It would be a mistake for a dad to think that becoming a parent means settling for a humdrum family car that fails to inspire. There are many vehicles out there that are both special enough to set a dad's heart aflutter and sensible enough to serve as capable family transportation.
With this in mind, the picks below are our top 10 dream cars for dads. From a tech-loaded electric car to a sporty, canyon-carving crossover, we've offered a wide range of choices. Keep in mind that different dads have different preferences, and what's a dream car for some will be an instant pass for others.
Best for: The Muscle-Car Aficionado
Family cars aren't known for being heavy on testosterone. As such, the Dodge Charger may initially seem like an unlikely choice for drugstore runs and driving kids to hockey matches. However, once you get past the alpha-male sheet metal and available 470-horsepower V8 engine, the Charger is a full-size sedan with the bones to capably meet most family-hauling needs. Both front and rear passengers are treated to roomy accommodations and ride quality is supple enough to keep the spouse and kids happy. Available safety features include a rearview camera, a blind-spot warning system, a rear cross-traffic warning system and a forward-collision warning system.
Best for: The Early Adopter
The fact that most electric cars are hobbled with impractical range has made them mere curiosities for most drivers. Still, this segment has its diehard fans, and a dad with a short commute who lives to be on the cusp of the latest technology may very well dream of going electric. One of the segment's most compelling picks is the Ford Focus Electric. Its responsive handling and high-quality cabin make it a pleasure to drive, and it's loaded with a wealth of tech amenities. Standard features on the Focus Electric include Ford's MyKey system — which can be used to help parents set parameters for teen drivers — and a rearview camera.
Best for: The Hypermiler
Hybrids are made for dads who thrill to the challenge of wringing the best possible mileage out of even the most mundane trips to the grocery store. One of the most impressive picks in the class is the Ford Fusion Hybrid. With an EPA rating of 47 mpg combined (47 city/47 highway), it's fuel-efficient and thrifty enough to delight even the most dedicated frugalist. And while hybrids have been known for having a certain frump factor, the Fusion breaks the mold with sexy styling and a tastefully designed cabin. Ford's MyKey is standard, and options include a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts, driver drowsiness detection, and lane-departure warning with lane assist.
Best for: The Proud Father
Some guys have dreamed of being dads since grade school. For someone like this, fatherhood is a badge of pride, and the most desirable family vehicle is one that announces to all the world that progeny are aboard. No vehicle gets this point across more forcefully than a minivan, and the Honda Odyssey is one of the best of the bunch. Though it seats up to eight passengers, it's fuel-efficient and nimble on the road. It boasts a long list of family-friendly features and is even available with an integrated vacuum cleaner for when those beloved ankle-biters make a mess. A rearview camera is standard and a blind-spot camera system, a forward-collision warning system and a lane-departure warning system are offered as options.
Best for: The Do-It-Yourselfer
Nothing thrills some dads more than a good do-it-yourself project. Home Depot is their mecca and if these dads had their way, plumbers, electricians and contractors would all be out of business. These dads lust for vehicles with outstanding utility, like the Honda Ridgeline pickup. The Ridgeline offers the haul-anything utility of a truck, along with forgiving ride quality and a spacious cabin that seats five in comfort. Its car-based structure makes the Ridgeline nimbler and easier to live with than most conventional pickups, so it's a good choice for dads who want a truck that doesn't feel unwieldy in an urban setting. A rearview camera is standard.
Best for: The Smart Shopper
Some dads love nailing down a good bargain. If they home in on a smart car purchase you'll hear them bragging about it for years to come. The Hyundai Genesis is the sort of sensible, value-oriented choice that a dad like this loves to pat himself on the back about. Stylish and refined, it offers just about everything a luxury-car buyer could want — an opulent cabin, plush ride quality and a generous selection of amenities. It delivers this premium experience at a price that's all Hyundai, making it a drool-worthy choice for buyers who revel in getting a whole lot of car for less than most people would expect. Available safety features include a lane-departure warning system and a geo-fencing system that allows parents to set restrictions on teen drivers.
7. Lexus RX 350
Best for: The Cranky Driver
Cranky dads are easily irritated, and boy, do they love to complain. The vehicles they drive are often major sources of annoyance: You'll frequently hear them soliloquizing on grievances like road noise or unrefined ride quality. A dad like this fantasizes about a vehicle that gets him there and back in the utmost comfort and tranquility instead of rubbing him the wrong way. The Lexus RX 350 certainly fits the bill. Its smooth ride quality keeps road imperfections at bay and its impeccably crafted cabin is a serene oasis in an increasingly raucous world. Options include parking sensors, a blind-spot monitoring system, a rearview camera and an adaptive cruise control system that includes a pre-collision warning and brake-priming system.
Best for: The High Roller
Some dads relish being able to afford the best of everything. They live in the fanciest neighborhoods, wear the finest designer labels and send their kids to the snootiest private schools. For these dads, a first-rate luxury car is the only choice, and premium sedans don't get much better than the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Its adjustable air suspension helps this stately four-door glide over pavement like a ghost. Owners don't have to worry about design elements and interior parts being shared with lesser Mercedes models, since the car's sumptuously furnished cabin is bespoke to the S-Class. Its list of available tech and luxury features is endless and even includes a staggering six massage settings for the seats. Safety features include a driver-inattention warning system, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot assist, adaptive cruise control, a collision-prevention system and a night-vision alert system that reveals pedestrians and animals that may not be visible in the headlights.
Best for: The Upscale Enthusiast
For the type of dad who drove a 911 before the dirty diapers and Toys R Us temper tantrums, there's the Porsche Cayenne. This family-friendly five-seater offers all the coddling amenities of a high-end SUV, while boasting the superior handling you'd expect from a model bearing the Porsche marque. Gorgeously crafted both inside and out, it even features the stylish cockpit-style layout that has come to define the cabins of modern Porsche sports cars. Available safety features include parking sensors, a rearview camera and a blind-spot warning system.
10. Subaru Outback
Best for: The Off-Road Warrior
Some of the best off-road-friendly vehicles come with cramped, bare-bones interiors that make them poor choices for family duty. Then there's the Subaru Outback. With standard all-wheel drive and 8.7 inches of ground clearance, this wagon holds its own on muddy trails and snowy passes, while also offering the roomy passenger accommodations and generous cargo capacity that most buyers seek in family haulers. Its excellent visibility is another plus. Available safety features include a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision braking system and a lane-departure warning system.