A Guide to Cars and SUVs for Dads with Discerning Taste
I say being a dad doesn’t always mean driving something boring.
The dad car. It's where one stuffs all the detritus that accompanies the messy, dirty, and complicated thing called #dadlife, and needing one often means compromising by driving something common and utilitarian. From my perch in the Hollywood Hills, that naturally translates differently than it does anywhere else in America; here, it's usually a Tesla Model S or, if you fancy an SUV with complicated doors with indeterminate opening and closing times, a Model X. Even so, as someone who covers the lifestyle and entertainment industries from a motoring point of view—and a dad, to boot—I get innumerable questions about what car to buy. For those who happen to share my ZIP code, or those who want to live a Hollywood lifestyle and break the Tesla hegemony, I offer the below options.
On the EV SUV front, the all-new Audi e-Tron (from $75,795) and the stunningly beautiful and woefully under-considered Jaguar I-Pace ($70,495) make compelling cases as ways to stand out in the parking lot at Little League. It helps that they have decent cargo space, room for a car seat or two, and the ability to load and unload your kids without keeping an orthopedist on call.
While I want a wagon—and what automotive scribe doesn't?—they're rare in the States, and when they do make it across the pond, car manufacturers often come up with all kinds of names to obscure their wagon-ness. (I'm looking at you, Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo [$98,350], which can also is available as the fully loaded, fully named, and fully priced Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo [$191,450].) Still, there are a few satisfying wagons on the market: Audi sells the rugged-looking A4 Allroad ($46,695); there's the classic, preppy Subaru Outback ($26,345) that just underwent an intriguing redesign; and Volkswagen offers the Golf SportWagen ($22,790) and Golf Alltrack (from $27,790), both of which can be ordered with a stick!
If you want to buy American, the Buick Regal TourX ($29,995) is the only option, so it's a good thing it's worthwhile. If Swedish is more your language, the Volvo V90 ($52,445) and V90 Cross Country ($53,545) are sweetly styled and perfect for any situation. The mother of all luxury wagons, though, is the Mercedes-Benz E-class wagon ($65,195), the buyers of which, its maker says, have the highest average household income of any Mercedes model. The E63 S AMG wagon variant ($109,845) is this dad's holy-grail car, and if you really think about it, is one of the best values on the market. While 603 horsepower may be too much power to simply drop the kids off at school, who am I to judge? "Besides," our MotorTrend colleague and fellow dad Jonny Lieberman pointed out to me during a late-night text exchange, "if you can't stomach an E63, get the G63. Hey, it's a Wagen, ain't it?"
That's a good point about Mercedes' G-class—a.k.a. the Geländewagen—as the recently redone AMG G63 iteration (from $148,495) stands apart from other luxury SUVs with its boxy shape, physics-defying performance, and the ability to make even the jaded masses of Southern California flip their wigs. It's the one to get—if you can even get one. "The G63 is extremely hard to get and if even if you ordered one, it would be about a year to eighteen-month wait. And available cars are going for up to a $50K premium, so I hear from the marketplace," says Ron Robertson of Mercedes-Benz of Beverly Hills, the top-selling Maybach salesman in the history of the world (approximately) and a former pro baseball player.
"The G-wagen is so different than everything else on the road, and so much so, that you to stick out. It's an analog piece in a digital world, but we've brought it into the 21st century and kept the original character," Daimler design chief Gorden Wagener told me over tacos during a break from off-roading Gs in Borrego Springs. I must disagree with Wagener's choice of color for his personal G-wagen, though—"all black with the night package, black 22-inch wheels, red brake calipers, and no chrome, except for the grille"—as I'd get mine in matte Designo Dakota Brown Magno over an Espresso Brown interior. And truthfully, I'd opt for the Automobile All-Star G550 ($125,495) as too much power is, for me, too much power.
But going beyond the G, the latest luxury SUVs, especially at the higher end of the price range, are pretty dang awesome. And big-buck ones like the Bentley Bentayga are getting thick on the ground: "People are adding these SUVs to their personal fleet and a lot of families are buying a couple at a time," says Rhys Edwards, marketing director at O'Gara Coach Company, purveyors of ultra-luxe brands like Bentley, McLaren, and Rolls-Royce. "The Lamborghini Urus is great to roam around town, but for a longer trip, a Rolls-Royce Cullinan would be perfect."
As someone who tried to keep their child asleep for a backseat nap in a Urus, I'd concur. But even with the LM002 in the brand's history, a Lamborghini SUV? Really? "People are coming to the Lamborghini brand that wouldn't buy one in the past, as Lamborghinis are a bit show-offy," Edwards continued. "But the Urus is family-friendly and it's softening the brand for new buyers."
For true baller status, though, consider the minivan.
"I always secretly wanted a minivan from my Japanese rice-rocket days," says the aptly named Ben Baller about his Chrysler Pacifica ($26,985); his swaggy IF & Co. line of jewelry graces the necks, arms, and grills of Kayne West, Drake, Nas, and Snoop Dogg, to name just a few of his customers.
"VIP slammed minivans were so dope. But now I had a legit reason to get one: three kids and a nanny and what other car could fit six to seven people comfortably and still fit inside a garage? My old Tesla was nice, but it also sucked for this reason. Same with the Escalade. It had to be the Pacifica S. Also, it adds to my washed-up dad image."
When asked if his time in the jewelry game influenced the customization process, Baller replied, "The small details for sure. Like the roof spoiler. You have to pay close attention to even see it. I do that with my custom [jewelry] pieces. The running boards are essential for my mother-in-law and daughter and middle son to get out of the car. My oldest son just jumps out. The entire black-out kit makes the car so much more Mafia-like. All moldings and accents are black. Sometimes I don't like a lot of contrast with my jewelry pieces, and the chrome polished lips on my [van's] wheels are just enough. I may eventually powder coat them black, though."
Baller, whose stable includes a 2014 Ferrari FF, 2016 Lamborghini Aventador SV, 2019 Range Rover Autobiography, 2019 Lamborghini Urus, and 2018 McLaren 720S, is deeply enamored with his Chrysler minivan despite the ribbing he gets from his 1.3 million Instagram followers, "When I first posted it, people thought it was an April Fool's joke.
"I also love being driven in it. I have held several meetings inside the car. It has Wi-Fi and the two middle captain's chairs are removable with a button and pull, so it gives me a lot of space." Baller, though, has yet to persuade one of his celebrity clients to take a similar plunge. "I haven't convinced someone to get one yet. They all comment how much they love it. The ones with kids now are seriously considering it."
What about a gem-encrusted, custom-made XL-size IF & Co. minivan pendant? "Ha—yes! That would be amazing!" And a perfect Father's Day gift to dads everywhere.
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