Ah, Labor Day. As the unofficial end to summer, the holiday — and the associated three-day weekend — marks the line between trips to Dairy Queen for ice cream and going to Staples for school supplies, between beach days and foliage tours. For vacationers, it’s the last hurrah for bathing suits and flip-flops before it’s time to break out the cardigans and fuzzy boots.
We don’t blame you one bit for trying to make the most of the opportunity to cherish and celebrate summer’s passing — but what car do you use to do just that? We picked a handful that might allow you to make the most of the holiday ahead.
The Cruiser: 2011 Ford Mustang GT Convertible
Some of our fondest memories include gathering our friends, piling into a convertible, and heading out for a cruise. For that purpose, we can’t think of a better vehicle than the 2011 Ford Mustang GT convertible. Not only does it offer seating for four and a usable trunk (perfect for beach runs, we might add), but the GT lumps in the delicious 5.0-liter V-8, which serves up 412 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. We prefer that engine mated to a six-speed manual, but those looking for a relaxing cruise may prefer to opt for the automatic gearbox.
Family Truckster: 2011 Dodge Durango R/T
Since classes usually begin after the Labor Day holiday ends, this weekend is possibly one of the last days to drag the kids for a short vacation. Doing so requires a people mover — but it doesn’t require you to sacrifice on some driving fun. The 2011 Durango R/T can schlep seven passenger around, but it packs an aggressive, muscle car-like attitude most minivans, crossovers, and SUVs lack. With a 360-hp, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 underhood and unique suspension tuning, it drives as good as it looks. Better yet, the Durango can pull 7200-7400 pounds — perfect for dragging your boat to the lake or pulling your pop-up camper into the wilderness.
Outdoor Explorer: 2012 Jeep Wrangler
Summer is a season of freedom, and the go-anywhere, do-anything nature of the Jeep Wrangler gives drivers a freedom unlike any other offering on the market — especially when it comes to venturing off road. For 2012, the Wrangler is even better: its old, disappointing 3.8-liter V-6 engine/four-speed automatic combination has been replaced with Chrysler’s new Pentastar V-6 and a five-speed automatic, which means 40 percent more horsepower and three–yes, three–fewer seconds to reach 60 mph from a standstill. As always, the Wrangler will do this with or without its signature removable top.
Grand Tourer: 2012 Audi A7 / Renovo duo Road bike
If you’re looking to cover vast distances at rapid speeds (hey, you’ve only got 72 free hours), we enthusiastically recommend Audi’s new A7. With stunning looks, a dramatic interior, a cutting-edge infotainment system, and the practicality of a sizable cargo hold, there’s likely no better way to quickly move four people and their belongings off for a weekend retreat. Should that retreat possibly include cycling, we recommend adding the optional bike rack and attaching the Audi duo Road bike to it. Crafted in partnership with cycle manufacturer Renovo, the bike’s wood frame reminds us of the A7’s interior trim, while the LED headlamps serve as a nice homage to the Audi’s signature accent lights. Talk about a perfect pair.
Stress Relief: 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata
No, the MX-5 isn’t suited for a family vacation, but it’s absolutely fantastic for escaping the drudgery of the working week. Throughout the summer, we’ve used the Miata as a track day weapon to a commuter car and everything in between — but regardless of its use, each time we slide behind the wheel and begin to carve our way through both city and country streets, we can’t help but grin from ear to ear. The Miata is essentially a four-wheeled stress ball, and it’s perfect for unwinding during a three-day weekend — even if its trunk can’t really handle luggage for more than one person.