PARENTHOOD: NO more wild nights out – just nappies, buggies, bibs and the occasional lie-in. The family car is just as boring. Practical and versatile, its chief requirement is that it is good on the school run.
So that rules out a supercar then? In fact, many of the sportiest, least school-run-friendly cars now come ready for baby seats. Their makers say they are family friendly. Really? As a mother of three young boys, aged eight, five and 18 months, I’ll be the judge of that…
Monday morning: we’re running late but instead of getting into the Touran, we’re getting into a Porsche 911 Turbo S. This takes some planning because you only get three doors for your £142,000. The five-year old is self-loading and makes it into the back with little complaint. The 18-month old is very pleased with his Porsche baby seat, but is not self-loading. You must hold him at arms’ length, bend down, stretch round, twist him through 180 degrees, up, left, right and in. He must remain compliant at all stages, or you have to start again. Then the eight-year old gets in the front.
I timed it. We lost nine minutes. Nine whole, expletive-filled minutes (reduced to four on day three). But then, we’re in a 911. It does 0-60mph in 3.1 seconds so we saved three, expletive-filled minutes on the short trip to the school gate.
The shopping test went very well, mainly because was buying only bread, milk and a newspaper. If I’d been buying nappies as well, we’d have struggled. I can say, unequivocally, that the 911’s 115-litre luggage compartment is rubbish for a family shop, unless you use Ocado. You can’t fit a buggy in there, either, which means you must use a sling.
You could fit a roof rack, of course, or have a support vehicle, which is what we did when we went camping with it. I drove the kids. Hubby drove the tent, the luggage and the associated child paraphernalia. It was a very satisfactory arrangement.
So all in all, a Porsche 911 Turbo S is the perfect family car, provided you’re willing to make a few, small, concessions.
Is a Bentley Continental GT V8 S convertible as good? I drove to the school gates in one of those, too. There is a bit more space in the back, although this isn’t surprising because the Bentley is huge. At 4.81m long, it is 110mm longer and 120mm wider than a Volvo XC90. As a result, it’s a nightmare in a multi-storey, and not much fun to parallel park, either. Unlike the Porsche, however, it does have a buggy-size boot, and will take a week’s shopping.
There is nothing more joyful and therapeutic than driving a convertible on a sunny day. It’s enough to make you forget the unrelenting nature of parenting , until…“Mummy, I can’t see!”
In a convertible at more than 30mph with the roof down, it turns out toddlers start crying and five-year olds start complaining. So you have to turn up the stereo or drive around with the roof closed. Fortunately, the Bentley rides like it’s on a marshmallow cloud, but in a good way. This is an excellent car for bringing on naptime.
Overall, though, for a hard-pressed parent looking to regain your life, you’d be mad to go for the Continental. Compared with the Porsche, it’s boring. Compared to the next car, it’s just not cool, daddy.
The BMW i8 is a hybrid: a car powered by a petrol engine and an electric motor. BMW says it can do 100mpg, though I never got near that. You plug it in and, four hours later, you’ve got another 30 miles of electricity in the battery. Depending on where you live, you could do all your day-to-day parenting duties without burning a drop of fossil fuel. When you’re running late, you’ve got a 357bhp engine to get you from 0 to 60mph in 4.4 seconds.
The i8 is a complete joy to drive, partly because it feels like you’re saving the planet, but mainly because of the silence. You pull up at the lights: silence. You move gently away: silence. Silence is what all mums crave. I remember this silence from driving the Nissan Leaf, but that car’s not the same as the sportier i8, in which you’re almost lying down. The i8’s dashboard glows a calm blue (unless you stick the car in sports mode, when it changes to red). The children are silent with awe.
So far, so gushing but I have a very few, almost completely insignificant, quibbles. First, you can’t really fit children in the i8. The rear seats are awful; worse than those in the Porsche. The eight-year old was very unhappy with his lot on the way to swimming. Even the five-year old was squished. Most of the car appears to be a battery, so the boot is more of a glove box. On a summer’s day, it gets very, very hot. Don’t buy ice cream and drive home with it if you live more than 400m from the shop.
Then there are the vertically opening doors. They look cool but you can’t park in the supermarket car park unless you bribe one of those car-washer people to keep the adjacent space free. I didn’t bribe one of those car-washer people and even though I parked in a quiet corner 19 miles from the trolleys, I came back to find an Audi Q8 had, completely unreasonably, parked beside me. I had to crawl under the half open door to get in.
So, the kids don’t fit in the back and the doors are silly. Minor quibbles as I said. If you want to feel like you’re flying a spaceship in Tron, a Touran won’t cut it like the i8 does. Why can’t all cars have blue lighting, virtual dash displays and hybrid power?
The i8 wins the Best Family Supercar category, pipping the fiery Porsche into second, with the Bentley a distant, but serene, third. When the Ferrari California is ready to test, I’ll let you know.
How they compare
BMW i8, £99,845 –
Not much room for the kids but its silence is golden for mum
Porsche 911 Turbo S, £142,120
Very fast and possible to load three children in just four minutes
Bentley Continental GTC V8 S, £152,900
Great for the supermarket shop – if you can find a parking space big enough