Whether heading out of town to the ultimate pool party or an off-the-grid escape, touring the wild, wild West requires selecting the right chariot. Adventure is right around the corner, so put the key in the ignition, push the pedal to the metal and arrive in style.
DESTINATION: LAS VEGAS
In Las Vegas, party people make their own luck. Kickstart the karma with a ride in a Porsche Panamera, which looks like a cool million and drives like it costs twice that. Skip the rabbit’s foot and hop directly to that Bungalow suite at the Cosmopolitan (3708 S. Las Vegas Blvd., cosmopolitanlasvegas.com), where the Jacuzzi plunge pool is the perfect warm-up for drinks at the Mandarin Bar (Mango Changos for everybody! 3752 S. Las Vegas Blvd., mandarinoriental.com), VIP seats at Britney Spears’ Planet Hollywood show (3667 S. Las Vegas Blvd., caesars.com/planet-hollywood), and 2 a.m. memories with DJ Steve Aoki at the MGM Grand’s Hakkasan nightclub (3799 S. Las Vegas Blvd., hakkasanlv.com). Then it’s time to win it all at the Bellagio blackjack tables (3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd., bellagio.com), because that’s how you roll.
DRIVING FORCE: PORSCHE PANAMERA
Cost: $79,000-$264,000 MSRP
Go big and baller in this alter ego of Porsche’s fastest sports car (the 911 Carrera). Get the high-roller treatment from the parking valet who will park your Panamera sedan out front for all to see. Sold in a completely impressive V-6 model, as well as a completely outrageous long-wheelbase, twin-turbocharged V-8 Panamera Exclusive Executive the most luxurious model to date. - Mark Maynard
Californians live the dream, but California Dreamers take the fantasy up a notch - especially when behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz CLA, which owns the PCH curves like a surfer owns Latigo Beach (Latigo Shore Drive and PCH), turning the drive into a 3-D IMAX adventure. First stop, the Getty Villa museum (17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades, getty.edu/visit/villa), where the views are as staggering as the art. Then it’s off to Nobu Malibu (22706 Pacific Coast Highway, noburestaurants.com/malibu), where the sushi might outshine the stars. Finally, a sunset cruise through Topanga Canyon, with Malibu Country Mart (3835 Cross Creek Road, malibucountrymart.com) shopping bags in the back and SiriusXM’s Chill station on the radio.
DRIVING FORCE: Mercedes-Benz CLA
Cost: $33,000-$51,000 MSRP
The CLA four-door “coupe” is a sleek and fashionable ride to carve the coast and the hills above Malibu. There is a refined elegance to Mercedes’ interior treatments, and the CLA sets a benchmark in aerodynamics, efficiency and driver-assistance systems. - Mark Maynard
DESTINATION: SAN FRANCISCO
For foodie fiends, the road to San Francisco is paved with five-star wishes and Instagram schemes. For this trip, the magic carpet is the cushy Audi Q7, perfect for stretching out with a laptop and blogging away from the shotgun seat while the scenery unfolds like an Anthony Bourdain special. Almond-butter toast at Outerlands (4001 Judah St., outerlandssf.com) will be followed by a lunchtime investigation of La Taqueria’s Internet-breaking burrito (2889 Mission St.). Walk it off at the Ferry Building Marketplace (1 Ferry Building, ferrybuildingmarketplace.com), but save room for Miette macarons (miette.com). Locally sourced dinner heaven awaits at Nopa (560 Divisadero St., nopasf.com), and the post-dessert drive across the bridge will be as smooth as sheep’s milk cheesecake.
DRIVING FORCE: AUDI Q7
Cost: $55,000-$65,000 MSRP
Sit back in comfort in Audi’s biggest vehicle. The soundproofed cabin in this luxurious SUV is a safe zone to watch the miles roll along. The Q7 has all the craveable creature comforts, such as heated seats (for foggy Bay Area days), which also have a cooling function (for when the Central Valley heats up), a reclining second row and air-spring suspension for balletic control. - Mark Maynard
DESTINATION: PALM SPRINGS
With an available V8 that puts nearly 500 horses under the hood, the 2017 Lexus RC can race to Palm Springs faster than you can say Rat Pack. After checking into the Del Marcos Hotel (225 W. Baristo Road, delmarcoshotel.com), take a dip in the heated saltwater pool and head to the Aerial Tramway (1 Tram Way, pstramway.com) for 360-degree thrills. Commune with the ghost of Don Draper at Mr. Lyons steakhouse (233 E. Palm Canyon Drive, mrlyonsps.com) and burn off that ribeye by rockin’ to live music at the Amigo Room (701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, acehotel.com/palmsprings). After a serving of King’s Highway (701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, acehotel.com/palmsprings) chilaquiles the next morning, it’s time to hit the road, Jack.
DRIVING FORCE: Lexus RC coupe
Cost: $41,000-64,000 MSRP
This head-turning two-door is a four-seat style statement with an efficient turbocharged, four-cylinder engine, or get a grip on the RC F with a 467-hp V-8. Lexus fired this sleek cruise missile directly at the BMW 3-Series coupe. - Mark Maynard
For a slice of the old life, head to Julian for antiques and apples in a GMC Yukon Denali, which has enough room for friends and the knickknacks they pack on the way back. The throwback tour begins at the Julian Pioneer Museum (2811 Washington St., julianpioneermuseum.org) and moves on to vintage shopping, gold-mine exploring and all things apple (cider, hard cider, picking). Try the burgers at Jeremy’s on the Hill (4354 State Route 78, jeremysonthehill.com) and slices of heaven at Julian Pie Company (2225 Main St., shop.julianpie.com) before hitting Dudley’s Bakery (30218 State Route 78, dudleysbakery.com), then loosen the (seat) belt on the way out of town.
DRIVING FORCE: GMC Yukon Denali
Cost: $66,000-69,000 MSRP
The seven-seat Yukon Denali tames the winding road - and has enough cargo space for bushels of apples, cases of wine and a trunkful of antiques. Plus, the Yukon has the latest in-car technologies, including a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot so everybody will have a clear connection for streaming, searching and Snapchatting. The Denali gets the top-line 420-hp, 6.2-liter V-8 and has mileage ratings of 15/21 mpg city/highway on 87 octane. - Mark Maynard
DESTINATION: CATALINA ISLAND
When getaway gurus want to get off the grid, they head for Catalina. There are no cars allowed on the island, but riding up The 5 in a Range Rover Sport means arriving at the Dana Point Port in first-class comfort. The Catalina Express ferry (34675 Golden Lantern St., Dana Point, catalinaexpress.com) delivers landlubbers to the town of Avalon (as does the Island Express helicopter service) and a taste of the golf-cart life. Get a gull’s-eye view with a Zip Line Eco Tour (1 Descanso Canyon Road, Avalon, visitcatalinaisland.com) and a shot of old-school refreshment with a boozy Buffalo Milk milkshake at the Descanso Beach Club (1 St. Catherine Way, Avalon, visitcatalinaisland.com). Marinate in history at the swanky Avalon Theatre (1 Casino Way, Avalon, visitcatalinaisland.com), then grab dinner and a sunset at Blue Water Grill. And don’t forget to make a toast at Luau Larry’s (509 Crescent Ave., Avalon, luaularrys.com) - the Wiki Wacker comes with a free straw hat. Score!
DRIVING FORCE: Range Rover Sport
Cost: $66,000-$112,000 MSRP
When it absolutely, positively has to be traversed, it can be done in complete luxury ? and on street tires. And now the opulent Range Rover Sport has the option of a long-cruising V-6 diesel engine. Parent company Land Rover makes only SUVs, and no maker does it more thoroughly, with more luxury and greater attention to detail. - Mark Maynard