‘Coolest Road Trip Vehicles’ Unveiled in Detroit


Detroit Free Press - January 21, 2013

Ellen Crea­ger of the Detroit Free Press, puts forth her take on seven of the “coolest road trip vehi­cles” that are parked on the show­room floor at the Detroit Auto Show.

See if you agree on her seven picks.

The Ford Tran­sit Con­nect Wagon: Com­ing out later this year, the pas­sen­ger ver­sion of the pop­u­lar small cargo van may not be the sex­i­est vehi­cle on the road. But it is so use­ful. Its long ver­sion seats seven. The rear seats fold down to make such a flat, wide sur­face that you could either put a sleep­ing bag in the back at bed­time or tote lug­gage for 20 Boy Scouts. It promises to be rea­son­ably priced, can tow up to 2,000 pounds and gets up to 30 m.p.g. Call me crazy, but I like its hum­ble vibe.

Mer­cedes GL450 SUV: OK, so its base price is about $64,000, plus options. For­get about that for a minute. This gor­geous SUV has optional, huge video screens embed­ded in the seats so each rear pas­sen­ger has his own, sort of like on an air­plane, but far plusher. Per­fect for bor­ing rides of 1,000 miles or more — you’ll never notice the world out­side your Mer­cedes cocoon.

The Green­brier van: It looks like a vehi­cle for Scooby-Doo — and wait, it could be! It dates from 1963. It’s easy to imag­ine this creaky Corvair-based van rat­tling down the high­way, win­dows open, driver’s hair fly­ing, radio blast­ing. This Greenbrier’s inte­rior has been mod­i­fied to a photo booth at the Chevro­let exhibit, tucked away near the back of the auto show. Take a pic­ture of it, not just your­self in it.

Hyundai Veloster C3 Roll­top con­cept car: The hip road-trip vehi­cle on dis­play at the Hyundai exhibit is white with turquoise wheel cov­ers, with a white-and-turquoise bike stick­ing out the back of its odd-shaped hatch­back. This con­cept car has a fold-down tail­gate and a can­vas roof that slides for­ward or back­ward to retract, depend­ing on what you are car­ry­ing. It has three doors — two on the left and one on the right. I can see a lot of good ideas here for a future road-trip-friendly pro­duc­tion car.

Sub­aru Out­back: Com­pared to all the flash and dash at this glit­ter­ing show, this vehi­cle actu­ally is pretty bor­ing. So what? Its brand is so strong that it screams of being a fit, out­doorsy trav­eler, even if you’re only dri­ving it to church with your poodle.

Jeep Wran­gler Moab Edi­tion: True, the Jeep Grand Chero­kee is a more prac­ti­cal road-trip vehi­cle for 99% of trav­el­ers, espe­cially fam­i­lies (and I’m happy to hear that Jeep also is bring­ing back a seven-passenger Grand Wag­oneer in 2014). But nobody will for­get you in Yel­low­stone if you show up in this glowy orange Wran­gler, with its chunky hard­ware and flashy good looks. It also comes in handy for tow­ing pretty girls’ cars out of ditches.

Toy­ota FJ Cruiser: Again, this will never replace the more lux­u­ri­ous Land Cruiser for long fam­ily trips. It also has small rear doors and a tiny back­seat. But it has inter­est­ing optional dials on the dash­board, includ­ing a floating-ball “incli­nome­ter” that tells you how far over you’re tipped. Wow! Your mother will be so pleased. Fun for dri­ving west through the Rock­ies, and then into a giant mud puddle.