DETROIT — It's a good summer to take the family on a road trip. Domestic airfares are expected to rise an average of 22 percent compared with last summer, when travel was dampened by the recession, according to some travel advisories. But gas prices should stabilize or even go lower heading into the summer travel season. At the same time, an incentive war sparked by Toyota is still in full swing, holding down prices on new road trip-ready cars and trucks. Whether you're hauling the family to Mount Rushmore or heading to the nearest lake for a picnic, here are some vehicles to think about.
Dee-Ann Durbin, Associated Press
Taking a crowd?
The 2010 Chevrolet Suburban seats nine adults and still has 46 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, according to Kelley Blue Book, which lists the Suburban among its top family vehicles. The Suburban gets 21 miles per gallon on the highway and starts around $41,000.
Towing a boat?
The Ford Expedition SUV can haul up to 9,200 pounds and comes standard with a trailer sway control system that applies the brakes and keeps the vehicle and trailer on track. The 2010 Expedition will set you back at least $40,000 and gets 20 mpg. A midsize option, Toyota Motor Co.'s 4Runner, can tow up to 5,000 pounds and has family-friendly touches like front and rear power outlets. It starts at $27,500 and gets 23 mpg.
Going on a picnic?
The 2010 Ford Flex, above, comes with an optional fridge in the second-row console that can chill seven 12-ounce cans. It also has a freeze mode for ice cream. The 2010 Flex Limited starts at $36,000 and gets 24 mpg on the highway. You can also store your picnic basket in the 2010 Honda CR-V, which has a shelf that splits the cargo area into two levels. The shelf hides in the floor when you don't need it. The CR-V EX, which includes the cargo shelf, starts at $24,000 and gets 28 mpg.
Bringing the bikes?
The 2010 Subaru Outback has a built-in roof rack with crossbars that swing into position when they're needed and retract if you want to reduce wind noise and improve aerodynamics. The roof rack hauls up to 100 pounds. If you're planning to travel on rocky roads, the Outback also has the highest ground clearance of any crossover. The Outback starts at $23,000. With a four-cylinder engine, it gets 29 mpg.
Consider the Chrysler Town and Country, which beams three family-friendly networks, including Nickelodeon, to two separate television screens in the second and third rows. The screens also play DVDs and video games, and wireless headphones are included. Bonus: The second-row seats rotate 180 degrees to face the third row, so passengers can play games around a removable table. The Town and Country Touring, with the TV package, starts at $33,000 and gets 24 mpg on the highway.
The Mazda5 offers minivan convenience — think sliding doors and comfy second-row chairs with under-seat storage — in a smaller package. It gets 27 mpg on the highway and starts at $19,000. Edmunds.com also recommends the Volkswagen Jetta TDI sedan, with a diesel engine that can get 42 mpg on the highway. That's just 6 mpg less than the Toyota Prius hybrid, according to government fuel economy figures. The Jetta TDI starts at $23,000.