10 best cars for long-distance driving

April 21, 2023 by

Regularly take lengthy journeys? Here are 10 great cars you could consider

Improvements in engineering and technology mean even a supermini is capable of undertaking any trip you care to ask of it, but those who regularly cover big distances are likely to want something that’s capable of eating up the miles in supreme comfort, as well as having plenty of driver aids and tech.

But it’s no use a car being comfortable if it’s going to cost you the Earth to fuel. So our 10 best cars for long-distance driving combine refinement and efficiency, helping you arrive unruffled, but without having spent a painful amount on fuel.

Speaking of which, while diesel cars offer great MPG, we appreciate some may not be keen on a car that requires the black pump, so have included a variety of powertrains here.

In time, electric cars will become more popular for long-distance driving as range and charging infrastructure improve, but for now most people who undertake regular long journeys will be better-suited to petrol and diesel models. We’ve included a couple of the best EVs for long-distance drivers, though, because if you can charge at home and can avoid pricey public charging too often they should work out cheaper in the long run…

Here are 10 of the best cars for long-distance drivers:

1. BMW i5

  • Ideal long-distance spec: eDrive40, up to 357 miles of range
  • Really comfortable for hours behind the wheel
  • Impressive range
  • Rapid charging for quick motorway battery top-ups

The BMW 5 Series has long been the go-to choice for those who spend hours behind the wheel, driving up and down motorways for a living. So it should, perhaps, be no surprise that the introduction of the i5 has seen this trend continue. Go for the eDrive40 model and you get brisk performance, a comfortable, high-tech interior and a quiet driving experience.

You could go for the high-performance M60 model, which still has an impressive official range of up to 315 miles, but you’re unlikely to get anywhere near that if you enjoy the epic power from time to time. Instead, the more affordable eDrive40 version should get you comfortably over 300 miles between top ups in the real world, and with a maximum DC charge rate of 205kW, it only takes half an hour to charge from 10-80% capacity. Just enough time for a toilet break and a coffee on a road trip.

2. Skoda Superb

  • Ideal long-distance spec: 2.0-litre TDI 150hp, 57.7 mpg
  • Huge amounts of space, comfort and refinement
  • Frugal diesel and punchy petrol engines
  • Strong value for money

Skoda’s flagship model really lives up to its name – it’s superb. You get high 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.

A new model is set to go on sale in 2024, but if you can’t wait the outgoing model offers fantastic value. 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. The Estate, meanwhile, has one of the biggest boots in the business.

3. Range Rover

  • Ideal long-distance spec: D300, 36.7 mpg
  • 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 Rover in our list of long-distance cars, thanks to 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 30-35mpg in the real world, 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, and economy will dive further on the motorway once you’ve depleted the battery). 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.

4. Citroen C5 X

  • Ideal long-distance spec: PureTech 130, 46mpg
  • Very comfortable over bumps
  • Stylish and practical interior
  • Usefully big boot

Wherever you take the Citroen C5 X it’s incredibly comfortable, largely because of the comfort-focused suspension that means bumps in the road feel like driving over squishy marshmallow. But it’s out on the open road where the C5 X really comes into its own, because the quiet cabin serves up the refinement of much pricier models.

There are only two engines on offer, and it’s the petrol that will be better for long-distance drivers, with fuel economy of 46mpg in official tests. There is a plug-in hybrid with temptingly high economy stats, but the battery isn’t very big so you will run out of electric power very quickly on the motorway, making your MPG figure nosedive.

5. Honda Civic

  • Ideal long-distance spec: 2.0 i-MMD Hybrid, 60.1mpg
  • Impressive efficiency
  • Great to drive
  • Quiet at a cruise

It’s not just big, expensive cars that make for good long-distance driving companions. The Honda Civic is a prime example of this, because it’s great to drive whether you’re on a twisty road or cruising down the motorway, but it’s still pretty affordable to buy.

Your only engine option is a self-charging hybrid, which promises excellent fuel economy and seems to be capable of spending a lot of time running on electric power even on longer trips. That means you can set the standard-fit adaptive cruise control and relax in the quiet cabin without having to worry about burning through petrol once the battery’s dead.

6. Mercedes E-Class

  • Ideal long-distance spec: E 220 d, 59mpg
  • About as comfortable and refined as it gets
  • Packed full of technology
  • Spacious and practical

You might think the Mercedes S-Class is the ultimate long-distance Mercedes, and while you might not be wrong, it’s arguably better if you’re sitting in the rear seats. That’s why the E-Class is our pick if you need to churn through the miles yourself.

The new E-Class went on sale in 2023 and it’s closer than ever to being a baby S-Class. It’s cheaper (but far from cheap) while being just about as comfortable and packed full of all the technology you could ever need. You can even get it with a diesel engine still, though you would have to be a high-mileage driver for it to work out cheaper than petrol in the long run.

7. Tesla Model 3

  • Ideal long-distance spec: Model 3 Long Range, up to 390 miles of range
  • Huge range
  • Tesla’s Supercharger network appeals
  • More comfortable than ever before

The Tesla Model 3 has been one of the best electric cars at any budget for a few years now, and despite the fact there have been dozens more alternatives cropping up for sale recently, it’s still one of the very best – especially since a fairly comprehensive update was introduced in late 2023. What’s most important for long distance drivers is that the Model 3 is now more comfortable and quieter than the old version, making it even more relaxing to drive. And you still get access to Tesla’s excellent Supercharger network.

If you want to make your motorway mileage more stress free, go for the Enhanced Autopilot upgrade. It’s fairly pricey, but gives you an advanced cruise control system that keeps pace with the car in front and can even change lanes for you. New features, such as automatic parking, are coming soon and will be automatically added over your home WiFi. Full-Self Driving is the highest assistance offering from Tesla, but it doesn’t quite offer what the name suggests, and it’s very expensive for something that doesn’t add much over the cheaper system in the UK right now.

8. Volvo XC90

  • Ideal long-distance spec: B6 AWD Mild Hybrid, 32.5mpg
  • About as safe as cars get
  • Room for seven people
  • Relaxing to drive

If you spend a lot of time on the road, or have big journeys planned, it’s not just comfort and efficiency that are key concerns, it’s also safety – especially if you have your family along for the trip. That’s where the Volvo XC90 comes into its own, because it’s big and relaxing to drive, but also comes with all the safety kit you could reasonably want. It’s not quite as quiet and comfortable over bumps as you might expect, but the positives outweigh these negatives.

You can’t get a diesel engine, but the B6 petrol engine is more than up to the task of lugging this big old SUV about and cruising quietly at speed. You could go for the plug-in hybrid, but as with the Citroen, its electric range isn’t great so you will notice economy drop quite a bit on a long drive.

9. Volkswagen Golf

  • Ideal long-distance spec: 2.0-litre TDI 150hp, 62.8 mpg
  • 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, though 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.

10. Toyota Supra

  • Ideal long-distance spec: 2.0 Pro, 39.7mpg
  • 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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