramount, but could be negotiated as well. Sports cars with a more aggressively-tuned ride could still be an option as a 2 to 6 hour drive is probably the maximum amount of time someone could spend in one of these types of vehicles.
Basically, this drive length allows us to swap out cars with good economy and utility for cars with a little more luxury and sportiness.
That means we can rule out all compact entry-level cars as well as large SUVs and minivans that would normally be well-suited for a long trip.
So, cars like the Volkswagen Golf, Toyota Corolla, Honda Odyssey, and Ford Expedition are nowhere near our minds for this list. They are all great cars, but they are just too plain for this article.
Instead, we will focus on indulging in some more upscale and less practical choices for this exercise so that you can drive in comfort and arrive fresh and rested at your destination.
12 Ideal Short Distance Road Trip Cars
12. Hyundai Nexo
Hyundai’s first fully electric SUV features bold styling and a robust 380 mile range. Inside, its futuristic cockpit will keep you at ease and assist in driving you towards your weekend getaway.
Plus, it has ample space for 5 as well as a large hatch to fit all your luggage.
Hyundai has evolved quite a bit to now be able to field one of the top short distance road trip cars.
11. Maserati Levante
Arrive in style in a Maserati SUV that features an interior with supple leather everywhere and a powerful engine that ranges from 350 to 580 horsepower. This is definitely for those who don’t want to worry about fuel economy and would rather focus on being transported in a luxurious cocoon.
10. BMW i4
The electric 3-Series is an ideal short distance car for the discerning driver who wants a bit of sportiness in an electric package that will still take them far.
The i4 is the perfect car for a drive that lasts several hours as it combines luxury with engagement so that both the driver and passengers will be happy throughout the drive.
The jury’s still out on whether it is a capable 3-Series alternative, but we are confident that it is the right choice for short trips.
9. Volvo V60 Cross Country
We think that a Volvo wagon is one of the best cars you can take for a short cruise out into the country for a camping trip or an outdoor adventure.
The V60’s comfortable ride and supple interior makes it a very compelling choice for your journey. Plus, the V60 Cross Country comes with ample room in its extended trunk for all your bags.
8. Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
This Italian beauty probably only makes sense for shorter drives since it has a reputation of unexpected breakdowns. You can enjoy the Quadrifoglio’s passionate 505 horsepower V6 on your jaunt through the canyons or across the desert with a smile across your face the whole time.
7. Tesla Model Y
The Model Y is the more affordable SUV-sized vehicle in Tesla’s lineup. This highly functional crossover gives you the space you need without the cost of having to gas up during your trip (or any trip).
We think that it is more practical than the Model 3 and a better overall deal than the Model X, all for around $60,000.
6. Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing
The CT4-V Blackwing is one of the best Cadillacs ever produced and it is the perfect companion for a short trip through some of your favorite driving roads. We probably wouldn’t recommend it for more than 2 hours at a time, but those 2 hours will certainly be a joy.
Its 3.6 liter, 472 horsepower engine is sure to delight you and your passengers.
5. Genesis Electrified GV70
The Genesis brand has developed some beautiful cars lately, all with downright decadent interiors that look like you could spend days in.
The Electrified GV70 gives you all the space and comfort you need without any guilt of guzzling any gas.
4. Lexus LS500
The newest Lexus LS500 is the most luxurious car on this list of the most ideal short distance road trip cars. If you are only looking for the most indulgent experience without any care for driving dynamics, then the LS500 is your choice.
The LS500’s back seats are really where you should find yourself if you want ultimate luxury, where you can really stretch out and relax. But, the front thrones are no slouch, either, featuring 28-way adjustable seats that also can massage you.
3. Audi RS3
The newest RS3 is truly a beast and would make a great short distance car. This 401 horsepower bullet gives you speed and dynamic performance alongside a sporty and modern interior with enough comfort to last your whole journey.
It’s ride is focused, but not ultra harsh, so you can actually enjoy your drive for its full duration. You might even get to your destination faster than you expected.
2. Mercedes-Benz EQS
The EQS is probably the most futuristic ride we have on this list. Its full-length digital dash, which is a 56-inch-long “Hyperscreen”, can keep the driver and passengers entertained for hours.
You also get all the comfort and luxury that comes with a flagship Mercedes car, which makes it one of the best choices for your short journeys.
1. Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
We think that the newest Taycan Cross Turismo is the ultimate short distance car. It features Porsche’s legendary handling and dynamics in an electric package that requires zero fuel.
The Cross Turismo version also provides a bit more cargo space than the base version, which makes it suitable for virtually any trip you can plan.
These cars will all get you through your short drives quickly and comfortably. There is really no wrong choice here, as it will just depend on your preferences and space requirements.
But, whatever you do, just don’t choose something boring. Drives of short or long distances should be fun at all times.
There will also be more choices for electric vehicles and more charging stations that will be built across the nation, which will make your travels even easier and less worrisome.
We think that the perfect short distance drive should include the car of your choice that is quick, stylish inside and out, and provides you with enough room for you and at least 2 or 3 other people.
But, really, it is the people that accompany you on your trip that is the most important element of the drive. And remember, the journey is the destination, whether you arrive there quickly with the help of a turbocharged engine or if you decide to take the long, winding back roads.
Our Most Beloved Short Distance Drives
New York to Montreal – 6 hours
Drive through the beauty of Upstate New York on your way to Canada. Be sure to find some backroads to truly experience the wonder of the area, especially when you are closer to the border.
Chicago to Mackinaw City – 6 hours
Take a ride through the mitten and get to the northern point of Michigan. If you are going in the winter, we would recommend the Maserati Levante or Volvo V60 Cross Country.
San Francisco to Monterey – 2 hours
Experience the coast of California with a beautiful drive down Highway 1. The best choice here would be a sports-focused car like the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio or Audi RS3.
Phoenix to Las Vegas – 5 hours
This desert journey requires a car that has great straight-line speed for the long stretches of highway. We would go with the Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing or Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo for this drive to Sin City.