Once your road trip passes a couple of hours, it can start to take a toll on all passengers, especially if there are kids in the car. Simple features allow a bit more comfort for long drives.

When I was 13, Cox and I had a heated discussion about the features and engineering that optimize a car for long-distance travel. Cox, a friend of my dad’s who had logged about a million highway miles, argued that the best machine for a long road trip was a silent, smooth-riding car like his Buick.

I scoffed. Buicks were bourgeois luxury barges that no real driver would be caught dead in. Although I had yet to drive a single highway mile, I declared that the ultimate car for a long trip was the Ford GT, a machine that had won the 24 Hours of Lemans. Never mind that the GT’s engine wailed away just millimeters from the driver’s skull, or that the interior was the size of a Guantanamo confinement box – this was a true driver’s machine that would be ideal for a major trip.

Or so I believed.

In the decades that have passed since that argument, I have learned a lot about what makes a great highway car – and I have also learned that the Colonel was smarter than I realized.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I did a 3,000-kilometre road trip to Georgia and back. We’ve done this trip in many different cars. In some, the trip was effortless. In others, it felt like a four-wheeled version of the Bataan Death March.

This got me thinking about the essence of the long-distance machine. What are the automotive qualities that make distance disappear?

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