Best fast family cars – our picks for the best fun everyday drivers
Family driver duties don’t mean a car has to be dull – some of our favourite performance models have four doors and a big boot
If there’s one advantage of cars today being able to be many things in one package, it’s the ability to pair family friendly practicality with fun. Sure, the family car of today could be mistaken for beginning and ending with the modern SUV, but within that niche, as well as other four-door forays, the daily driver has never been so desirable.
They come in many forms: SUVs with surprising capability, saloons and estates with supercar-beating performance, and even an EV that has morphed into a sleek, desirable shooting brake. Times have never been better if you’re after a car that combines practicality and performance.
Of course, to be on this list, the SUVs we have included don’t just drive well ‘for an SUV’, but actively add to the high-performance car marketplace, with a driving experience that’s as unique and resolved as any performance family car.
This is not an ordered list, rather a collection of brilliant-to-drive performance cars that place just as much emphasis on the way they drive as they do isofix points. All have some level of accomodation for a four-legged friend, too, and the ability to sail down to Euro Disney as easily as the Nürburgring, if you’re brave enough (for Euro Disney, not the Ring).
Best family cars 2024
- BMW M3 Touring
- Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
- Mercedes-AMG CLA45 S Shooting Brake
- Porsche Macan GTS
- Audi RS4 Competition
- Jaguar F-Pace SVR
- Skoda Superb Combi 280 4x4
- Porsche Taycan GTS Sport Turismo
BMW M3 Touring
The BMW M3 has never been so useable as in its current G80 incarnation, especially fitted with xDrive. It’s bigger, more practical, with plenty of space inside, and with wide-opening doors and a generous boot. Not to mention the fact that for the first time ever, you can specify it in a Touring bodystyle.
So configured, the M3 is just about the best fast estate you can buy, with a crazy turn of speed, immense capability in the bends and a level of engagement that makes it more fun to drive than ever. The Touring gets extra bracing in the rear structure and a bespoke suspension calibration to achieve the same precision and finesse as the M3 saloon, and the results are deeply impressive. It's been a long time coming, but the M3 Touring has been worth the wait and then some.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is on this list not just because it’s a more practical version of the brilliant Giulia, but because it has an exciting driving experience all of its own. This is underpinned by the Stelvio’s all-wheel-drive system, an element that fundamentally changes the way this car drives in comparison to the rear-drive Giulia.
It’s different in the way it steers, comes with more suspension travel and a chassis balance that makes it feel almost like a tall and Italian Nissan GT-R. It has a generous rear bias and almost transparent all-wheel-drive system that gives this Alfa a high level of agility, especially in slippery conditions. And while the extra weight is noticeable, it’s not a deal breaker as the superb twin-turbocharged V6 will still pull with almost the same intensity as in the lighter and purer Giulia.
Mercedes-AMG CLA45 S Shooting Brake
If Mitsubishi was to ever make a modern Lancer Evolution estate (there was one, briefly, in its IX generation) it might well have ended up a little something like AMG’s brilliant small four-wheel-drive estate. The CLA45 S Shooting Brake borrows its hardware from the A45 S, the most potent hot hatchback currently on sale, and until the new C63 S E Performance was revealed, featured the most powerful four-cylinder engine currently on sale.
The CLA45 S takes these same ingredients and repackages them in a sleek low-rise estate, with even more aggressive looks and a relatively big boot. We made the correlation to the Lancer Evo because the CLA has this distinctly augmented all-wheel-drive system that’s clearly front-led until the clever differentials get involved and start sending that power both front to back and left and right.
Porsche Macan GTS
In a traditional sense, there are no SUVs that drive quite as well as the Macan GTS. It’s got an innate ‘Porsche’ feel, a chassis that’s both capable and polished when the mood takes you, yet is adaptable enough never to be a hardship in day-to-day driving. The latest GTS’s new twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 engine is only another feather in its cap, even if it’s not quite as vocal as the previous 3-litre.
Yet as a family car, it’s a package Porsche knows has hit a chord with buyers. The Macan’s midsize body is balanced in terms of size, its build quality exceptional and it has a desirable design that looks both expensive and dynamic, with enough customisation to ensure you can specify it exactly to your taste.
Audi RS4 Competition
The standard Audi RS4 is a fine companion as a high-performance family car, but it’s fair to say this B9 generation has never quite hit the mark like its predecessors did. So as it nears the end of production, Audi Sport has introduced a new Competition model with lots of small hardware changes that it hopes will give the RS4 the edge this generation has been missing.
The changes include tweaks to the exhaust, gearbox mapping, wheels and tyres, but there’s one big addition that fundamentally changes how the Audi drives: its new manually adjustable coilover suspension. This totally transforms how the RS4 rides and handles, giving it an expensive and plush feeling that only comes with very expensive suspension hardware. The Competition isn’t cheap, but it still undercuts the headline Vorsprung model, and in our eyes makes all the difference to what’s classically been one of the ultimate fast family cars.
Jaguar F-Pace SVR
Our third and final SUV on this list is like the others in that it’s an entertaining car to drive irrespective of the fact it’s an SUV. The F-Pace SVR is a sweet blend of JLR’s venerable (and near-extinct) supercharged AJ-V8 engine and its most dynamic SUV chassis. All of its elements, from the engine and gearbox to the chassis balance and all-wheel-drive system, are put to the best use of any JLR product, resulting in a genuinely brilliant car to drive, with a snarling V8 soundtrack alongside.
Its update back in 2020 also bundled in a brand new interior, with class-leading digital interfaces and a huge uptick in material quality. As well as that, the exterior design was given a gentle update, and together with its aggressive bumpers, large wheels and SVR-specific design elements looks the part on the road too.
Skoda Superb Combi 280 4x4
We’re not sure there’s a more understated performance car on sale right now than the Skoda Superb 280 4x4. Sharing every part of its aesthetic make-up with other ‘Sportline’ Superb Combi models, the 280 4x4 differs by hiding a mildly detuned Golf R engine, gearbox and all-wheel-drive system underneath. Despite the common body, if you actually look at a Superb you notice that it’s a sleek and sophisticated looking car, albeit one that looks more likely to hide a small diesel engine within.
To drive, the Skoda isn’t quite as sporty as it could be, although the adaptive dampers and Sports driver mode do their best to keep the Superb in control. Yet the upside is what might be the most cavernous interior of any non-SUV on sale today. It’s also relatively efficient, very well built and comes with all the modern tech you could want for.
Porsche Taycan GTS Sport Turismo
Up and down this list we’ve explored today’s best fast family cars, but the Porsche Taycan GTS Sport Turismo might just be the best fast family car of tomorrow. The Taycan has already proven itself to be a superb, fast and luxurious EV, handling with more composure than just about any rival, in a package that’s far more desirable than you’d think of an electric estate car.
The GTS is arguably the most resolved of all Taycans to drive, and when combined with the elegant Sport Turismo body reveals itself to be just about the ultimate fast family car. Of course it’s expensive, and the overall battery range isn’t quite as good as it could be, but in terms of desirability – whether you’re into electric cars or not – the Taycan GTS Sport Turismo absolutely hits its brief.