Get Outta Town!While it's hard to pin down the exact origins of some traditions, many pop culture experts credit the 1960 movie Where The Boys Are with giving birth to the all-American ritual known as Spring Break. But while thousands of college kids will be cutting loose on those same Florida beaches in the weeks ahead, there's no arguing the fact that--on its 50th birthday--these annual getaways have definitely matured. In short, Spring Break's not just for kids anymore. With that in mind, we've put together a list of new models we think are especially well-suited to a variety of grown-up road trips.
Photos courtesy of their respective manufacturers
BMW 335i Convertible: Sweet SeductionIf it’s a romantic rendezvous you have in mind, you’ll find few vehicles better suited to sweeping the object of your affections off their feet than the fourth-generation BMW 3-Series Convertible. While its sleek lines and sophisticated styling are the most obvious attractions here, don’t underestimate the giddy thrills to be had courtesy of the sweet 300-horsepower, twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine under the hood. If there’s a long stretch of curvy road between you and your little love nest, so much the better as this sexy droptop’s sport-tuned suspension delivers breathtaking handling that only adds to the fun.
BMW 335i Convertible: Head & Heart
While all convertibles have an inherently romantic quality, the BMW 335i’s interior appeals to both head and heart. From a rational perspective, the retractable hardtop offers the comfort and security of a coupe en route to your destination. Once you arrive and the mood for a little alfresco motoring strikes , the roof’s three panels stack themselves beneath the trunk lid in just 22 seconds. Add a long list of upscale details, including innovative leather upholstery that remains cool to the touch even in direct sunlight, and you have a driving experience so posh you may never want to go home.
Ford Flex: Style & SubstanceThere are lots of family-friendly roadtrip vehicles out there, but few offer the combination of distinctive styling, impressive performance and practical details you’ll find in the Ford Flex. Unlike most midsize crossovers, the Flex is actually quite enjoyable to drive thanks to the available 355-horsepower EcoBoost V-6 that delivers both surprisingly good acceleration and decent fuel economy. Handling is also much better than you’d expect from a vehicle this size.
Add wide-opening rear doors and an optional power-operated rear liftgate and you have a supremely practical package that even the most image-conscious parents will actually want to be seen in.
Ford Flex: Cutting-Edge Cool
Slide behind the Flex’s steering wheel and you’ll discover an attractive, comfortable interior with room for up to seven adults in three rows of seats. The real attraction here, however is the wide range of optional bells-and-whistles that make the Flex ideally suited to hitting the road in the family mode. Specific high points include a second-row center console with a built-in refrigerator-freezer (Popsicle, anyone?) and a sophisticated navigation system with cutting-edge features like Sirius satellite data service that delivers everything from real-time traffic reports to live weather radar images to current fuel prices at gas stations along your route.
Land Rover LR4: Pavement OptionalIf your idea of a great getaway involves a secret surf break or fishing hole miles from the nearest paved road, you’ll love the all-new Land Rover LR4. While the most noticeable change to this midsize luxury SUV is its more sophisticated styling, what you can’t see is equally important. Namely a gutsy new 5.0-liter V-8 and a reworked suspension that delivers much improved ride and handling on pavement. Where the LR4 really shines, however, is off-road, thanks to Land Rover’s sophisticated Terrain Response system that allows you to conquer everything from axle-deep mud to skull-sized rocks with ease.
Land Rover LR4: Classy & Comfortable
Though the LR4 is rugged enough for extreme adventures, it’s also remarkably well-suited to everyday driving. The stylish new leather- and wood-lined interior offers comfortable seating for seven passengers with the available third-row seat, and comes fitted with a long list of amenities worthy of any luxury sedan. When it’s time to load up your expedition gear (or the family’s rolling suitcases), you’ll find folding down all or part of the 35/30/35-split second-row seat creates a spacious load floor. If that’s not enough cargo capacity for you, the LR4 is also capable of towing trailers up to 7,700-pounds.
Toyota Sienna: A Sporty Minivan?When it comes to family roadtrips, minivans are hard to beat. Only problem is these practical kid-schleppers are typically about as exciting as Barney re-runs. Or they were until the introduction of the all-new 2011 Toyota Sienna. We especially like the new SE model which features unexpectedly sporty styling, lowered ride height, and 19-inch alloy wheels. Power comes from a 3.5-liter V-6 that puts out an impressive 265-horsepower while still managing to return respectable fuel economy estimates of 24 MPG highway. Add a sport-tuned suspension and you have what is quite possibly the most fun-to-drive eight-passenger vehicle on the road.
Toyota Sienna: The Only Way To Fly
If you’ve ever felt envious of folks who can afford to travel by private jet, you’ll like this new Sienna’s top-flight interior. That’s because the top-of-the-line Limited trim level comes with several new luxury features that would make any jet-setter feel right at home. Topping that list are second-row “lounge seats” with reclining seat-backs and extendable footrests. Spring for the 16-inch widescreen video monitor that can display two different program sources at the same time—like, say, your daughter’s movie and your son’s video game—and you have an interior so deluxe the adults will want to ride in back.
Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sportwagen: Maximum MPGIf you think you can’t afford a Spring Break roadtrip this year, allow us to suggest you ditch your big gas-gulping SUV for the new Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sportwagen. You see, making the switch to this compact “clean diesel” wagon—which gets an outstanding 42 MPG highway—will save you some serious cash at every fill-up. Money that you can then blow foolishly on tropical drinks at some sunny seaside resort. The fact that the 2.0-liter turbodiesel under the hood and the European-tuned suspension also make this surprisingly green car great fun to drive, well, that’s just a bonus.
Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sportwagen: Less Is More
Just because the Jetta TDI Sportwagen is smaller than what you’re driving now, doesn’t mean you’ll end up feeling short-changed come vacation time. On the contrary, the Jetta’s remarkably quiet interior offers comfortable seating for four, and features top-quality materials that put many more expensive vehicles to shame. What sets the Sportwagen apart from its sedan sibling, however, is the roadtrip-ready cargo area with 33 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. Fold those seatbacks down and you’ll end up with more than enough room for a traveling companion who doesn’t really understand the meaning of packing light.
Dodge Ram Mega Cab: You Can Take It With YouIf your idea of a good time involves taking all your toys along for the ride, have we got the truck for you. For starters, the Ram Mega Cab has more than enough muscle to move your load down the road courtesy of 5.7-liter Hemi or 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel V-8s. Out back, the Mega Cab is fitted with a six-foot, four-inch bed that will easily hold a couple of dirt bikes or ATVs. If your vacation plans call for pulling a boat or camping trailer, this über-Ram also has you covered with towing capacities up to 15,000 pounds.
Dodge Ram Mega Cab: Wide Open Spaces
While the Ram Mega Cab’s brawn is impressive, it’s this deluxe truck’s creature comforts that make it such an ideal road-tripping machine. Starting with an interior so downright cavernous you might expect to hear an echo. The back seat is beyond spacious, with limo-like leg room that makes it comfortable for the biggest friends you can find. In fact, there’s not a bad seat in the house, thanks to upscale standard features and options on Laramie models like heated and cooled front seats and a rear video entertainment system that can receive three kid-friendly channels of live satellite TV programming.
Subaru Forester: Ready, Willing, & AbleNot sure where you want to go on vacation? Maybe to the mountains for a little spring skiing? Or to that great primitive campground at the end of a rutted fire road? Well then, best get yourself a Subaru Forester. You see, this third-generation Forester is surprisingly well suited for a wide variety of adventures, thanks to its very capable all-wheel drive system and healthy 8.7 inches of ground clearance. While it’s not meant for serious off-roading, you’ll find it has what it takes to get you through conditions that would stop most other small crossovers dead in their tracks.
Subaru Forester: Plenty Practical
No matter where you end up going for Spring Break, you’ll want a vehicle with plenty of room for you, your friends, and all your stuff. This new larger Forester fills that bill with a spacious rear seat that’s much more adult-friendly than the one in the previous generation. The combination of its boxy shape and large rear liftgate opening also makes it possible to pack enough camping gear to allow four friends to rough it in comfort and style. Add the Forester’s above-average 2,400-pound towing capacity and you have a supremely practical crossover that’s ready for just about anything.