Carpooling doesn’t have to be a grind. Whether hauling tired adults to the office, or loud kids to their game, a carpool vehicle should have a few amenities to make the ride easier on everyone. Here’s what to look for to become everyone’s favorite carpool driver.
People not only love the internet, they also seem to need it virtually every waking hour. For those poor souls without unlimited data plans, in-car WiFi can mean the difference between more YouTube videos, or having to actually interact with people. While 3G WiFi has been available in the Chevrolet Equinox since 2009, the 2015 model gained faster 4G LTE capability. Whether sending emails or watching movies, everyone will thank you for saving their data. Want an SUV of a different flavor? The Jeep Cherokee with UConnect 8.4 also delivers speedy WiFi.
People hate flying coach. They don’t want to feel like they are flying coach while sitting in your vehicle. First class on an Airbus A319 offers 38 inches of legroom, so we’ll use that as our measurement of proper carpool legroom. The Volkswagen Jetta starts off this list with 38.1 inches of rear legroom. The Jetta is economical and fun to drive, but if you need more luxury in your life, a Toyota Avalon delivers 39.2 inches for rear passengers in a quiet and quality ride. If your carpool crowd consists of NBA All-Stars, look to the Cadillac XTS. The legroom class leader supplies a full 40 inches to the rear seats. Take that, Airbus.
Riding in the back of a vehicle hunched over is a good way to cause neck strain or car motion sickness. Don’t do that to your passengers: get a vehicle with solid headroom. Hatchbacks have gained popularity in the last few years due to increased headroom compared with a traditional trunk rear. Take a look at the redesigned 2016 Honda Civic‘s roofline and you’ll see how rear passengers have lots of headroom in this large-yet-compact car. The Hyundai Elantra GT also pleases passengers over 6 feet tall, and offers 8 cubic feet more trunk space than the sedan model. Sedan sales are down again this year, but that’s alright if we get headroom like this in exchange.
Headed somewhere new? Whether to a coffee shop nearby, or a convention center a few cities over, the last thing you want to do is get lost with a few helpless passengers. GPS units have largely been replaced by smartphones, but nothing beats a big screen in the center of the dash, guiding you with turn-by-turn directions. Tesla‘s titanic 17-inch screen is gorgeous, but also finicky. The Lexus RX350 delivers a practical screen that looks as good as it functions. The rest of the midsize SUV is equally nice. For a little more edge, try Cadillac’s best-selling “car.” The SRX crossover looks high tech inside and out, and the 8-inch touch screen operates Cadillac User Experience that looks great and responds quickly. You’ll never get lost again.
Sometimes you don’t want office talk when outside the office. An alternative to constant chatter about Steve’s lateness or Irene’s questionable clothing choices is to turn up the tunes. Automobile Magazine recently tested the aural quality of everything available on the market. Of course, expensive cars like the Bentley Mulsanne sound excellent, but at $340,000, you kinda expect that. Automobile also found some surprising quality for much cheaper. The Ford Explorer in Platinum trim includes a Sony 500 watt 12-speaker system designed to clean up low quality digital music files. Ford SUVs won again with the Lincoln MKX, with the Black Label package. The Revel Ultima system features 19 surround-sound speakers excellent at the technical details, making your favorite ’80s mix sound like a private concert.
Carpools can be limited to just hauling co-workers from suburbia to the office. On the other hand, sometimes it’s a muddy crew to a remote jobsite, or half the varsity football team. Three-row vehicles save the day here. Look for infotainment to keep the kiddos distracted from the drive, plenty of charging ports, and leather seats for easy cleanup. For seating and cargo, you can’t beat the original minivans. The Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan are best-sellers for their large interior room, cargo hauling capability, and convenience features at an affordable price. It’s hard to overstate how valuable dual power sliding doors and Stow-N-Go seating make life. If taking some oil hands to the rig, get the capable Ford Expedition or Nissan Titan. With a body-on-frame design, four-wheel drive, and V8 power, they will get you there and back. Can’t decide between an SUV or a minivan? Split the difference with a large crossover like the stylish Toyota Highlander. U.S. News called it one of the best values in its class.