Just because you've grown up, settled down, and had a kid or two doesn't mean you can’t have fun anymore. While you may have to take a pass on that late-night partying you once did, you can stay in touch with your younger self with a car that’s fun to drive and can double as a family vehicle. However, finding a vehicle that appeals to you both as an enthusiast and a head of household isn't always easy, because compromises will have to be made both in packaging and in handling.
To help the gearhead parents out there, Automobile Magazine has put together a list of the 10 Best Sports-Oriented Family Cars. These are cars that you might consider when you're looking for something that will fit your spouse and children but you don't want to join the herd and settle for a boring crossover or minivan. You want something that reminds you of that two-seater you traded in for the car seat. It's doable, as evidenced by these exciting four-doors.
Base Price (incl. destination): $60,995/$79,695
Output: 310 hp, 325 lb-ft/420 hp, 406 lb-ft
Why It Made the List: The words sexy, speedy, and hatchback usually don’t go together.
We named the Audi A7 our 2012 Automobile of the Year for a reason. The A7 may not have moved the needle in technology, powertrain, or segment-busting ideas, but the combination of a powerful 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, sinewy four-door-coupe styling, and an intuitive MMI infotainment system set the A7 apart from the competition. Last year, Audi added the S7 variant, which trades the six-cylinder for a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine and 120 more horsepower. (Look for an even hotter RS7 version for the 2014 model year.)
The fact that the A7 is a hatchback is another factor in its inclusion on this list. The liftback makes the Audi more versatile than its BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe and Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class competitors because it gives the A7 a larger trunk than either of its rivals. The A7 is also quick – Audi claims a 0-to-60-mph time of just 5.4 seconds; the run takes only 4.5 seconds in the S7. So not only will your family and all your stuff get on the road quickly, you’ll be riding in style and comfort. Oh, and fuel economy isn’t bad, either: the A7 is rated at 22 mpg combined, the S7 at 20 mpg.
Cadillac CTS-V sedan/wagon
Base Price: $65,515
Output: 556 hp, 551 lb-ft
Why It Made the List: It’s not your father's Cadillac, and that's a very good thing.
Let’s count the things we love about the Cadillac CTS-V: (1) its styling is both eye-catching and attractive; (2) it is equipped with the 556-hp supercharged V-8 from the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 and Camaro ZL1, and (3) it is available as a wagon with a six-speed manual transmission. Last but not least, the CTS-V’s sticker price starts at just over $65,000, which – on a relative scale – is a good price for the kind of performance this superfast family hauler is capable of. Plus, the wagon (and its extra utility) costs no more than the sedan.
There are plenty of luxury trappings to keep parents and kids alike happy while on the road. Standard heated and cooled front seats and optional Recaro bucket seats will keep those up front comfortable, while a Bose 5.1 surround-sound audio system and a 40-gigabyte hard drive for the navigation system will keep everyone entertained -- even if that entertainment is singing along to "The Wheels On The Bus.” The person behind the wheel will have the most fun, though, as the 6.2-liter engine thrusts the CTS-V sedan to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds. A limited-slip differential helps to route power to the rear wheels, and Brembo calipers grab 15-inch front and 14.7-inch rear brakes when the fun needs to come to an end.
Chrysler 300 SRT8/Dodge Charger SRT8
Base Price: $49,990/$46,990
Output: 470 hp, 470 lb-ft
Why It Made the List: An American muscle car for the entire family.
Full-size family sedans are, in general pretty boring. Luckily, Chrysler offers two rear-wheel-drive sedans, the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger, which might change that perception. Both the 300 and the Charger have handsome styling (note especially the LED "racetrack" taillights on the Charger) with interiors that are well put together and attractive, and they offer a range of powerplants to appeal to different buyers. There is one powerplant in particular, however, that transforms these otherwise mild-mannered cars into real sleeper sport sedans: a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 – found in the range-topping SRT8 models – that’s good for 470 hp.
Thanks to their shared 120.2-inch wheelbase and 106.3 cubic feet of passenger space, the 300 and Charger SRT8 have room for the whole family. There's also room for everyone's stuff, as the capacious trunk has a cargo capacity of 16.3 cubic feet. As we found in our Four Seasons 2012 Dodge Charger, the seats are quite comfortable – the SRT8 model ups the ante with ever more cosseting performance chairs, all the better to keep the brood planted as these sedans blast from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds.
Base Price: $16,215
Output: 117 hp, 106 lb-ft
Why It Made the List: A fun and frugal hatchback with one of the most versatile interiors of any car on the market.
At first glance, the Honda Fit may not seem to belong on this list. It has only slightly more than 100 hp, it starts at well under $20,000, and it is quite small. What the bubble-shaped Honda has, though, is a high fun-to-drive factor and a low cost of ownership. Having kids can be an expensive proposition, leaving you with extra mouths to feel, bodies to clothe, and presents to buy. The Fit's sub-$17,000 starting price means you should have some cash left over to buy other necessities, and its 27/33 mpg city/highway rating will keep your wallet in check at the pump. The Fit with also comes with Honda’s Magic Seat system, which makes the diminutive hatchback more versatile than some SUVs. With all the seats folded, it has a cargo capacity of 57.3 cubit feet.
The Fit is also a rewarding to drive. While there is a fair bit of body roll thanks to the soft suspension setup, the steering wheel, gearshifter, and pedals feel like extensions of the driver's body. The 1.5-liter four-cylinder is a joy to wind up and is well-matched to the five-speed manual transmission. The Honda Fit is about enjoying the ride, no matter at which speed you’re traveling. Isn’t that what life is supposed to be about?
Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG sedan/wagon
Base Price: $90,705/$93,305
Output: 518 hp, 516 lb-ft
Why It Made the List: Under the radar, outrageous, and family-friendly -- all at the same time.
I grew up riding around in the second- and third-row seats of E-Class wagons, so Mercedes' mid-size holds a special place in my heart. I'm not the only one at Automobile Magazine who cherishes the E-Class, especially the E63 AMG, which is one of the most outlandish yet refined family haulers around. Although the E63 is mainly offered as a sedan, the special-order-only wagon is best-suited to families. The E63’s 518-hp bi-turbo 4.6-liter V-8 engine sends its power through a seven-speed automatic to the rear wheels only. Yes, this wagon can do donuts on the way to pick up doughnuts for the kids.
The E63 AMG wagon is also sensible. It has 57.4 cubic feet of cargo space and comfortable seating for up to five people. (Sadly, the optional rear-facing third row is no longer available.) Mercedes also offers a wide range of options to help manage cargo and to keep canine family members in check. Even more sensibly, other than minor trim and fascia tweaks the E63 AMG looks the same as a standard E350 4Matic wagon, so only connoisseurs will notice the difference. That is, until you smoke everyone pulling away from a stoplight.
Porsche Panamera/S/S Hybrid/GTS/Turbo/Turbo S
Base Price: $76,825/$92,325/$97,125/$111,975/$139,625/$176,275
Output: 300 hp, 295 lb-ft/400 hp, 369 lb-ft/333 hp, 428 lb-ft/430 hp, 384 lb-ft/500 hp, 516 lb-ft/550 hp, 553 lb-ft
Why It Made the List: The pinnacle of speed and luxury, in four-seat form.
The Porsche Panamera may not be the best family car, as it only has seating for four (although it does have a hatchback to aid cargo capacity). Granted, those four seats are extremely comfortable and, depending on how the car is optioned, each seat can have its own temperature, heating/cooling, and massage functions. If you're looking to pamper your kids, this could be the car.
This could also be the car to pamper you, depending on which powertrain you opt for. The Panamera is offered in six different trim levels, not counting all-wheel drive and special-edition variants, ranging from a 300-hp V-6 to a 550-hp turbocharged V-8. All Panameras use a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox that executes shifts quicker than you can.
Subaru WRX/STI sedan/hatchback
Base Price: $26,605/$35,105
Output: 265 hp, 244 lb-ft/305 hp, 290 lb-ft
Why It Made the List: Raucous, rally-bred fun; all-weather capability; and room for the whole brood.
When you think of frugal, all-weather fun, you think of the Subaru WRX. You should also think of another F: family. The compact sedan has tidy dimensions, but it’s comfortable enough for two parents plus children and is available as a hatchback for those who want even more utility. The WRX starts at a relatively thrifty $26,605, so picking one up won't break the bank. The price includes a raucous 2.5-liter turbocharged boxer four mated to a five-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive.
For even more fun without having to make any familial sacrifices, buyers can step up to the WRX STI. Essentially a watered-down version of the same car Subaru used to run in World Rally Competition races, the STI takes the WRX to the next level: 40 more horsepower, an extra cog in the transmission, and a trick all-wheel drive system that allows for driver-selectable torque distribution between the front and rear axles.
Tesla Model S Performance
Base Price: $88,570
Output: 416 hp, 443 lb-ft
Why It Made the List: Effortless power and seating for seven without using a single drop of gas.
Once you have a family, you may find yourself starting to worry more about the future – it is your children's future after all. But instead of opting for a hybrid or a heavily compromised electric car, consider the California-made Tesla Model S. Our 2013 Automobile of the Year has both space for the family and impressive performance credentials. Its hatchback shape is aerodynamically slippery, and the all-electric powertrain means that there's room for some junk in the frunk (what Tesla calls the front trunk). That front trunk can be helpful if you opt for the two rear-facing jump seats to increase the Model S's passenger capacity to seven.
Choosing a Model S isn't necessarily a responsible choice as far as your driver's license is concerned. Not only can the silent sedan outrun a BMW M5, but its 416 hp and 443 lb-ft of silent and effortless power will speed you and your passengers to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds.
Volkswagen GTI 4-Door/GLI/Golf R 4-Door
Base Price: $25,390/$24,740/$35,590
Output: 200 hp, 207 lb-ft/200 hp, 207 lb-ft/256 hp, 243 lb-ft
Why It Made the List: The GTI blends hatchback utility with excellent handling dynamics and an accessible price point.
We like the Volkswagen GTI. We like it so much that we've named it to our All-Stars list multiple times and crowned it Automobile of the Year in both 2007 and 2010. We love the pep of the 2.0-liter turbo four, the well-tuned and robust chassis, and the high-quality interior. It's the pinnacle of the compact performance class.
A family-friendly hatchback body style and a low entry price make this hot hatch a winner for fun-seeking families. Those who want a more traditional three-box design don't have to miss out on the fun, either: Volkswagen also offers the Jetta GLI, which has all the GTI's performance upgrades under the skin of the Jetta compact sedan. Finally, for those thrill-seeking VW enthusiasts, there's also the limited-run Golf R with 256 hp and all-wheel drive.
Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Base Price: $44,995
Output: 325 hp, 354 lb-ft
Why It Made the List: Gorgeous design, high-quality materials, advanced safety technology, and good performance credentials.
The Volvo S60 is a Q-ship: its design is stunning but not head turning; its power is impressive but not overwhelming; and its utility is admirable but not as good as it could be (we wish Volvo would sell the V60 wagon in the U.S.). We named the S60 a 2011 All-Star and discovered after a Four Seasons test that it was "a sleeper hit." However, that was before Volvo introduced the R-Design model with 25 extra horsepower and 29 more lb-ft of torque, which turns this svelte Swede into a BMW-beater.
It’s not surprising that a Volvo is a good choice for those who want to keep their family safe. City Safety automatic braking is standard, and options include blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and collision warning with pedestrian detection. The S60 has also been rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and earned a five-star overall crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Talk about playing safe.