The Right Tool
Often in life we’re advised to “pick the right tool for the job.” Sometimes that can mean a specific thing used for one specific purpose, and sometimes we require a multitool versatile enough to cover a variety of needs competently. Our needs can change over time; what makes sense now can suddenly become insufficient as we discover new interests, change careers, or start families. Although this list cannot cover every hobby or occupation, today we’re taking a look at and recommending some vehicles for various stages of life and lifestyles to provide some inspiration for your own planning.
Off-Roading: Jeep Wrangler
Starting MSRP: $27,495
If you’re looking to venture off the beaten path — for camping, hiking, rock-climbing, surfing, you name it — and if your destination is more than a couple dozen yards from a road or trail, the Jeep Wrangler should be your vehicle of choice. Sure, the Wrangler’s become more “civilized” in its modern incarnations, but it’s still built knowing that owners will put it to the test. Get it wet, muddy, dusty, whatever; just don’t get it upside-down and it’ll get you home.
“Off-Roading”: Audi Q5
Starting MSRP: $26,995
A home in the country might not exactly fit the definition of “roughing it.” In fact, the closest you’re likely to come to any off-roading might be a bit of gravel or dirt between the highway and your driveway. Nothing wrong with that: winter can still get a little hairy, and you’ll need some capable all-wheel drive just in case. The Audi Q5 offers everything you’re looking for while providing a comfortable ride with every modern convenience at your fingertips.
Biking: Subaru Crosstrek
Starting MSRP: $21,795
Have you noticed how nice the Subaru Crosstrek has quietly become? It checks a lot of boxes for the biking enthusiast. It has lots of interior space for equipment, clothes and gear; it’s perfect for roof- or hatch-mounted bicycle carriers; it doesn’t mind getting a little dirty inside or out; and it has enough height along with its all-wheel drive to get you to off-road or mountain trails. As an added benefit, the Crosstrek isn’t all that expensive — meaning more funds for your passion.
Camping: Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
Starting MSRP: $43,395
From 11 different Grand Cherokee variants, we’d opt for the Trailhawk while camping, mostly for its Quadra-Drive II all-wheel-drive system, which allows for up to 100 percent of its torque to go to the rear wheels as needed, along with Jeep’s Quadra-Lift air suspension. Uconnect navigation, Apple CarPlay and available leather inside provide a little lap of luxury from the Grand Cherokee when you might need it. Bottom line: The GC Trailhawk will get you in and out of where you’re staying in style, with plenty of room for stuff and a place to charge (and use) devices if necessary.
Sports Parenting: Volkswagen Atlas
Starting MSRP: $30,750
Between sharing rides with teammates and the sheer accumulation of equipment, the three-row SUV is practically unavoidable for parents of American kids who play an organized sport. Volkswagen has recently entered this competitive segment with the Atlas, which provides plenty of cargo space, seating for up to seven, a suite of available safety systems, and good legroom through all three rows of seating — all at a price parents should appreciate.
Skiing: Volvo V90
Starting MSRP: $52,300
The Volvo V90 wagon combines interior spaciousness, luxury, all-weather capability, and an eye-catching exterior design in a way that makes it ideal for time on the slopes. Its 4-cylinder engine is good for 250 horsepower in the T5 turbocharged version, and 316 in the T6 with a supercharger added to the turbocharger. Skiing is as much about form and feel as the technical details; the V90 fits right in.
Out on the Town: Aston Martin DB11
Starting MSRP: $198,995
The available 4.0-liter V8 and 5.2-liter V12 engines are the heart of the superb driving experience that is the new Aston Martin DB11, but you won’t need those for a night of living it up in the city. If you’re going out to see and be seen, it’s hard to underestimate the visual impact of nearly any Aston, and the DB11 is certainly no exception. The Aston won’t get the same universal recognition as a Ferrari or Lamborghini, but pull up to the theater or the hot new restaurant in a DB11 and see if anyone fails to notice.
Sunday Driver: Jaguar F-TYPE
Starting MSRP: $59,900
You have a free day to rip through your favorite mountain pass, canyon or winding country road; what are you driving? Perhaps the Jaguar F-TYPE R, with the massive, glorious racket of its 550-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 engine. Or the F-TYPE R-Dynamic, which has a smaller 3.0-liter V6 but still produces 380 horsepower and offers the option of a manual transmission. Both offer fun at any speed and driving joy in any setting.
Family Road Trip: Honda Odyssey
Starting MSRP: $29,990
Parents, kids, pets — for those taking everyone out on the road, a minivan is the way to go. The Honda Odyssey gives driver and passengers the room they need, plenty of cargo space, and an available rear-seat entertainment system with a 10.2-inch screen and an app built around answering the time-honored question of “Are we there yet?” There’s even a built-in vacuum to help clean house upon arrival. The Odyssey is a great space to keep the whole family comfortable over a long haul.
Young Family: Mazda CX-3
Starting MSRP: $20,110
Baby’s just made three, and now you need something with room for a car seat, stroller and all the other baby-related paraphernalia you’ll be hauling around. You don’t necessarily need to go full-size SUV, nor do you need something “boring” — Mazda’s CX-3 has the space you need along with all-wheel drive, ground clearance, and a well-thought interior with plenty of features. The price is reasonable too, which will be a crucial factor with a young family.
Growing Family: Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
Starting MSRP: $25,955
If you’ve made the leap from a family of four to a family of five (and maybe more), you may not need a massive 7-seat SUV, but you do need something more spacious. The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack brings much of what makes the Golf hatchback so beloved at a larger, more family-friendly size. From an intuitive infotainment system with Apple CarPlay to a multitude of standard and available safety systems, the Alltrack is everything you want in a family car at a family-friendly price — with all-wheel drive, to boot.
Empty Nesters: Chevrolet Camaro Convertible
Starting MSRP: $32,900
Congratulations! The kids have grown up, made it through school and moved on to start the rest of their lives. Now go out and get yourself a Chevrolet Camaro. A convertible one. Don’t worry about how many cylinders the engine has; just get the one that tickles you. Find a nice stretch of road, put the top down, and just let yourself feel it. That feeling is freedom, and it’s well earned. Enjoy.
Hiking: Toyota RAV4
Starting MSRP: $24,510
Finding your way to the hiking trail you’re looking for might take some doing, but perhaps it won’t require fording any rivers or a caravan’s worth of equipment. The Toyota RAV4 is a comfortable, small SUV that can get you around town or out of town when you’re ready for your next adventure. With available all-wheel drive and standard integrated roof rails, the little RAV4 is capable enough to handle some light off-roading for overnight camping if needed.
Surfing: Subaru Forester
Starting MSRP: $22,795
Laid-back and ready for anything, the Subaru Forester makes an excellent modern beach wagon. Its 34.4 cubic feet of cargo space and power rear hatch make loading in and out a breeze, and the 8-speaker Harman Kardon audio system means you can crank your favorite music without losing sound quality. The Forester’s 2.5-liter boxer engine, all-wheel drive and 8.7 inches of ground clearance are built to handle all but the highest tides, while returning an environmentally friendly 32 mpg highway.
“Cool” Mom / Dad: Buick Regal TourX
Starting MSRP: $29,070
There’s always a “cool” parent or two among your circle of childhood friends; the ones who really “relate” to what you kids are going through, and love to play the music of their youth loudly in the name of teaching you how cool things used to be. They are actually cool people, who know that SUVs are, like, boring, man — wagons are where it’s at. Buick’s Regal TourX is bringing back the American mom/dad-wagon in all of its practical yet secretly-fun-to-drive glory.
Cooler Mom / Dad: BMW M5
Starting MSRP: $102,600
So, you don’t know what Billy-down-the-block’s dad does for a living. What you do know is that, despite living in a home that looks like the others in your neighborhood, they’re doing really well; and whatever Billy’s dad does it must be important, and he must be a pretty cool guy. You know this because he sprung for the 600-horsepower, zero-to-60 mph in 3.2-seconds, 190-mph (with the limiter off) BMW M5. You never hear its tires squeal or catch Billy’s dad revving it in anger, but you know that somewhere, sometimes, he does — and it must be the coolest thing ever.
Cruising: Chevrolet Corvette
Starting MSRP: $55,495
There are places in the United States, still, where cruising is a way of life. Whether it’s once per week or once every year, there are places to run up and down the same road, over and over, showing off, making new friends and getting into the occasional light-to-light drag race. What could be more American than cruising a boardwalk in summer — or Main Street USA on a Friday night — in a Chevrolet Corvette? You’re sure to be noticed, and when called upon, the 6.2-liter V8 can get you to 60 mph from a standstill in less than 4 seconds.
Track Day: Porsche 718 Cayman GTS
Starting MSRP: $79,800
Unless you live next to a racetrack or can afford unlimited sets of tires, you’re unlikely to be taking track days every weekend, so what you need is something that delivers as much performance and driving joy in everyday life as it does when you get to wind it out. There are few chassis as well suited to this as that of the Porsche 718 Cayman GTS. With the available sports suspension and engine tech lifted from the 911 Turbo, the 718 GTS is faster, stiffer and sits lower than all its Cayman siblings — all in the name of driving bliss, whether on track or off.
Executive: Mercedes-AMG S65
Starting MSRP: $229,500
You’ve made it to the top, and can now spend almost whatever you want on your dream daily driver. It would be hard to pass up a 621-horsepower twin-turbocharged V12, wouldn’t it? The AMG S65 sedan brings all the firepower you’ll ever need under the hood plus state-of-the-art interior comfort, safety and technological features. Sure, you have the “Executive rear seat” in the back, but why let a chauffeur have all the fun? You’ve earned it — enjoy it.
Urban Achiever: Chevrolet Bolt EV
Starting MSRP: $37,495
In the city, space is at a premium and traffic is stop-and-go. The Chevrolet Bolt EV’s small footprint makes it great for getting around the city and finding parking, with features such as “Low” mode that allows you to handle traffic jams with just the accelerator, keeping you from wasting energy through the brake pedal. With 238 miles of range, you can handle all your daily errands in the Bolt EV or make a getaway out of town with friends to go bowling.
Country Living: Toyota Tacoma
Starting MSRP: $25,200
The pickup truck is ubiquitous in America for a reason: Many people need a tough, reliable vehicle that can also haul or tow heavy loads. Toyota’s Tacoma offers a variety of trim levels and engines, including a 3.5-liter V6 Atkinson cycle unit that can tow up to 6,400 pounds and still return 22 mpg highway. If you have some dirt or mud to play around in, the Tacoma TRD Pro offers a tuned suspension with upgraded shocks. Add in Toyota’s reputation for quality and reliability, and the Tacoma becomes a great choice for life out in the sticks.
Musician: Ford Transit Connect
Starting MSRP: $23,215
The musician’s lot in life is tough enough without having to make a puzzle of getting equipment in and out of a car not fit for the job. The Ford Transit Connect solves most of these issues at a reasonable price. The Transit Connect makes for an outstanding bandwagon with room for up to seven, fold-flat seats to make the most of its cargo space, and a fully modern cockpit including a rearview camera that makes getting into occasionally odd/small spaces for loading and unloading stuff less fraught with issues. Rock on.