January 31, 2023



I Need A Comfy Cross-Country Cruiser! What Car Should I Buy?

Image for article titled I Need A Comfy Cross-Country Cruiser! What Car Should I Buy?

Photo: Bradley Brownwell

Jared and his wife live in Washington D.C. but will be relocating to Colorado. His wife hasn’t driven much in the past nine years because they haven’t really needed a car. He wants to get something that is comfortable for the long drive and easy for her to “re-learn” now that tech has gotten a bit more complicated.

(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. )

Here is the scenario –

My wife hasn’t driven in 9 years, and we are about to make a big cross-country move that will require us to get a second car and for her to (re)learn how to drive.

She hasn’t really driven since car tech has gotten so helpful and user-friendly (the last car she drove with any regularity was a 2004 Mazda 6). So I think she would really like a car with a lot of driver-assist type features.

We would like an electric or hybrid, but that’s not 100% required.

AWD is likely a near-necessity due to winter weather in our soon-to-be home.

Would like to seat 5 comfortably (we have three kids), but it will likely primarily be the wife’s commuter car.

I would say that she is probably at the place in her life where she wants a car that is nice. It doesn’t have to be a status symbol brand, but she will definitely not want cloth seats, if that makes sense and doesn’t sound too snobby. If it does sound too snobby, these are my words not hers…

No minivans.

Our budget is up to $80,000 but we certainly don’t have to spend that much.

Quick Facts:

Budget: up to $80,000

Daily Driver: Yes

Location: Currently Washington D.C., will be driving cross-country to Louisville, CO

Wants: Comfy, safe, upscale ideally some kind of electric or hybrid

Doesn’t want: A minivan

Expert 1: Tom McParland – Comfy, Safe, Hybrid

Image for article titled I Need A Comfy Cross-Country Cruiser! What Car Should I Buy?

Image: Autotrader

If you are going to hike halfway across the country with the family in addition to seating 5 comfortably, you will need something with a bit of cargo space. Since minivans are out, it would seem a mid-size SUV would fit the bill both in the short-term and long-term. With an $80,000 budget, there are plenty of luxury family haulers, but once you check that hybrid/electric box the choices narrow dramatically.

With a high priority on comfort and safety, the obvious choice is the Volvo XC90 T8 Plug-In Hybrid. The XC90 might not be one of the latest and greatest offerings, but it still shines with style, tech, and some of the best seats you can buy. Like most luxury offerings, these are well equipped with the features you would expect from a high-end SUV. The T8 Plug-In will give you 18 miles of electric range, which isn’t a lot for a long-distance drive, but you also don’t have to worry about plotting out recharging stops compared to a full electric. Fully loaded XC90 T8s can easily crest over the $80,000 mark, but nicely equipped examples can be found in the low $70k range and brand new models would qualify for the Federal Tax Credit for electric cars.

Expert 2: Elizabeth Blackstock – Sleeper Luxury

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Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

Jared. Oh, Jared. I know you don’t want a minivan, but I’m urging you to please at least consider one, because there is no shame in driving a minivan. In fact, most minivans on the market today kick so much ass. I’ve driven both the Toyota Sienna and the Chrysler Pacifica, and they are both stunning vehicles that meet all your needs: Comfort, space, driver assists, AWD, hybrid options, and more. All I’m saying is: Consider it. Drive a top-of-the-line Pacifica. Just do it and see how you feel after.

Instead, I’m going to propose the Genesis GV80. No, it’s not hybrid, and it doesn’t have great gas mileage. The optional third row is not exactly roomy. But if you’re looking for something comfortable, well-optioned, and luxurious without spending a ton of money, you should be looking at the GV80.

Trust me. I’ve driven the top-of-the-line 3.5T Prestige Signature trim, and it is glorious — and, when brand-new, still within your $80,000 budget. You’ll have to make some compromises on the fuel efficiency standpoint, but I’m pretty sure your wife will fall in love as soon as she gets behind the wheel.

Expert 2: José Rodríguez Jr. – A Volvo By Any Other Name

Image for article titled I Need A Comfy Cross-Country Cruiser! What Car Should I Buy?

Photo: Polestar

Jared, it’s hard to pin down when the best time to opt for an EV would be, exactly, but I’d say just dive into the deep end now! While a nice hybrid with some prestige behind its badge would be good — something like the Lexus ES Hybrid — you said this will be a commuter car. And that’s what EVs are good at!

I’m going to dial up the electricity from Tom’s Volvo XC90 suggestion and point you to the other auto venture from the Swedes with the 2023 Polestar 2. A fresh, new Polestar 2 starts at $49,800, but you need AWD, or dual motors. That adds a few grand to price, for a total of $53,300 before any federal tax credits. So, the Polestar 2 could eventually cost you $45,800 with AWD. Only thing is the Dual Motor AWD model has a slightly lower range of 260 miles per charge.

The Polestar 2 sits somewhere between a sedan and a crossover, functionally speaking. It’s not clearly either one, which makes it stand out. The cabin layout is light years ahead of anything from 2006 so it’ll feel like a real leap forward. It’s also not ostentatious or loud about being an EV. It’s not like the BMW iX, which would be an expensive alternative with a familiar badge. The Polestar 2 trades some that brand cache for something much better: a quiet confidence.

Expert 4: Owen Bellwood – All-in on All-Electric

A photo of a teal-colored Audi e-tron electric car charging at a station at night.

Photo: Audi

A four wheel drive car with space for five, all the driving tech and a bit of electric power? Oh Jared, have I got the car for you. Take a look at this, the latest Audi E-Tron – an all-electric SUV that does a good job at pretending to be a sporty, all-wheel-drive wagon.

From new, you can pick up this lovely all-electric family runaround for upwards of $65,000 – plus dealer markups and any options you might want to add on. So it should come in nicely under your budget. And for that, you’ll get more than 200 miles of electric range, a nice voluminous cargo area and driver aids like adaptive cruise assist, Audi’s Pre Sense system and a virtual 3D view of your surroundings whenever you need it.

On top of that, you’ll have a great looking car to drive around town that definitely isn’t a minivan. There are a few up for sale near D.C. right now, including this one that comes in the excellent Galaxy Blue Metallic color.

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