Best cars for a road trip revealed

If you're thinking of taking a road trip this summer, the best vehicles to do it in are made by Volkswagen and Ford.

That's the finding of car utility company Thule, which announced May 26 that it had picked the VW Jetta SportWagen TDI and Ford Explorer as its 2011 road trip vehicles of the year.

The company, which makes everything from snow chains to trailers and therefore should know a thing or too about long-distance driving, evaluated a range of cars with the aim of picking one above $30,000 and one below.

The criteria included styling, storage, gas mileage, size, comfort, cost, number of cup holders, number of speakers, warranty, entertainment features and safety, says the firm.

The Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI, described as "a great combination of value, style and utility," was chosen as the best of the cheaper models, coming in at just under $25,000.

"The peppy engine makes for a spirited drive while the interior cabin space is comfortable and intuitive. The raised rail on the roof provided many roof rack positions to maximize the amount of gear we were able to transport," remarked Thule's Tripp Wyckoff.

Ford's Explorer Limited, priced at just above $40,000, was a "clear winner" among the more expensive models.

"The Explorer was an amazingly capable vehicle [for a] weekend road trip to Vermont this past winter. Our road conditions varied from snow to ice to muddy dirt road to dry pavement and the Explorer felt confident in all these conditions," said Thule's Karl Wiedemann.

With gas prices at all-time highs, Thule said that both models were at the lower-end on fuel consumption, although a recent survey by TripAdvisor suggested that the number of people planning to fly or drive on a break this summer was roughly the same as last year.

http://www.thule.com

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