By Joe Bruzek on August 16, 2012
We’ve told you which cars to call front-seat dibs to avoid being stuck in the backseat with leg cramps and neck spasms. It only seems appropriate to fill you in on which cars allow you to relax comfortably in the backseat and let the friend who called shotgun play road-trip navigator while you chill out and enjoy the scenery.
It’s a safe bet that anything with L or XL after the model name will be an obvious candidate for calling rear-seat dibs; you’ll likely be lounging in extended-wheelbase luxury. But luxury cars aren’t the only class with big backseats. Some gems within their own classes have enough backseat room and surprise features to feel like the car was designed just to provide maximum comfort for rear passengers.
2013 Ford Flex
The Flex’s second row dwarfs other three-row crossover SUVs with an abundance of legroom and headroom. The huge second row comes as a standard bench seat, and captain’s chairs are available. We know the Flex looks odd, but there’s more room than traditional-looking SUVs like the Chevrolet Traverse, Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander. Sometimes it pays to embrace the weird.
2012 Hyundai Azera
The all-new 2012 Azera is a full-size sedan that offers more than just a spacious backseat. All three rear windows (sides and rear) have sunshades that pull over the glass to keep heat out of the cabin on hot summer days. The rear side shades operate manually while the rear window shade is powered by a button up front. When the temps drop, heated rear seats are an optional feature; they’re part of the same Technology Package that equips the shades.
2012 Toyota Avalon
The redesigned 2013 Toyota Avalon will be available this fall, but our rears would rather sit in the 2012’s roomy backseat with reclining backrest. Unfortunately, that feature is axed for 2013, and the new Avalon doesn’t gain a folding rear seat despite losing the reclining feature. We’ll miss the unique configuration of the 2012.
2012 Dodge Challenger
Your friends may look at you funny if you call dibs on the rear seats in this car, but you’ll rest easy knowing the Challenger’s backseats are the roomiest out there among similar coupes. The Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and Hyundai Genesis Coupe don’t offer the same headroom and legroom as the Challenger.
2012 Volkswagen Passat
With the 2012 redesign of the Passat, Volkswagen took the opportunity to stretch the midsize sedan and make the backseat one of the Passat’s strongest selling points. Its rear room borders on what extended-wheelbase versions of luxury cars provide, but every Passat gets all that space rather than offering an extended-wheelbase model.
2012 Toyota Tundra CrewMax
We’re running out of synonyms to use for “massive,” but the rear of Toyota’s CrewMax is the definition of large. The CrewMax is the largest cab offered on the Tundra, with full four-door configuration and an extra 9.8 inches of rear legroom compared with the next-smallest cab. The rear seats’ sliding and reclining adjustments are not typically found in the rear seat of pickups.
2012 Chevrolet Equinox
The Equinox impressed with its sliding second-row seats in our recent $25,000 Compact SUV Shootout. When slid back, the rear seats give generous legroom; one editor said he felt like he could take a road trip back there. The big storage space plays nicely with the sliding row, as the gap created by the movement is bridged by a sliding plastic flap.
2012 Nissan Versa
You won’t find anything appealing about driving the Versa sedan, so shack up in the back and enjoy more room than in other subcompacts, as well as some sweet relief from your friend's questionable taste in music: The Versa’s standard stereo doesn’t come with rear speakers.
Road Test Editor Joe Bruzek covers Cars.com’s short-and long-term fleet of test cars and drives a 1998 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. Email Joe