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Front Page - Friday, August 21, 2020

Behind the Wheel: Top picks for those who don’t want to stop for gas

Many Americans are wary of flying because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Driving is one alternative to minimize your exposure to large crowds and still get an opportunity to see some sights this summer. You can also reduce your social contact on a road trip by driving a vehicle with an exceptionally long range.

A typical gasoline-powered vehicle can make it about 300-400 miles before needing to stop for gas. Edmunds’ experts have evaluated four vehicles with significantly greater-than-average EPA-estimated ranges. Each vehicle represents a specific category: truck, SUV, sedan and electric vehicle.

The EPA calculates range by multiplying a vehicle’s combined mpg estimate – it’s a mix of both city and highway driving – with its gas tank capacity. A vehicle that gets 20 mpg combined and has a 20-gallon fuel tank, for instance, would have an estimated range of 400 miles. You can also do your own math using a vehicle’s highway mpg number to determine if its range will help you go the distance on a trip.

There are plenty of beautiful and interesting destinations within reach, especially if you own a vehicle with a particularly long range. Here’s how to get there.

Truck: 2020 Ram 1500

The Ram 1500 is the king of range when equipped with rear-wheel drive and two optional features: the turbodiesel V6 and 33-gallon fuel tank.

The EPA estimates a maximum range of 598 miles between fill-ups based on the Ram 1500 diesel’s standard fuel tank. That range balloons to 858 miles with the optional 33-gallon fuel tank.

Edmunds’ testing of the Ram 1500 and its diesel engine suggests that the EPA’s estimates are conservative. It’s likely you’ll be able to go 900 miles or more on a single tank. The Ram also has impressive technology features, class-leading towing capability and a smooth highway ride.

EPA-estimated mpg: 26 combined (22 city/32 highway)

EPA-estimated range: 598-858 miles

Starting price for this range: $33,935 (including destination)

SUV: 2020 Ford Expedition Max

The Ford Expedition Max is a large, three-row SUV that has seating for eight passengers and cargo space galore. That alone makes it a great road-trip vehicle for families.

As a bonus, it also comes with a massive 30-gallon fuel tank. Stick to highway driving and you should easily be able to clear 600 miles before needed to refuel.

If the Expedition Max is too big for your needs, you might also consider looking at the new 2020 Ford Escape plug-in hybrid. This small SUV has an estimated 530 miles on just one tank, which is an impressive feat for such a small vehicle.

EPA-estimated mpg: 19 combined (17 city/23 highway)

EPA-estimated range: 570 miles

Starting price for this range: $57,530 (including destination)

Sedan: 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

The redesigned Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a spacious and stylish midsize sedan. Its high fuel economy and big fuel tank also allow it to go quite far on a single fill-up.

The mid- and upper-trim levels, the SEL and the Limited, boast an impressive range of 620 miles. The base Blue trim goes even farther – 686 miles. The Blue trim lacks some of the Sonata’s nicer features, however.

Hyundai also offers the Ioniq hybrid. It’s a smaller hatchback that offers a potential range of 690 miles. But we prefer the Sonata for its extra space and comfort, which is key for a long journey.

EPA-estimated mpg: 52 combined (50 city/54 highway)

EPA-estimated range: 686 miles

Starting price for this range: $28,725 (including destination)

Electric Vehicle: 2020 Tesla Model S

The Tesla Model S is one of the quickest-accelerating cars you can buy. And in its Long Range Plus form, it can provide you with the longest EPA-estimated range for an electric vehicle: 402 miles with a fully charged battery. That’s nearly double the estimate for most other EVs.

Access to Tesla’s nationwide Supercharger network is another advantage. These proprietary fast chargers make up the most populous charging network in the United States. Twenty to 30 minutes is all you need to recharge the Model S battery enough to continue on your journey. The Model S navigation system will even guide you to the next Supercharger station in advance.

EPA-estimated efficiency: 29 kWh/100 miles or 117 mpg equivalent combined (121 city/112 highway)

EPA-estimated range: 402 miles

Starting price for this range: $76,190 (including destination)

Edmunds says

These range-topping vehicles strike a balance among practicality, comfort and sheer endurance on a tank of gas. Now the only thing left is to choose your destination.

Travis Langness is a reviews editor at Edmunds. Twitter: @travislangness.