The Right Wheels for a Road Trip

What does your road trip need—a hatchback, a sedan or an SUV? Five vehicles that can beat the dust and take you almost anywhere

Published: Apr 22, 2014 07:12:00 AM IST
Updated: Apr 22, 2014 08:05:06 AM IST
The Right Wheels for a Road Trip
Image: Courtesy: Overdrive
Nissan Terrano

Quite often, vacations present a multitude of dilemmas: Where do you go, what do you see, what do you do, where do you live, how do you get there. Putting aside several of these variables, let us dwell on the kind of vehicles that make the best sense for you in a road trip.

A road trip by itself is a wonderful way to explore not just your destination but also get intimate with the journey. Driving to your destination provides you the freedom of managing your time according to your convenience. It is also money saved on several tickets if you fill your car with four passengers and split the costs; plus, you don’t need a rental at your destination. All that money can go into that top-of-the-line aroma therapy at a nice spa.

On a road trip, keep in mind the size of the country you are in. If planning a road trip within India, distances, fairly long already, get extended when you account for traffic, weather and road conditions. It makes sense, then, to have a comfortable car, one that is durable and can withstand all that India can throw at you.

How do you zero in on the vehicle that makes best sense? Can a hatchback cut it, will a sedan do the deed, or would you need an SUV? If this were a road trip within India, the no-brainer is to go gallivanting in an SUV. This is because you get better visibility, usually more space, higher ground clearance and a commanding presence that prevents other road users from messing with you.

There are all types of SUVs these days. Here’s a list of the best SUVs at various price points that will get you almost anywhere.

Nissan Terrano

It is the same as the Renault Duster and is a basic entry-level SUV priced roughly around Rs 13 lakh. It is a tremendously spacious car to take on any road trip. Wide, long and tall enough to accommodate five passengers with enough space in the boot for a road trip that would last a fortnight. A healthy and robust diesel engine ensures your money isn’t flowing out of your pocket at the same rate as petrol out of a tank. It lacks a four-wheel drive but makes up for that with a rustic ruggedness that will easily withstand a terrible beating from some of the worst roads this country has to offer. And that masculine styling is guaranteed to electrify any landscape.

The Right Wheels for a Road Trip
Toyota Fortuner
This is what you depend on when you travel to those far-flung pockets where neither roads nor people exist. Expensive it may be, priced at around Rs 22 lakh ex-showroom, but reliability and durability, apart from the ability to go almost anywhere off-road, are the backbone of this SUV. It also has the capacity to seat seven passengers in a pinch with a third row of seats, but that would occupy valuable luggage space. On the road, it is a sturdy long-haul vehicle built for you to stay comfortably cocooned. Get off the beaten path and that’s where its advantages begin to shine. With off-road tyres, a gentle steering system and a massive diesel engine brimming with torque, the Fortuner is your escape from the concrete jungle. We’ve even climbed high up the Himalayas in it and never been disappointed. Crawl through some of the off-road junkie forums and you’d learn just how to exponentially increase value with some off-road kit. It might make you look like a geek in the city, but outdoors, you’d be king.

The Right Wheels for a Road Trip
Range Rover Sport
This is probably the ultimate road trip companion. But at that price (Rs 1.44 crore), you might prefer to board a flight. That, however, does not take away from the fact that this is an effortless touring machine. Not only do you get the Range Rover’s coveted luxury and richness in every inch, but also its astoundingly capable mechanical package. The Range Rover Sport, as the name suggests, is quick, has the ability to make any journey entertaining, and even has a four-wheel drive that is simpler to use than knowing what to do with a spoon. It also looks better than its statelier sibling, the Range Rover, and at just half the price is great value too.

The Right Wheels for a Road Trip

Land Rover Freelander 2
This is a part of the brand Tata Motors acquired in 2008 but, in reality, this marquee product has little to do with its Indian parent. Priced at Rs 48.5 lakh, the 2 represents the second generation of the Freelander, which has been winning hearts since 1997. Updated recently, it has made the task of off-road driving simpler by providing a selector that allows you to choose the mode it should be driven in. Smart well-designed interiors complement the space, though this is a five-seater. The suspension is stiff enough to handle a mix of road conditions; it can easily absorb any surface roughness yet be extremely soothing when things get smoother. With the Freelander, you don’t just buy an SUV; you also get a piece of British heritage and tradition. Fox hunt, anyone?

The Right Wheels for a Road Trip

Audi Q7
A big, bulky ‘get lost inside’ SUV whose incredible road presence will make others believe you’re either a fi lmstar or a politician. Priced at Rs 76.42 lakh, this is undoubtedly one of the coolest and most comfortable touring vehicles on the planet. Sumptuously appointed with all the creature comforts you would need and more, the Q7 was built to pamper you irrespective of the conditions. With a slew of powerful engine options, the Q7 is capable of covering most distances in a breeze. It has a three-row seating, which means you can take your dear doggy along and still have space for your kids and their nanny.

(This story appears in the 02 May, 2014 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Jagdish

    Long drive vacations in india is not about cruising hundreds of kms on national highway in your comfortable sedans. The real fun is driving on twisting turns and narrow roads of hill stations, and this is where small suvs like duster are real pleasure to drive. Indians roads are full of surprises once you get out of the comfortable highway. Xuv is the last vehicle I would take for long drive, it took me a whole week to recover from body ache after driving xuv for 4 days on long drive. One who has owned a car before would never buy ecosport, ford is fooling firsr time buyers with all in board new gadgets, the vehicle is horrible to drive with a transmission more then 20 years old. As of now the best vehicle below 15 lacs for long drive on indian narrow and broken hill stations roads is definitely duster or terrano, but both are a rip off for the horrible interiors.

    on Oct 1, 2014
  • Devesh Agarwal

    I wonder why the author has not reviewed any of the Indian SUV\'s like the Tata Safari or Mahindra Scorpio or XUV5oo? In a similar vein, the Toyota Innova is ignored. The bye-line of the story is \"What does your road trip need—a hatchback, a sedan or an SUV?\" I cannot see a single sedan reviewed. Mr. D\'Souza has just ignored sedans on a mono-dimensional and arbitrary assumption of the higher seating of an SUV. What about the superior ride with less body roll a sedan provides? What about superior fuel mileage which is one the primary concerns of the average Indian motorist? I regularly do Bangalore to Chennai road trips as well as Bangalore to Pune, and though I own an SUV, the smooth road hugging drive of a sedan, is incalculable. Lastly, does Mr. D\'Souza honestly believe people who spend upwards of one crore on the Range Rovers and Audi Q7 will rough it on road trips and that too in India? Let\'s not even consider the pip-squeak Freelander 2. The article says people want the comfort of a larger cabin of an SUV and then you review a vehicle that has a cabin the size of a mid-sized saloon. Surely Forbes and Mr. D\'Souza can do better than a product pitch for a few select imported (or assembled in India) SUVs.

    on Apr 29, 2014