Guys love fast cars. There’s something about getting behind the power of a V8 with the thrust of rear-wheel drive that just gets you going. You think of amazing sportscars, like the Porsche 911 Turbo, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster, or maybe even my quirky favorite the BMW Z4 M Coupe.
But once you get past the 1/2 second of day dreaming, reality sinks in. First the price – smack! There’s no way you could swing that kind of coin to get your seat in any of those poster cars. And even if you could, it would be highly unlikely that your wife would let you. And even if she did, you would have no leg to stand on to challenge any of her future questionable purchases (think purses, granite countertops, Tiffany jewelery…).
But the real killer is even if you are floating in cash, these cars are just plain impractical. You’re a Dad now, which means you have at least one little one floating around. How do you expect to drive junior around in any of these rockets. And no, the front-side passenger seat is not an option. As you’ll soon come to realize, most of the really appealling sports cars are two seaters. And even if they’re not, like some Porsches, the two little seats in the back are not going to accommodate your jumbo Graco carseat.
But wait, I know! I can get a nice sportscar and get an old family beater to drive around with the family. Yeah right, like that will fly. (Yes, I have actually worked through all these options).
So does that leave us with the ubiquitous Honda Odyssey Minivan (I know Moms everywhere love the thing)? Is our ceiling of coolness aspirations the Toyota Sienna, aka Swagger Wagon?
No, we must hold out hope. There has to be something out there, right? Something with some power, a little sex-appeal, and even, yes, family utility? Here’s my criteria for the the family friendly Dad sportscar:
- It has to look good. Really good.
- It has to have power. Some real umph.
- It has to have full-size seating for four.
- It has to be automatic (yes, a major concession).
- It has to be within some purchasing reach – let’s set it kind of high at under $50k used.
- Four doors!
After weeks of research, I’m proud to present my findings. Below are three excellent examples of automobile engineering excellence that meet my critera. And while you won’t find these marketed directly at families, they fit my somewhat admittedly distorted view of what is takes to be a family sports car.
1. The Family Sports SUV – 2008 Porsche Cayenne
It’s spacious, plenty of cargo space, and has all-wheel drive. For Dad, it looks pretty awesome and is quick. You’ll blow away all those Mom minivans when the light turns green. Oh yeah, and it’s a Porsche. The downers – Porsche maintenance is notoriosly expensive and gas mileage is bad at 14 city/20 hwy mpg.
Check out the Edmunds profile for the 2008 Porsche Cayenne. Or just start shopping for one on eBay.
2. The Sports Exotic- 2006 Maserati Quattroporte
Exotic to a fault, you don’t see these driving around the playground everyday. Made in Italy, you’ll experience craftsmanship unlike anything you’ve likely seen in any other automobile. You’ll need a pretty tough skin with all these cars, as you may cringe a bit more when little Joey comes traipsing in with his snowy boots or little Lily accidentally smooshes her cereal bar fruit filling into the finely stitches leather seams. The car is fast, really fast, at 0-60 in 5.1 seconds. But all that performance has to come from somewhere – and again, it’s the gas mileage, gulping at 12 city/18 hwy mpg.
The good news is, you can possibly afford a car that originally sold at above $100k buy buying it a few years old at under $40k. The bad news is, it makes you wonder why it would depreciated faster than your kids attention span.
For more information, check out the Motor Trends review of the 2006 Maserati Quattroporte. Or just start shopping for one on eBay.
3. The Sports Coupe – 2006 Mercedes Cls 500
Finally, my personal favorite (and current car), the Mercedes Benz CLS 500. As Car and Driver puts it, “A 4048-lb supermodel”. Whoever said thin is in?
The huge V-8 throws the CLS from 0-60 in 5.6 seconds. I haven’t pushed the car that hard, but the kids definitely get a thrill when I drop the accelerator down just a bit and you get that acceleration pinning you to the back of your set (or car seat in their case).
For the family friendly features and amenities (definitely some creature comforts here):
- My car has the optional Keyless Go system. At first, I thought who needs this? Now I couldn’t imagine getting a car without it. Here’s how it works – you just keep your key in your pocket (or purse for the ladies). The car automatically knows when your near to make the doors unlock and to make the gas door unlock. Just push a button, and the car starts. You never need to take the key out – which is a godsend when you’re carrying three bags of groceries and trying to control your little monkeys in the parking lot and it’s raining.
- A rear window shade. Just a press a button on the dash, and the window shade magically appears and covers the back window. The kids love it.
- 4 zone heating, or more specifically, each of your two little rear passengers get the thrill of setting their own temperature.
- Big trunk.
- Audio jack plugin to hook up your earphone-out jack from any music device, iPhone, etc. to play the kids’ favorite music.
- Two little storage spaces with slidy covers between the back seats. The kids love storing stuff in them.
- Safety. The CLS 500 has 5 star safety ratings across the board. It comes with both frontal and side airbags.
From the Dad sports car perspective:
- The lines on this car are beautiful. I’ve had the car for two years and it never gets old to admire its design.
- Hugely wide rear wheels. 275/35R18 95V. It just looks mean.
- The smoothest automatic transmission I’ve ever felt. It also has paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
- The interior is beautiful and comfortable. The seats are heat and air conditioned! A giant slab of solid burled wood graces the dashboard.
The drawbacks – once again maintenance costs and low gas mileage – 14 city/20 highway.
For more information, check out Automobile Magazine’s full review of the 2006 Mercedes Benz CLS500 or do what I did, and just buy it from eBay!
None of these cars are going to help you minimize your auto expenditures, but if you’re looking for something sporty that can also accomodate the family, there are options out there to live a little while still living with the little ones.
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Running your vehicle’s air conditioning is no worse for your gas mileage than driving with your windows down. As your vehicle speeds up, air flow creates a drag against the vehicle, making the engine work harder and hurting gas mileage. In fact, air conditioning can be a more efficient option at higher speeds.