The question comes regularly and often from readers, on a nearly-weekly basis: “I’m on the road a lot; what’s a good car to test drive if I want something that’s luxurious, comfortable, roomy and affordable?”
The market is packed with big-dollar luxury rides that achieve most of the above, though numerous affordable options are also on offer for shoppers on tighter budgets. Translation?
You needn’t spend an arm and/or leg to access a vehicle that’s well-equipped for making hours of continual driving disappear with comfort, content and space to spare. If your new-car wish-list aligns with the attributes listed above, read on.
Here, I’ll provide my take on three affordable luxury sedan must-drives and a few of the attributes and features that you’ll likely enjoy the most during long-distance driving.
Approximate starting price: $43,000
Why: The Avalon is all-new for model-year 2019, and available on dealer lots now. Styling has gone sporty and upscale, but the interior is pure luxury — including various design elements and techy bits that wouldn’t look out of place in a Lexus or BMW.
All modern must-have tech is on board, including radar-assisted driver aids and wireless Smartphone charging. Plus, as Avalon has for years, the new model offers heaps of room and great on-board build quality.
A proven and punchy 3.5-litre V6 is standard, and the XSE model serves up a sporty take on Avalon’s long-held promise of supple comfort, with a sport-tuned suspension and powerful sounding quad exhaust.
Don’t miss: Two of Avalon’s features are most likely to be appreciated by long-haul drivers.
The first is the available JBL audio system, with 14 speakers and vivid audio reproduction. The other is the 10-inch colour head-up display, which projects vital running data into the lower area of the driver’s line of sight, like a floating digital hologram.
This looks fancy, but can also reduce eye fatigue and help drivers keep their eyes on the road more of the time.
2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD
Approx starting price: $44,000
Why: Kia’s proven that their model range can challenge any number of pricier competitors, and the Kia Stinger is perhaps the strongest example of it.
This is a sports car first and foremost, but take one for a test drive — and especially if you’re after a long-haul cruiser that has some serious performance moves.
Though Stinger gets Brembo brakes, 365 standard twin-turbo horsepower and racy looks, it also functions beautifully as a long-haul cruiser.
All-wheel drive makes it suitable for use in any weather, and the suspension is tuned to be sporty, but not uncomfortable.
It’s not as roomy or easy on fuel as the other picks here, but for shoppers willing to use a little more fuel and give up a little space, it serves up a world-class performance punch, a long-haul drive that’s more forgiving than you think, and just about every safety, luxury and connectivity feature you can shake a stick at if you go with a fully-loaded GT Limited model at around $50,000.
Don’t miss: The trick suspension. Stinger’s suspension characteristics can be modified with a simple twist on an electronic dial.
Pick comfort mode, and the shocks soften, seeing Stinger ride like a semi-sporty luxury sedan.
Click the sport drive mode into play, and the shocks firm up for enhanced handling and response.
It’s a clever bit of technology that turns in a comfortable ride, or a sporty ride, with no compromise.
2018 Chevrolet Impala
Approx starting price: $31,300
Why: I rave about the Chevrolet Impala frequently when asked what cars make a good, luxurious long-distance cruiser.
The latest Impala has heaps of room for four adults, a decent trunk, great feature content bang for the buck, and a ride that feels expertly honed to make hours of driving disappear with ease.
Also, the powertrain achieves something remarkable: the 3.6-litre V6 is potent (with more than 300 horsepower) but also, turns in great real-world fuel mileage while cruising.
This is one of the best-riding big sedans anywhere near its price and, for where and how I drive, it’s also turned in about the best mileage I’ve ever seen in a big, 300-horsepower car.
If you want space and comfort, and a nicely-tuned highway driving experience that requires little of you, all for a decent price, Impala is worthy of your consideration.
Don’t miss: Impala offers up OnStar for push-button, GPS-linked access to real-life help and assistance from a live advisor who can even program your navigation system for you, via satellite.
OnStar is indispensable for added confidence when travelling in unfamiliar locales, and works for anyone driving the car, whether or not they have their own cell phone.
Also, built-in Wi-Fi and an available household power outlet mean your passengers can stay connected to the office, and work on their laptop with ease, while on the go.