Six Cars to Consider Driving in California

Given the overall size of California, it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of roads throughout the state. With varying elevations and environments that fluctuate from the coast to the inland areas, roads in California have numerous differences and driving conditions. In addition, California is also a very popular tourist destination that increase road traffic. Even without tourists, the roads are normally busy with local drivers. All of these factors have an impact on what types of cars are best suited for driving on California roadways. While there is not one specific type of car that is best suited for California driving, there are a couple of different vehicles that stand out above the rest.

California Car Misconceptions

Before considering which cars are best for California roads, it is important to first look at some cars that many drivers mistakenly believe are appropriate for California. One of the most common depictions of California drivers in movies and television, show the driver with a top-down convertible. While it might seem like a convertible is great for the warm weather, it is actually not recommended in California and can even be hazardous, in fact. Driving with the top down in California means exposure to exhaust fumes and brake dust, especially in areas with higher traffic. Driving with the top down is okay in isolated areas away from traffic, but otherwise should be avoided. Likewise, most convertible sedans are longer than non-convertible vehicles, making them harder to park in metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Another common misconception is the lowered vehicle. These vehicles look stylish, which is why so many shows and movies feature them, but on actual California roads they are simply impractical. Being lower on the road means a reduced view of traffic, which is not compatible with the typical busy roads. Cars that do well in California should get good gas mileage, respond well, are comfortable (for rush hour commutes) and have a good track record for maintenance and road wear. The following cars meet these requirements.

Audi A8

The Audi A8 is a luxurious car that performs very well in rush-hour traffic. The Audi A8 features all-wheel drive and is built with an aluminum space frame. The frame gives the vehicle superior handling, which can be very helpful for driving through some of the more crowded parts of California. The car is designed for comfort and gets a fuel economy of 19/29 highway.

BMW 7 Series

The BMW 7 Series is perfect for drivers who are looking for top-of-the line handling. However, the BMW 7 Series does not handle as well in rush hour traffic due to the i-Drive controls. The controls use a knob, which many drivers find difficult to use during busy traffic, since they are constantly making little adjustments while moving through traffic. Drivers who live in or frequently drive through the more metropolitan California cities may want to consider a different vehicle. Otherwise, the BMW 7-series is fantastic for drivers that want an agile vehicle with great control and a 21/29 highway fuel efficiency.

Lexus LS400

The LS400 is a perfect car for drivers that want an affordable vehicle that can handle California roads. The LS400 does not particularly excel in a specific area in California, but it is relatively easy to find both new and used models all throughout California. The car is also one of the quietest vehicles available in California. It handles all the California weather conditions well and performs fine in both heavy traffic and on isolated roads. Fuel economy is moderate with a 15/21 highway rating.

Lexus LS430

The LS430 is a small, very agile car. It is great for quickly moving between lanes, even in heavy traffic. One of the optional features, which is strongly encouraged, is active cruise control. With active cruise control, the car can sense when it is getting too close to other vehicles. Drivers who live in areas with heavier traffic will appreciate this extra function, especially if they are interested in the LS430 for its ability to navigate through traffic. Fuel economy is comparable to others in this line.

GMC Sierra

While many drivers prioritize cars that are good in traffic, there are many drivers in California who live in the suburbs and do not have to worry about heavy traffic. Drivers who have a house in the suburbs will appreciate having a pickup truck that is large enough to fit multiple passengers and has plenty of space for hauling large items back and forth. With an 18/24 highway, the truck’s gas mileage is impressive.

Honda Civic GX

In recent years, California drivers have been encouraged to use hybrid vehicles to help the environment. The Civic GX is unique in California, since as of writing it is the only hybrid vehicle allowed in carpool lanes with only the driver. Overall, the Civic GX handles well on the road and is suited for both urban and suburban environments. One of the biggest downsides to the Civic GX is the fact that not all gas stations offer compressed natural gas in all areas of California. Drivers interested in a hybrid vehicle should first make sure they are in an area with accommodating gas stations.