When you think of the best family cars, I’m sure Accord, Camry or Sonata comes to mind. What about Leaf, Levante or even Ram? Nowadays, a family car is whatever you drive your family to school, weekend activities and summer vacation in. While the first three have been the traditional go-to’s, the latter examples have become similarly popular choices for many families.
Each year, the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association (GAAMA) hosts its annual Family Car Challenge, where automotive media across the Atlanta region, including journalists from Alabama and Tennessee, gather to drive, compare and vote on the vehicles they feel best represent each category in the event.
Automakers are invited to enter everything from sedans and wagons to crossovers, minivans and pickup trucks. And each year, not only do the entries open the judges’ eyes a little wider, but so do the vehicles that rise to the top, because the typical blueprint for family cars has changed. One such entry was Maserati’s Levante, a seductive Italian crossover that blends luxury and performance with an exhilarating exhaust note. Perhaps something less expensive is more to your liking, such as the new Passat GT? It’s a fun-to-drive midsize sedan with plenty of room for longer legs or car seats in back. Neither of these two vehicles won a coveted trophy, though, proving that the competition was fierce and the judges were discerning.
"What I found most surprising was how utility and comfort won out over performance," stated one of the judges, Bob Jackson, who is an automotive specialist at Entercom Communications. "Many of the journalists are real automotive aficionados — people who admire and appreciate a high level of performance — yet, our overall winner wasn’t a car!"
The Best Family Pickup Truck category made its debut a couple of years ago and proved to be a crowd-pleaser this year, with Ram’s all-new 2019 1500 garnering not only top accolades for that category, but the Best Overall winner, as well. For those of you who may disagree, one drive around the suburbs of Atlanta, a land where acreage abounds and parking spaces are broad, and you just might become a believer, as well. Ram’s all-new pickup truck is big and tough enough to use for work, yet refined and quiet enough to pick up the sleeping baby from daycare with no fear of waking her on the drive home. Plus, with just a quick hose down at the end of the week, its chrome trim and leather interior will be ready for date night, too.
"It’s only fitting that the all-new 2019 Ram 1500 won our top overall award given how the 2019 Ram 1500 is loaded with well-thought-out features that are important to families: segment-leading fuel efficiency, impressive ride quality, clever storage solutions and a comprehensive infotainment system," said Daryl Killian, GAAMA president. "Our winners this year provide an example of how consumers are moving from sedans to crossovers, minivans, wagons and even into full-size trucks — all viable choices considering how well vehicles are equipped these days for families."
This year, the categories and respective winners were:
Overall Winner, Best Family Car: 2019 Ram 1500
Best Value Family Car: 2018 Mazda CX-5
Best Green Family Car: 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
Best Technology Family Car: 2018 Honda Odyssey
Best Three-Row Family Car: 2018 Chrysler Pacifica
Best Luxury Family Car: 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Wagon
Best Family Pickup Truck: 2019 Ram 1500
"It is really difficult in this day and age with so many manufacturers making so many quality products to select a clear and concise winner in the GAAMA Family Car Challenge," said Killian. "I think all of our competitors were in great company, and our winners should be proud of their victories."