10 best cars for long-distance driving

July 08, 2022 by

Regularly take lengthy journeys? Here are 10 great cars to consider

Improvements in engineering and technology mean even the humblest supermini is capable of undertaking any length of trip you care to ask of it, but those who regularly cover long distances are likely to hanker for something that’s capable of eating up the miles in supreme comfort, and with a decent smattering of driver aids and other tech features.

But it’s no use a car being comfortable if it’s going to cost you the Earth to fuel, though. So our 10 best cars for long-distance driving combine both refinement and efficiency, helping ensure you arrive at your destination(s) both unruffled, and without having spent a painful amount on petrol or diesel.

Speaking of which, while diesel cars will undoubtedly return greater fuel efficiency than a like-for-like petrol car, we appreciate some people may not be too keen on a car that requires the black pump, so have included a variety of powertrains here – including an electric car or two.

1. Skoda Superb

  • Huge amounts of space, comfort and refinement
  • Frugal diesel and punchy petrol engines
  • Strong value for money, too

The name should give you a clue as to what Skoda’s flagship model offers: superb levels of comfort and refinement, plus vast amounts of interior space – the rear seats of the Superb really do give cars like the Mercedes S-Class a run for their money.

We’d opt for the 2.0-litre 150hp diesel engine for its 57mpg fuel efficiency, while going for SE L trim will get you adaptive cruise control, blind spot assistance and a driver fatigue sensor, all of which will help those long trips pass by in an instant. Those after greater punch can opt for the 200hp diesel, or if you don’t mind more regular trips to the filling station, the 190hp or 280hp 2.0-litre petrol engines will make effortless progress. The Estate, meanwhile, has one of the biggest boots in the business.

2. Tesla Model 3

  • Up to 374 miles on a single charge
  • Industry-leading driver assistance systems
  • Tesla’s Supercharger network appeals

Some drivers who cover long distances regularly may not be able or willing to go for an EV, but those who are would do well to consider the Tesla Model 3, not least access to Tesla’s excellent Supercharger network, in addition to the the chargers all other EVs can make use of.

The 3 has several things going for it for those after a road-trip companion, the first of which is its official range on a single charge of 374 miles (if you go for the Long Range version). Plus while Tesla’s Autopilot technology is a long way from making the car ‘driverless’, the adaptive cruise control and lane-assist systems it comprises really do take the strain out of motorway miles.

3. Lexus RX

  • Fantastic interior quality
  • Bullet-proof reliability
  • Quiet and refined driving experience

Lexus likes to do things differently from other car makers, and the hybrid-only RX is a case in point. The 3.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor pair well together for smooth acceleration, and while the CVT gearbox rewards gentle acceleration, once on the move the low levels of wind and road noise make the RX a fantastic travelling companion. There’s a seven-seat version if you need some extra space, too.

Economy is reasonable rather than exceptional at around 36mpg, but the RX’s interior is so comfortable and well built that you may be willing to overlook this. Plus all models come with Lexus’s Safety System+, which bundles adaptive cruise control together with lane-keeping aids and auto-dipping headlights. Oh, and while the RX is due for imminent replacement, that only means there may be deals to be done on the model that’s leaving the stage.

4. Mercedes CLS

  • Stunning looks and refinement
  • Low-slung body aids aerodynamics
  • Strong engines with great pulling power

Some may consider that the Mercedes S-Class would be a more obvious choice for long-distance driving, but that car is arguably better suited to being a passenger in, rather than driving yourself.

Instead, why not consider the CLS? First introduced way back in 2004 when it single-handedly created the four-door coupe segment, the third-generation CLS is a stunning machine, while that low profile brings a drag coefficient of just 0.26 (that’s an impressively low number), meaning the CLS slinks up the road while displacing as little air as possible – all the better for refinement.

5. Range Rover

  • Lofty driving position gives great visibility
  • Few cars are as comfortable on a long journey
  • Latest model is dripping with helpful tech

It may require pretty deep pockets, but it would be impossible to not include the range-topping Range Rover in our list of long-distance cars. From the moment you climb aboard and sample the armchair like seats and the high driving position that is often imitated but never bettered.

The 3.0-litre diesel engine is available with 300 or 350hp and returns around 36mpg officially, while the plug-in hybrids can cover up to 70 miles on battery power alone, and officially return over 300mpg (though getting close to this will require regular plugging in). Noise-cancelling speakers contribute to a hushed driving experience, while a high-end Meridian sound system, adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assistance are among the features that help make long trips even more effortless.

6. Volkswagen Golf

  • Fantastic refinement for a hatchback
  • Wide range of engines suits all tastes
  • Plenty of driver assistance tech, too

It may seem odd to have a relatively small car nestled among this list, but the Volkswagen Golf has long been an impressively refined car for its size, and the eighth-generation version is no exception to this.

Choose from everything from an efficient yet peppy 1.0-litre petrol engine to the 320hp performance-orientated Golf R, while long-distance travellers may well favour the 150hp 2.0-litre diesel thanks to its official 62.8mpg figure. A head-up display, adaptive cruise control, fatigue assistance and a variety of lane-change assistance systems will help take the strain out of the drive, too.

7. Volvo V90

Updated Volvo V90
  • Comfortable, calm cabin
  • Strong safety tech offerings
  • One of the most stylish estate cars on the market

Some drivers who regularly carry out long journeys will need to take a fair amount of stuff with them when they travel, and few cars are as adept at this task than estates. We should highlight that you can get the Skoda Superb and VW Golf listed above in estate form as well, but the sheer design cohesiveness of the V90 warrants a dedicated entry – there’s also the Volvo S90 saloon stablemate if you fancy a traditional ‘three-box’ design.

Opt for the V90 and you’ll get a sensibly shaped 560-litre boot, while the B4 diesel model will return just shy of 50mpg. The V90’s standout feature is arguably its cabin, though: even though its interior design language was introduced with the XC90 of 2015, its subtle, tasteful, relaxing ambiance has more than stood the test of time, and make the V90 a fantastic car in which to while away long hours. Oh, and a special mention should also go to the seats, which are among the most comfortable ever fitted to a car.

8. Citroen C3

  • Hugely comfortable seats
  • Soft suspension, too
  • Affordable and economical

Proof that you don’t need to spend vast amounts of money to secure a truly comfortable car, the Citroen C3 may be a relative pipsqueak compared to the Range Rover, for example, but Citroen’s engineers have long ploughed their own furrow when it comes to designing cars, and the C3 continues this trend.

Because while many car makers default to vast alloy wheels and stiff suspension in a bid to give cars a ‘sporty’ feel that buyers are perceived to want, Citroen at times takes the opposite approach. The C3’s armchair-like seats and pillow-soft suspension deal well with the UK’s rutted roads, and while there’s no diesel option the 130hp 1.0-litre petrol engine offers 50mpg officially, and you can pair this with a six-speed automatic gearbox to take even more of the strain out of long journeys.

9. BMW 5 Series

  • Pin-sharp driving dynamics
  • Blended with a hushed experience
  • One of the best interiors in its class

It is hard to overstate just how good a motorway companion the BMW 5 Series is. Because while the current model may have been on sale since 2016, you wouldn’t know it from either the outside, which is sleek and stylish, or the cabin, which is impeccably well built, and brimming with tech.

True, the Mercedes E-Class may be slightly more comfortable over bumps, but the 5 Series remains an effortless long-distance companion, while also being a genuinely engaging car on smaller roads. Opt for the 520d for its 55mpg fuel economy, while the £2,000 Driving Assistant Professional package brings some really well developed driver-assistance tech.

10. Toyota Supra

  • Strong engines and sharp looks
  • A proper two-seat grand tourer
  • Genuinely impressive ride comfort

All of the cars we’ve featured so far presume you want or need to undertake long journeys and be able to carry multiple passengers and plenty of luggage, but some buyers will undoubtedly be making solo trips on a regular basis, and want something a little more spirited and stylish.

Step forward the Toyota Supra, which is more of a grand tourer than an outright sports car, offering excellent ride comfort, excellent interior technology, and an appealing 3.0-litre engine. True, the latter two aspects come courtesy of BMW, with whom the Supra was co-developed, but that just means you get an excellent infotainment system and driver tech, plus a great-sounding and potent six-cylinder engine. There’s also a 2.0-litre four cylinder petrol engine, which returns 39.7mpg.

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