A phenomenon created when major road networks were formulated across North America in the 1950s, the summer family automobile trip was inaugurated. Originally identified as a time when a large station wagon was loaded up with belongings, the trip in route to a landmark or camping ground for some family memories. In the 1980s, minivans all but destroyed the station wagon providing more interior space and an affordable price. In the latest evolution of the family hauler, the sport utility or crossover vehicles demonstrate both brawn on the exterior and user-friendly spaciousness on the inside cabin. Providing expanded capability over other vehicles (at least giving the illusion of increased road toughness), the crossover is the lead body style found cruising down the highway with a trailer and a full roof rack.
Beyond the type of automobile, a technological evolution through the past decade is potentially changing the attitude of the multiple-hour journey. Better fuel economy in these larger family utility vehicles allows the fuel pump shock to the ever-rising prices to be somewhat moderated. Satellite radio, MP3 capability, multi-zone climate control and the back seat DVD-based entertainment console has the ability of deeply reducing boredom. Electronic navigation systems replace the passenger-seated spouse’s objection to driving direction; therefore averting the normal holiday-bred bickering that the children will remember for years to come.
For 2011, the following set of six family adventure vehicles shows varying ways to partake the nation’s highways.
Dodge Grand Caravan
For over 27 years, Chrysler has championed the minivan for the American driving public. Even as other auto manufacturers have come and gone from the segment, the Dodge Grand Caravan remains a leading transportation choice for the typical family. In 2011, the Dodge Grand Caravan was given revitalization with refreshed interior and exterior design. For under $30,000, Quad headlights, multi-zone climate control, power windows and remote keyless entry delight Grand Caravan buyers as basic vehicle equipment. One of three Media Center infotainment systems is offered on the 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan including an optional high-end model featuring GPS navigation and a 30-gigabyte hard drive. Known as the Media Center 730N, the unit is conducted by a 6.5-inch touchscreen. Earning a much-needed revision in 2011, the Dodge Grand Caravan overcomes a long-time lethargic 0 to 60 mile per hour acceleration plaguing minivans. Recipient of Chrysler’s new 283 horsepower Pentastar V-6 engine, a smooth shifting 6-speed automatic transaxle gives the 7-passenger minivan pep modern crossover buyers would envy.
Alright, a Mercedes-Benz as a family hauler might be a little more than the Joneses would ever expect. Tipping over the $50,000 mark, the Mercedes-Benz R-Class does employ more than just the German brand’s bravado. Providing seating for six or seven passengers, the minimum cargo availability is 19.4 cubic feet. As a luxury utility vehicle, the Mercedes -Benz R-Class delivers with high-tech thrills. An optional rear seat entertainment system featuring two front headrest-mounted, LCD screens and a pair of wireless headphones are suited for watching DVD movies or playing video games. Mercedes-Benz R-Class buyers are also likely to be lured to a pair of Premium packages that offer a bundle of high-tech comfort goodies including a 40-gigabyte hard drive, power liftgate and harman/kardon LOGIC7 surround sound speaker system. Equipment packages which would certainly be appreciated on long family outings, these Premium packages carry a $4,000 price tag. Coming as gasoline or diesel powered, the R-Class powerplant choices is the 268 horsepower, 3.5 liter V-6 and the 3-liter BlueTEC diesel six-cylinder. With BlueTEC being clean diesel technology, the R-Class is able to commute up to 24 miles per gallon in highway driving. All models of the R-Class arrive standard equipped with 4Matic all-wheel drive control including an electronic stability program as well as Trailer Stability Assist.
Exiting the station wagon segment officially when they retired the Caprice, leaving the minivan category a few years back, Chevrolet has banked heavily on more truck-like vehicles attracting American families. The Chevrolet Traverse is a large crossover created after a period that some would argue as over-dependence on their large sport utility vehicle; almost leading to the brand’s fatal downfall. Proving that large sport utility vehicle capability can be merged with car-like driving manners, the Traverse became a hit for Chevrolet since introduction in the 2009 model year. Cruise control, 6-speaker sound system and storage space in a well-designed center console as well as under the floor makes the base LS of the Chevrolet Traverse a very handy family hauler. Beyond the standard feature list, one of the Traverse’s most compelling items for parents’ relaxation is one of two rear seat entertainment systems. One entertainment system provides dual DVD players would double the chances that children will overcome boredom. Powered by just a V-6 engine, this 288 horsepower power unit propels not only the crossover’s more than 4,700 pound of curb weight but has power to spare for 5,200 pounds of trailing pulling capacity.
Not a hatchback but not quite a minivan, the 2012 Mazda5 is an all-new vehicle from a Japanese manufacturer excelling with out-of-the-box thinking for family transportation. The Mazda5 everyday utility encompasses itself in youthful styling demonstrated through Mazda’s recent concept vehicles. Existing within only 180.5 inches of total length, a clever seating allows up to six occupants to travel. With second row chairs instead of a typical bench seat, there will no longer be a fight between siblings over rear seat territory. Placing the small utility vehicle above many contending for family commuting honours, the Mazda5’s ace is its price starting under $20,000. For the base price of the 2012 Mazda5 Sport model, the vehicle includes power windows, remote keyless entry, MP3 stereo system and automatic climate control. For a $23,875 price, the Mazda5 Grand Touring comes well loaded with a 6-disc CD changer and power sliding moonroof.
Appearing extremely truck-like on a platform that also created the Taurus sedan; the Ford Flex’s box-like exterior allows optimum interior space to the achievable. Rated for up to seven passengers, the Flex interior can be maximized to 83.2 cubic feet (more room than the current Ford Explorer). However, for family outings where the rear seats will need to be available, there is a minimum cargo room of 20 cubic feet presented when all three rows of seats are in use. All Ford Flex models also come with Ford MyKey, air conditioning with rear control and AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control. An optional refrigerated compartment within the second row seating and PowerFold third row seats will be the delight of travel plans. The Heavily equipped Limited and Titanium offer a standard 390-watt, 12-speaker Sony sound system. A 262 horsepower 3.5 liter V-6 and the 355 horsepower EcoBoost 3.5 liter twin-turbo powers the 2011 Flex. A Class 3 towing package is optional allowing a maximum trailer hauling weight of 4,500 pounds.
One of the few carmakers to weather the whole North American minivan craze with a wagon in their line-up, Swedish brand Volvo found a few faithful to the original car-based utility. Though Volvo has withdrawn their long-time V70 model from the market, the company has supplemented the demand for an extra capacity car through the S40-based Volvo V50. Though the V50 wagon has gone since 2004 without a major exterior redesign, there is a timelessness to the Volvo styling DNA that keeps the Swedish products contemporary. The low 57.4-inch overall height of the Volvo V50 makes the vehicle a balanced handler as well as useful for attaching loads on the roof. Inside of the Volvo V50, the five-passenger cabin features up to 62.6 cubic feet of cargo space. Power seats, air conditioning and HD Radio are comfort items found inside of all 2011 Volvo V50 models. A premium surround sound speaker arrangement and power glass sunroof is a few options available to enhance the V50 wagon. In the United States, the Volvo V50 is powered solely by the top performing, turbocharged, five-cylinder 2.5 liter engine generating 227 horsepower. Living up to Volvo’s safety reputation, the V50 includes standard six airbags as well as the brand’s Dynamic Stability and Traction Control.
Information and photo Source: Chrysler Group, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Mazda, Mercedes Benz USA, Volvo