Summer Vehicles

Summer Vehicles. 10 Cars for 10 Summer Adventures. Summer is here, and the time is right for some 4-wheeled fun in the sun. No matter what warm-weather adventure you might embark upon — a surf outing to the beach, a deep-woods camping trip or a high-speed romp on a twisty country road — there is a vehicle designed perfectly for it. Here, we've identified 10 of the coolest summertime activities and the vehicles that will help you make the most of them.

BMW Z4 sDrive35is: Known as Route 1 in California and as Highway 101 farther north, the Pacific Coast Highway is possibly the most picturesque stretch of road ever constructed. It follows the coastline from the sandy beaches of Southern California to the rugged Olympic Peninsula in northern Washington, passing through quaint coastal towns, lush national parks and idyllic wildlife refuges. Not only is it scenic, it's therapeutic as well; the meandering track has an uncanny way of making your troubles fade away. And BMW's latest Z4 convertible, particularly the sizzling sDrive35is with its lightning-fast 7-speed transmission and 335-horsepower inline-6 engine, is the perfect modern sports car for the trip.

Toyota FJ Cruiser: It may look like a life-size toy, but Toyota's FJ Cruiser is no joke when it comes to off-roading, with its tremendously capable 4-wheel-drive system, its gutsy 4.0-liter 260-horsepower V6 engine and its ability to handle seriously steep approach and departure angles — 34 and 31 degrees, respectively. If you plan to climb some rocks, there's possibly no better place to do it than the Arches and Zion national parks in Utah. The otherworldly red-rock landscape of mesas and buttes offers off-roaders some of the most challenging terrain in the world.

Honda Element: While not exactly new, the Honda Element is still one of the quintessential vehicles for a day at the beach. Its seats can be rearranged or removed so that chairs, coolers, towels and even surfboards can be stuffed into its belly. And thanks to no carpeting and waterproof seats, it is easy to clean. While not the North Shore of Hawaii, northern Florida offers beachcombers some of the best sand on the East Coast and surfers some of the best waves. Sebastian Inlet is possibly the most famous surf spot in the region and one of the most consistent surf breaks in Florida.

BMW 1-Series M Coupe: If you like to drive, and drive enthusiastically, this legendary 11-mile stretch of Tennessee's Route 129 is a must. It's called the Tail of the Dragon because of its 318 curves — that's almost 30 per mile — and it can only be described as a roller-coaster ride for the senses. And the backdrop, the Great Smoky Mountain National Forest, is simply spectacular. BMW's latest M vehicle, the 1-Series M with its 335-horsepower twin-turbo engine, glorious handling and 6-speed manual transmission, is one of the best ways to experience it. The 1-Series M is arguably BMW's purest sports car since the hallowed E30 M3.

Ford Mustang GT Convertible: Yes, drive-in movie theaters still exist, but they're rare. One of the best in the country, the Capri, is in Coldwater, Mich., and it still looks like something out of the 1960s. Only a classic American convertible will do for this activity. With stylishly retro lines inside and out, a roomy interior and a starting price that'll leave some room in your budget for candy and popcorn, the Ford Mustang drop-top is the perfect choice. We recommend the GT model for its brilliant and explosive new 5.0-liter 412-horsepower V8 engine.

Mazda MX-5 Miata: The 20-mile Park Loop Road is Acadia National Park's premier attraction. It provides breathtaking views of the ocean, mountains and forests along the coast of Maine. Driving the entire route will take three to four hours, and it's worth every minute. Stop about halfway through, somewhere between Seal and Northeast harbors, to enjoy a picnic with the picturesque Cranberry Islands in the background. As one of the last honest sports cars still on the market, the Mazda Miata is the ideal 2-seat drop-top for this journey. It's not loaded down with complicated technologies, gadgets and driving aids. It's just a no-fuss, no-muss fun-to-drive roadster.
Bentley Continental GTC: There is nothing subtle or reserved about Las Vegas, and its appeal is undeniable, especially to the young and dumb out to sow their wild oats and party till the break of dawn. But if you want to be a rock star in Sin City, you'd better have high-roller cash — or at least look like you do. Cruising down the strip in a superluxurious Bentley Continental GTC with the top down and the tunes cranked will help foster that illusion. You'll probably never tap into its monstrous 552 horsepower, but you'll look stylish waiting in traffic.

Nissan Pathfinder: If you're the outdoorsy type, there's a better than average chance you'll be heading into the wilderness this summer to commune with nature and camp out under the stars. One of the best places to do that is the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park. For this adventure, you'll want something rugged enough to handle the terrain, yet feature-rich with all the creature comforts of home. That's the Nissan Pathfinder. It has plenty of room for all your stuff and is able to handle almost any terrain. Plus, its DVD entertainment system will keep you happily distracted when the rain falls.

Ferrari California: In California's wine country, eating and drinking have been elevated into an art form. There is no shortage of world-class vineyards and five-star restaurants to visit while you explore the rolling, lush hills of the Napa and Sonoma valleys. The perfect vehicle for the voyage: the Ferrari California. It's soulful, beautiful and plenty exciting to drive. Although often overlooked next to its more extreme, track-oriented stable mates, the California is still a Ferrari. Let's not forget that it's equipped with a screaming 460-horsepower V8 engine and has a top speed of 193 mph. Not that you'll need that power, mind you. But it's there.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Passenger Van: No, it's not a VW Microbus, but times have changed since you drove cross-country in the late 1960s or early 1970s. We recommend following old U.S. Highway 80 and its contemporary equivalents across the nation's southern tier. The 3,000-mile journey takes you through more varied cultural and physical landscapes than you'll find along any other cross-country course. The vehicle of choice: Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Passenger Van. With a fuel-friendly 188-horsepower diesel engine, a cozy cabin and tons of room for flower-stickered guitars, dream-catchers and energy crystals, this fully modern van is more than capable of ensuring that your journey is free from negative vibes.