A BMW X5 is shown in this handout photo. Forbes.com ranks the souped up X5 4.8is, costing $30,000 more than its entry-level counterpart, as one of the hottest family cars available.
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updated 7/11/2005 5:24:55 PM ET 2005-07-11T21:24:55

This piece is for the lunatic fringe. Or for the family that is really, really into fast cars.

So while most parents don't feel a need to haul their tribe around in a vehicle with over 300 horsepower, some do. Or at least know that if they were ever chased by aliens or kidnappers, they could generate some serious speed. We, however, are interested in the fastest, most expensive, most luxurious cars on the market, so when it comes to doing a piece on family cars we do it a bit differently: We focus on the most out-there vehicles we can think of.

Take DaimlerChrysler's new, supercharged Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG wagon, which has an equally supercharged base price of $83,320. This vehicle looks like a typical wagon but has a racecar-like, 469-hp, supercharged V-8 engine.

Vehicles such as this are not exactly high-volume. Mercedes only expects to sell around 200 E55 wagons in the U.S. this year.

What follows is a list of ten similar vehicles — ten of the hottest, most high-performance wagons and SUVs on the market. These are niche vehicles — you can buy them if you have both a family and a lead foot — and they come at a price premium. The average base price of a vehicle on our list is $70,232.

The reason the cars are so expensive is that we're talking about hot rods here--in fact, not just hot rods, but the hottest of the hot. That's why you won't see vehicles such as Subaru's Impreza WRX wagon and Nissan Motor's Infiniti FX SUV on the list. These are great cars, but they are not in the first tier of SUV and wagon performance. That first tier is occupied by vehicles such as Porsche's 450-hp Cayenne Turbo SUV.

We did include one vehicle that has fewer hp than the others on the list — Ford Motor's Volvo V70 R wagon (300 hp) — because Volvo's "R cars" are a hot-rod brand. Thus, it seemed appropriate. Also, the V70 R is on the list not because it can keep up with a Cayenne Turbo, but because it's a fun example of taking a family car and running it through a skunk works. Infiniti's 315-hp FX45 does not count as such a vehicle. It's pretty sporty, but it's not a souped-up version of another model, and it's second-tier compared with the Cayenne Turbo, as are other crossover utility vehicles such as General Motors' Cadillac SRX. We did not consider including any vehicle with less than 300 hp on our list.

We should also point out that horsepower was not the only standard we measured, because some high-hp family cars — such as the Chevrolet Suburban SUV — are more like work vehicles than sports cars. The Volvo XC90 SUV has a new, optional, 311-hp V-8 — but that doesn't make the vehicle approximate a sports car, the way that Mercedes' 469-hp engine does to the E55 wagon.

One differentiating factor between family cars whose high horsepower makes them useful versus those whose high hp makes them hot rods is, in many cases, the power-to-weight ratio. Take an all-wheel-drive, 1,500-pound Chevy Suburban SUV with its standard 6.0-liter V-8. That vehicle has 325 hp and a base weight of 5,796 pounds. The Volvo V70 R has fewer hp — 300 — but weighs approximately 3,646 pounds in its 2006-model specification. That Suburban has .056 hp per pound, while the V70 R has .082 — 46 percent more.

We recognize that other types of family vehicles exist besides SUVs and wagons. We didn't include minivans on our list because no minivan on the market could hold a candle, performance-wise, to the cars in the slide show. We didn't include sedans because SUVs and wagons — due to their superior cargo utility — often make better family vehicles, especially if you have infants or toddlers and need room to haul the gear that travels with them. And no, we don't expect you to be smoking the tires in an E55 AMG with infants in the car — but who's to stop you from doing so when you're alone?

There is one exception to the hot-rod theme of our list, and that is the inclusion of Cadillac's Escalade ESV Platinum Edition SUV. We wanted to include one large SUV on our list because the piece is about family cars, after all, and if you have more than two kids you won't have much use for a comparatively small SUV, such as BMW's X5.

But crazy levels of performance otherwise distinguish the models in the slide show.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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