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.