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The Dad Wagon Conundrum

The bane of Dad Cars, where one needs to fit all of the elements that go along with that messy, dirty, complicated thing called Dad Life, is that it usually means a compromise on what we drive. As a dad of two and longtime automotive writer who has literally driven everything, I have found that with Dad Cars—there is something there for you, whatever that you may be. Wagons! SUV! Crossovers! Sportbacks! Minivans! It’s all there.

While my six-year-old daughter wishes she could drive “a rainbow-colored Porsche that runs on Unicorn Power,” the perils of choosing the right daily driver are fraught with danger; the worst thing is a three-year lease for a car that makes you nuts, or to end up with a $2200 a-month luxury car lease with years left to go—and cursing each and every day you have to get those kids in an out of their car seats.

My advice: Wagon up!

Wagons are hard to come by in the states, and when they do make it across the pond, the car manufacturers come up with all kinds of names to disguise the fact that it’s a wagon—we’re looking at you, Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo (new model available early 2021, price TBD).

The Classics

When embarking on your buyer’s journey, one would do best to consider the classics: The Subaru Outback. The trifecta of Volvo V90, V90 Cross Country, and V60. And finally, the double header of not one but two rugged allroad models: Audi A4 Allroad, and the all new for 2021 Audi A6 Allroad.

The Subaru Outback (from $26,795)

subaru outback on LEO edit
Photo Courtesy of Subaru of America, Inc.

V90 (from $52,445)

v90 on LEO edit
Photo Courtesy of Volvo Cars of North America.

V90 Cross Country (from $55,545)

v90 cross country on LEO edit
Photo Courtesy of Volvo Cars of North America.

V60 (from $41,595)

v60 on LEO edit
Photo Courtesy of Volvo Cars of North America.

 Audi A4 Allroad (from $44,6000)

audi a4 allroad on LEO edit
Photo Courtesy of Audi of America, Inc.

 2021 Audi A6 Allroad (from $65,900)

audi a6 allroad on LEO edit
Photo Courtesy of Audi of America, Inc.
audi a6 allroad on LEO edit
Photo Courtesy of Audi of America, Inc.
audi a6 allroad on LEO edit
Photo Courtesy of Audi of America, Inc.

There hasn’t been an A6 derived allroad since 2006’s C5-generation A6 Allroad, and the 2021 model is special. The five-hundred or so miles I put on the A6 Allroad could not have been time better spent; quiet, sleek, and sporty when needed—it hits all the keys of a perfect Dad Car and is the sleeper of the Audi lineup.

The Modern Classic

New to the rugged-ized wagon party and a direct competitor is the all-new Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC All-Terrain (from $67,600). For 2021, the standard wagon becomes the All-Terrain, adds a standard air suspension, a two-inch boost in ground clearance—to 5.8” inches—and some rugged looking All-Terrain-specific black matte body cladding to give the wagon a more SUV-like design-feel and character. Add to that a redesigned grille, an all-new headlamp and tail lamp design, some new interior and tech flourishes—and Mercedes once again has the makings of a modern classic.

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC All-Terrain (from $67,600)

mercedes-benz e450 on LEO edit
Photo Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz USA.
mercedes-benz e450 on LEO edit
Photo Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz USA.
mercedes-benz e450 on LEO edit
Photo Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz USA.

Final Say

For me, it’s a binary choice between the teutonic luxury of the Audi A6 allroad or the preppy chic of the Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain, and both inspire deep Dad Car lust in the belly of my soul, with the Benz winning by a smidge thanks to the rear-facing third row—my daughter having clamored for a daily drive in the way way back the entire time I had it. 

Sometimes it’s the love of one feature to push the purchase decision, and who am I to argue with a six-year old?

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