The Great American Road Trip Has Never Been Better 2023

 "Life is a journey, not a destination," said Ralph Waldo Emerson in a famous quote often attributed to him. Crossing this vast country has often been seen as a rite of passage, an experience that must be lived to be believed.

The Great American Road Trip Has Never Been Better 2023

And to that end, I've been on several road trips from coast to coast and Canada to Mexico. But only one of these trips featured a new car. In every other instance, there was a little space in the back of my brain reminding me that if the car broke down, the trip would be permanently changed in a big way.

I wanted to know how things could be different with a practically brand-new car. And one that can take my friends and me anywhere, even if the road runs out. I have found that the Great American road trip is more significant than ever.

Where We Went

To start our journey, a few of us fly from Little Rock, Arkansas, where we live to Denver, Colorado. That's where we picked up our faithful steed, a 2022 Lexus GX460, and made our way to Colorado Springs to take in more friends and more gear.

The journey itself will take place in a week. The driving time total will take more than a full day. That includes approximately 16 hours each way in Colorado Springs and our destination, Tucson, Arizona. One way, our trip will span about 915 miles, which doesn't account for any additional driving.

In total, we put over 2,000 miles on the SUV at the time it was. The vast majority of those miles are spent beyond I-25. Nearby are places like Pueblo, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Truth or consequences. Yes, this is a great place in New Mexico! Around Arizona, we eventually switched to I-10, which took us to Tucson. We're on the same road home.

What We Drove

Of all the new three-row SUVs on the market today, it may seem strange that we used a 2022 Lexus GX460 for this project. This is the only car anyone has been brave enough to take us on this type of trip, and it's true, but it's also a great way to check how well road-tripping has gone. Here's why.

The gx460r is not at the height of its field. It's pretty old. The last time Barack Obama was redesigned entirely was still president. It is not a fuel efficiency King. The little one can't decorate the house, and it's not the latest and greatest full chalk regarding infotainment and security.

Suffice it to say; it's an underdog against many of the best and brightest in the business. But still being sold in drawers, it was one of the brand's most popular models again last year after seeing a 15-percent bump in sales year after year.

Its design is said to scare small children but grows on the whole crew during our week. It is capable of sincerely off-road. It is comfortable and easy to drive. And that's just so the segment will be a very competitive price. For an in-depth explanation of how it performed as an everyday driver, check out our full review here.

How Tech Changed The Road Trip

As a kid, I remember road trips where we'd go to St. Louis. We'd often be inside a giant van, and the boy would force my dad out for most of the drive. Behind it was understandable given that many children all argue and fight with each other. But the van did too much to help the ride besides being a means of transport.

I remember the first time we got a van with space for a TV and hookup in the second row. It was a game-changer that took some pressure off everyone. I can only imagine how different things were for them when they were children on a road trip when cars were even less fuel efficient, less comfortable, less engaging for passengers, and nowhere near as safe as they are today.


For decades, the only entertainment available from outside sources was the radio. Still, audio-based features were the leading entertainment for decades until the turn of the century. Then, Oldsmobile, of all companies, launched a second-row entertainment system with a built-in VCR and TV.

Since then, we know how history has unfolded regarding screens and infotainment in general. The new Grand Wagoneer, for example, has separate screens for drivers, front passengers, and everyone in the second row. Technology has dramatically improved ride quality too.

Ride Quality

That nickname didn't just come about because they were big enough to pull a small army but because they seemed to float on the road surface. They also needed to be more sharp and quick to change direction, so calling their boats was appropriate on multiple levels. That behavior came down to a lot of weight and suspension tuning.

Over the years, suspension technology has developed slowly over the past two decades before leaps and bounds. Today, almost every mainstream automotive brand offers an adaptive suspension option on some models.

The GX460 uses Lexus ' dynamic suspension system that eliminates traditional anti-roll bars. Although not alone, different brands interact with adaptive suspension in different ways, whether through air ride suspension technology, hydraulic systems like Lexus, or even magnetorheological fluid-filled shocks that can respond to road conditions in milliseconds.


Conventional wisdom may be that classic cars are heavy hulking machines that are less prone to deformation in accidents but this is simply not the case. Of course, they are heavy, but they are far from safe in the event of a bad accident. Technology wasn't advanced enough until recently to easily incorporate the security features that we're accustomed to today.

Volvo invented the modern three-point safety belt in 1958 but how many of us still remember the lackluster use of the device in our childhood? A short film from the IIHS below shows how far modern cars have come in terms of crash safety.

That's a Chevy Malibu technology hands-on so to speak. Imagine if they had crashed the Bel Air against a safer car like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class or the Tesla Model S, the results would have been more dramatic, but what about avoiding the crash altogether? Modern cars are much higher in that achievement as well.

Advanced suspension systems play a role there, but there are also features such as anti-lock braking systems and traction control. Adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, and other technologies improve safety in a big way when used correctly.

How The Lexus Demonstrated How Far We’ve Come

The 10.3-inch screen is bright and feature-rich enough, but navigation can be tricky thanks to a subtle trackpad interface. Yes, you can touch the screen, but that could be more intuitive.

However, it was pretty good once we got the hang of how we wanted to use it. For example, the navigation system would learn the route better than predictions because we ran a course more than once.

When it comes to riding quality, Lexus can be well-spent. At low speeds, it was sharper and more flashy than I thought. Off-road, it was shockingly quiet and comfortable. Despite all the complaints this SUV gets about its styling or technology, its ride is good enough to balance them out.

Regarding semi-autonomous driver aids, the next only had adaptive cruise control and lane-exit alerts, a concise list compared to most competitors, but we found that adaptive cruise control worked beautifully. It was very predictable, smooth, and easy to use. The lane exit warning was unpredictable, so we often just turned it off. Still, there's a lot to say about how easy it was to drive the GX for so long.

My dad may have been stressed out on all of those road trips during my childhood, but I wasn't at the helm of the GX 460. The trip was quiet, comfortable, and safe, thanks to significant advances made over the decades. And that combination made the journey as enjoyable as it was getting to our destination.

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