Saloons, hatchbacks, roadsters, convertibles, coupes, minivans and estates. Each of these vehicle types generally tend to do one task really well at the expense of a more multi-faceted driving experience.
Sure, there are fast variants of just about every body shape and size around, but what about interior space and off-road ability? Is there really one car type that offers a driving experience that covers just about every base without being significantly compromised in any one area? Well, if you are looking for absolute dominance in just one category then no, but if you want an all-rounder that can tackle a twisty mountain pass as well as being practical enough for the school run, then there are a number of options out there that will surprise you with their abilities.
The ubiquitous crossover/SUV is a good example of a jack of all trades approach to motoring, but not all are multi-talented machines. We look at some that are as well as a few unlikely options that tick more boxes than you might think.
Straight out of the blocks we have a potential winner. The Audi A4 Allroad is capable enough off-road, practical enough with its estate (Avant) body style and either the 252-bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol motor or frugal but even more powerful 272-bhp 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine will keep you entertained on a weekend drive.
The higher ride-height does not unduly disturb the handling ability and the all-wheel-drive system provides an added layer of surefootedness in slippery conditions. The larger A6 Allroad offers even more interior space if you need it.
Audi RS6 Avant
If you like the concept of a fast estate but are not planning to venture off-road then the lower-slung RS6 Avant is a pricey but very capable alternative to the Allroad.
It will embarrass some very fast sports cars away from the lights thanks to its 460bhp- twin-turbo V8 engine, while still being practical enough for holidays and family outings.
BMW 3-Series Touring
BMW also offer a range of capable estate cars (they call their ones Tourings) and the 313-bhp 335d xDrive is a sensational all-rounder that offers sub-5-second 0-60mph sprint times while still averaging almost 50mpg.
If diesel puts you off then the rear-wheel-drive 340i M Sport Touring offers 326-bhp from its 3.0-liter straight six turbocharged petrol engine and is still impressively frugal for such a powerful car. RWD also provides more entertainment around the corners but you need to know what you are doing when the roads get slippery.
You can however have a larger AWD 540i xDrive Touring and that model comes packed with even more features.
Jaguar XF Sportbrake
Clearly this estate thing has its benefits, before it started building SUVs, Jaguar offered a range of characterful estate cars too.
The current XF Sportbrake may be getting on a bit but it still looks great, drives superbly and will take all the luggage a family of four can cram into it. The 247-bhp 2.0-litre petrol model offers a good mix of power and efficiency and you can have it in AWD if you live somewhere horrible.
Crossovers and SUVs
The crossover has grown in popularity hugely over the years, its combination of elevated ride-height, hatchback rear opening and stylish design has made the estate look decidedly old-fashioned.
Not all crossovers are created equally though and many entry-level offerings are nothing more than raised hatchbacks with not much in the way of equipment or handling ability.
The term SUV is generally ascribed to larger vehicles and ones whose underpinnings may even be truck based, although this is more likely to be the case in the US. An SUV though will most likely be AWD and be larger than a crossover.
The X2 is BMW’s latest attempt at filing any niche, real or imagined, in the motoring world. This one offers a dash more dynamism than the slightly more practical X1 and if you are not too fussed about the smaller boot then this stylish newcomer offers strong performance both on and off-road.
The only drawback is that the most powerful models are either the 192-bhp sDrive20i(the first FWD BMW ever) or 190-bhp xDrive20d. For speed freaks we need to look elsewhere.
The X3 is also a fresh model, and this one is in the more traditional SUV body style (the X4 is its coupe-like alternative).
Aside from the gains in interior space and features, you can also have it in M40i trim, this means you get a 360-bhp turbocharged 3.0-litre engine, sporty suspension and much more reason to get up early in the morning for that quick drive before breakfast.
The GLC is similar in size to the X3 and you can have it with a powerful 367-bhp V6 engine too in the AMG GLC 43 4MATIC. If you prefer its understated style to the more overtly sporty X3 then it will fit the bill nicely. Of course, you can also pick the 510-bhp AMG GLC 63S if you absolutely must get to the school play before everyone else.
Whereas the XF Estate may be in need of an update, the F-Pace is thoroughly modern and combines the best attributes of the sporty saloons with a modicum of the all-terrain capabilities of more dedicated off-roaders.
The supercharged V6 offers 380-bhp and enough performance to keep the Germans worried.
As impressive as the F-Pace is, the real challenger for the crown from Jaguar has to be the all-electric I-Pace, it is an intriguing alternative to both traditional SUVs as well as cars like the Tesla Model X.
It offers 400-bhp and a massive 513 lb-ft of instant electric torque while the 240 to 298-mile range (depending on the standards used) should be enough for most.
Land Rover Discovery Sport
Traditional sorts will gravitate towards cars like the Land Rover range, there are a number of overlaps in the range at the moment and while all are great off-road, the Discovery Sport is perhaps the best at offering a bit of everything.
You can have seating for up to seven and if your weekend activities take you well off the beaten path then this is the car for you. If only it was available with one of Land Rover’s big supercharged engines…
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio is one of the new wave of sporty SUVs that may not be as capable off-road as a Land Rover but make up for it with on-road abilities rivalling proper sports cars.
Courtesy of a 500-bhp 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6, the Quadrifoglio variant is one of the fastest mid-sized SUVs around. It also offers serious handling capabilities while being practical and spacious to boot.
The acknowledged sporty SUV benchmark has always been the Cayenne, its smaller brother, the Macan may not match the Stelvio Quadrifoglio in terms of pure power but the Cayenne sure can and it is even more adept in the corners.
The new Cayenne Turbo offers up 550-bhp and the ability to leave sports cars in its dust while still being capable off-road, an off-road package is available too It will fit five adults in comfort and the options list includes carbon ceramic brakes and rear-axle steering. There may be more expensive SUVs but few will eclipse the Cayenne’s all-round capabilities.
What if I hate SUVs?
All this talk about SUVs may have certain car enthusiasts frustrated at the needless complexity of their AWD systems, extra weight and cost.
It is true that their particular range of attributes may not appeal to all and while an SUV or Estate car is most likely where the majority of families will find the best all round offering, if you don’t need the space or off-road ability then the world’s favourite sports car makes quite a convincing case for itself as a motoring solution for just about every occasion.
That car is the Porsche 911, it can be had in convertible, coupe, targa, RWD, AWD, track-focused and road-focused variants. You can have it with a manual or dual-clutch transmission and most have seating for four.
Sure, they won’t get very far down a rutted track and you will have to pack very light for your holidays but in virtually every other instance a 911 will be the perfect car for the job.
Sporty saloons and estates may offer more luggage space but they would be way less accomplished everywhere else, in essence then, whichever car you pick, a compromise is inevitable. So, in that case if we really had to pick one model, the 450-bhp 911 GTS coupe would be it. In manual please.