The U.S. Census Bureau reports that nearly 600,000 Americans have "megacommutes" that have them working more than 50 miles from home or traveling more than 90 minutes each way. As a megacommuter myself, I can relate. Having given this much thought through the years, I have compiled a list of the best cars for megacommutes currently on sale.
More by destiny than design, I've been saddled for years with an extra-long commute: 75 miles each way to get to work and back. What I've learned is that for the long haul, forget about hard-riding small cars and sports cars. Cross out gas guzzlers, too.
When shopping for a super cruiser, consider:
- A comfortable, steady ride
- A very supportive, multi-adjustable seat
- A quiet cabin, free of road and wind noise
- Great fuel economy
- An awesome audio system
Here's a list of cars that make the cut, sorted by ascending price--based on our price as tested, being popularly equipped. All are recommended by Consumer Reports, meaning that they perform well in our tests, have proven reliable, and did well in independent crash tests. And naturally, the more premium models provide the most pampering experience.
- Volkswagen Golf TDI ($25,730): If you are on a budget and can forgo some amenities common in higher-priced cars and are willing to shift for yourself, consider this versatile-yet-refined hatchback. The diesel version gets 38 mpg overall with the manual in our test. The Golf rides comfortably and handles with agility. Its well-shaped seats won't hurt your back and the sticker price won't break your bank account. We've also tested the less-refined Jetta diesel automatic, which gets 34 mpg, and we are now testing the Jetta hybrid, so we'll soon see which one is more frugal.
- Volkswagen Passat TDI SE ($28,665): A roomy interior, comfortable seats and a punchy yet frugal diesel all at a reasonable price-almost too good to be true. With 51 mpg on the highway and an exceptionally long cruising range, it doesn't get much better than this.
- Chrysler 300 V6 Limited ($38,335): This is the ultimate bargain luxury sedan. It has a ride as stately as high-end cars costing tens of thousands more. A roomy, quiet, well-equipped cabin and a smooth powertrain add to the civilized feel. Chrysler's UConnect 8.4 inch touch screen is the easiest interface for audio, phone and other functions. The average 22 mpg is not super frugal but is hardly a chronic drinker either. Too bad there is no diesel or hybrid version. All-wheel drive is available.
- Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited ($47,255): Using the same hybrid powertrain as the Lexus RX450h, the Highlander gets slightly better fuel economy at 27 mpg overall. Similar ride comfort and noise isolation to the Lexus make it easy to live with on long rides. Plus, it is a roomy, versatile vehicle.
- Lexus RX450h ($53,576): For a more upscale vehicle than the Highlander, consider the midsized Lexus SUV to be a luxury car with a raised ride height. It's quiet, roomy, and refined with an easy-going demeanor, a comfortable ride, and effortless power delivery. The hybrid system contributes to an impressive 26 mpg overall.
- Audi A6 ($56,295): Our top-rated car in the mid-luxury segment is like flying business class. Quiet, luxurious and effortlessly quick. The excellent seats stay comfortable for hours on end. All-wheel drive gives piece of mind and its 22 mpg overall is good for this class. Upcoming diesel and hybrid versions might be even more appealing.
- Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTec ($57,525): A delight to drive, with a cushy and steady ride, agile handling, supportive seats, and a quiet cabin. Vivid graphics for the navigation display and easy Bluetooth pairing are also pluses. The diesel engine pulls strongly and posts 26 mpg overall, impressive for a vehicle of this size.
If the goal is to get to your destination ache-free and as fresh as possible, this list is a good place to start. No doubt there are other comfy long-haul candidates waiting in the wings, pending reliability data or final testing. But this list comprises some top cars we're confident about right now.