Being a dad doesn’t mean you have to fetch your kids in some godawful minivan.
Becoming a father is one of the best experiences in life, sadly it is usually followed by one of the worst. That is the moment when you hand in the keys to your sporty little two-seater for something with sliding doors and more cupholders than cylinders.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of cars out there that can seat four, perhaps not in comfort but life is full of compromises and a 10-hour road trip in the back of a cramped coupe is a valuable life lesson. Once your kids get older, they will appreciate the fact that their dad is not dropping them off at school in some boxy minivan too.
So, we have selected some of the coolest ‘dad’ cars that can fit a booster seat in the back but still draw the kind of attention usually reserved for a two-seater sports car.
The 200-hp Toyota 86 is no dragstrip racer and even the kids at school will know that but it is well-priced, and its handling abilities make it a perfect track day companion. Arrive at the school pick-up point with some racing stripes, a massive rear wing and race numbers stuck on the doors and you will be known as the dad who knows a thing or two about how to drive a car. The tiny rear seats are fine for children and the trunk has space for a couple of school bags and the odd shopping trip.
Kids can be cruel though and once they find out that their mom’s Chrysler Pacifica makes more power than your 86 you will have to, um 86 your 86. So how about a car that looks like something out of Need for Speed but also has the go to match its extroverted show? That would be the 306-hp Civic Type R. Currently the fastest FWD car to have ever lapped the Nürburgring, it is also capable of 170 mph and can seat four in comfort.
With 292 hp on tap, the Golf R may make slightly less power than the Type R, but its AWD traction advantage makes it even quicker off the line and its unassuming looks will appeal to the more introverted types. It does cost a fair bit more than the Type R but then you do get a more upmarket interior and a few more luxuries and conveniences that could make those family road trips a lot more bearable. The rear hatch also makes loading bulky items a whole lot easier. You may be limited to 155 mph but in the real world, not much is going to stay with you up a slippery mountain pass.
The C-Class is a sober choice for the middle-aged man who values style, comfort and practicality. Well, that is probably true for the C300 sedan but our choice is the full-fat C63 S Coupe, a car that is more about smoky burnouts than gentle cruising. The good news is that when you are not showing the neighbors its 3.8-second 0-60 mph time, this 507-hp V8 is quite capable of driving along in a perfectly subdued manner too. It can also be had in a sedan body style but the coupe looks so much cooler and it still has space in the back for a couple of folded up kids.
If you really need bigger rear seats and a large trunk to go with it then the new M5 is going to be the one to tick those boxes in a very satisfactory manner. Its switchable 4WD system allows you to let loose when the conditions allow, and it also provides the sort of traction that allows this 600-hp car to get to 60 mph as fast as some supercars. The Competition Package adds a smidgen more power (17 hp), firmer suspension and some nice badges on the back you can point to when the neighborhood kids come around asking questions.
The RS7 is Audi’s interpretation of the Mercedes CLS and BMW GT four-door coupe/hatchback models and is quite possibly the most resolved design-wise than either of them. It offers a lot of practicality too thanks to that rear hatch and four doors while the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 takes care of the hills with its 553 lb-ft of torque and 605 hp. The new Porsche Panamera can also be had in a similar Sport Turismo body style but that comes at a significant price premium and you may want to keep some cash aside for the kids’ education. You may want to wait a bit for the new RS7 to make its appearance but even the current ‘old’ car is an impressive piece of kit.
When it comes to the fastest four-door sedans, even these overpowered German Autobahn missiles will have to pull aside for the SRT Hellcat. Not just because they are all limited to 155mph whereas the Hellcat can reach 204 mph. No, it is because once on the move, this 707-hp machine is one of the quickest accelerating things on the road. The RWD layout may have it scrabbling for traction away from the line but with 650 lb-ft of torque on tap from its supercharged 6.2-liter V8, the in-gear figures are off the charts. The sound out of the tailpipes should be enough to scare most would-be challengers off.
Four-door sedans and quick hatchbacks are all well and good but sometimes only a proper sports car will do. For those times the evergreen Nissan GT-R is always on hand. It has one of the smallest rear benches in the business but it is unlikely that any kid is going to complain about having to go to school in dad’s GT-R. For ultimate street-cred get the 600-hp Nismo trim, although even the ‘base’ 565-hp model is still more than capable of seeing off anything in its price bracket.
The 911 has been the cool dad’s choice for about as long as it has been in production. Sadly, the only naturally-aspirated model left in the range is the GT3 and it comes without any rear seats, so you will need to stick to the regular Carrera and Turbo models here. That is not exactly a hardship as just about any 911 is a great drive. The ‘budget’ Carrera T and range-topping GT2 RS are also two-seaters but there is nothing wrong with a 450-hp Carrera GTS which can be had in convertible and Targa variants too. For ultimate bragging rights you may as well have it fitted with the 7-speed manual transmission.
One thing that you may struggle to do in your sporty family sedan or coupe is head anywhere off-road. For that we have the F-150 Raptor, which combines the best bits of a large truck and powerful sports car to provide go-anywhere capability generally reserved for military vehicles. The twin-turbo V6 pumps out a 911 GTS-equaling 450 hp and can race to 60 mph as quickly as a Golf R. Correctly equipped it can tow up to 8,000 pounds and it will also be able to tackle just about any obstacle in its way. The aggressive looks suit the truck perfectly and that large rear load bay adds even more practicality to the package.
These options are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to great family-friendly cars that can help fuel dad’s mid-life crisis while still fulfilling most of the functions of a boring minivan. Let us know your picks, as long as they are fun to drive and have space in the back for the kids they qualify.