Fatherhood -- in so many ways it's the most exciting ride you'll ever take. But having kids condemns you to a life of unexciting drives, right? You're doomed to enjoy the spongy handling of a Camry, or perhaps the pulse-lowering acceleration of a Grand Caravan.
Or maybe you aren't.
The truth is, reasonably priced cars that will move a family of four in safety and hold a tight line in a white-knuckle turn are out there. You just have to look a little beyond what you see in suburban driveways to find them.
Here's a selection of cars that will let Dad race his pulse now and then, while still getting the kids around safely.
MRSP: $21,820 - $36,625
Sure, Dodge is selling its new Challenger as the rebirth of American muscle. But the big muscle car we remember from Bullitt and The Dukes of Hazard was no Challenger -- it was the original Charger. Now it's been expanded to carry up to five people in more interior space than a Camry or Accord -- and with up to 425 horsepower.
MSRP: $24,625 - $41,905
The iconic Chrysler 300 looks the part of Dad's car -- pull up to a stoplight in this brawny thing, and you'll probably be the most imposing-looking guy in traffic. But the 300 comes with a choice of four engines, including two big V8s. In its highest trims, it goes from 0-60 in about five seconds, so you can out-drag a lot of small, sporty cars in the 300 -- all while carrying up to five people and plenty of soccer gear.
MSRP: $26,910 - $29,310
Ever wanted a four-door car with a Corvette's engine? Pontiac has your back. The automaker's new large sedan, the G8, has been compared to a BMW 5-Series costing $20,000 more. But the big V8 it borrowed from the 2008 Corvette Z06 leaves those BMWs in the dust, and the G8 offers a spacious cabin that is considered one of the best GM has made in years.
MSRP: $26,910 - $29,310
What are we doing putting a two-door muscle car on this list? You can't move a family in one of those things, right? Actually, the Mustang places at the top of its class in our safety ratings, and has one of the largest back seats of any sports coupe. While the rear seat isn't quite suitable for teenagers, it's more than enough space for small children.
MSRP: $23,750 - $28,000
Still think you need the hauling capacity of a minivan or an SUV? Mazda's CX-7 outperforms a lot of sedans with brisk handling, while offering 29.9 cubic feet of cargo space (which expands to 58.6 with the seats down). You can carry the kids and all of their stuff, rely on sure-footed all wheel drive, and still enjoy driving
MSRP: $20,495 - $33,995
Any enthusiast will tell you that the true key to driving enjoyment is handling. Subaru is famous for its well-regarded all-wheel-drive system, which glues the plain-looking Legacy sedan to the road in hard corners. There's plenty of room for two kids in back and a cabin competitive with some more luxurious cars, making the sporty Legacy worth a look before you plunk down a deposit on yet another Camry or Accord.
MSRP: $28,900 - $38,400
If Subaru's all-wheel-drive system is well-liked, Audi's is well-loved. The world-famous Quattro system allows the A4 to stick almost magnetically to the road. Though it's marketed as an entry-level luxury sedan, the A4 can be had for prices similar to that of a loaded Accord as long as you pay attention to the options you buy. But you won't need to option it out much -- the A4 is well-appointed for family hauling even in base trim.
MSRP: $28,190 - $30,290
The Acura TSX is built on the Honda Accord platform, so its qualifications as a family vehicle are obvious. But the TSX comes with added luxury features and handling tuned for sportier performance. And while the Accord tops out at an MSRP of $30,260, the TSX caps out at $30,290. That's right -- if you think you're stuck with a boring Accord, you can afford a sportier, more luxurious TSX for an extra 30 bucks.
MSRP: $31,850 - $34,350
Infiniti hit it out of the park with the G35. Many in the automotive press compare it to the vaunted BMW 3-series. The major difference? Price. The G35 can be yours for just a little more than the price of a loaded Camry. Even in its base trim, it's well-appointed for four passengers.
BMW 3-Series Wagon
MSRP: $34,200 - $36,100
The BMW 3-Series is often regarded as the benchmark for driver's cars. It can't make this list, however, because once all of the performance options are added in, it easily exceeds the budgets of most Dads. Luckily, the wagon version costs thousands less than the sedan or coupe, and it shares many of the same performance characteristics and all of the same road-gripping handling. Sure, a wagon may strike some dads as being about as masculine as a man-purse...but keep in mind, the coolest dad by far is the one with nothing to compensate for.
Also check out our Camry Killers for Dad Gallery.