Five Macho Minivans For the Average Joe

"Macho" and "minivan" are words that historically have been at odds with one another.

However, there are several family-sized choices that offer some of the same attributes attracting the Y chromosome to vehicles like pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and sporty sedans.

When you require a well-rounded vehicle that can transport your family on vacation as well as make runs to the home improvement store for supplies, no one vehicle fills the bill like a minivan. They may not be glamorous or sexy, but today's family utility wagons are more versatile, energetic, stylish and fuel-efficient than their forebears.

In other words, they aren't your soccer moms' minivans.

Bankrate has assembled a list of five minivans offering a high level of utility, accommodations for up to six and plenty of get-up-and-go. You might argue that at least one of our choices isn't even a minivan, but we like to think outside of the box.

Except for the 2012 Mazda5 and Kia Sedona EX, car prices and specifications are based on 2011 models.

These are minivans even the most macho guy can find at least one reason to love. So man up and read on.

2011 Dodge Grand Caravan R/T

Price: $30,695 Gas mileage: 17 city and 25 highway mpg

Macho factor: Accommodates a 4-by-8 sheet of plywood with the rear hatch closed.

Chrysler created the minivan segment with the 1984 Dodge Caravan, and it still sells more minivans than any other carmaker.

Some mechanical, styling and interior upgrades for 2011 have elevated the Grand Caravan to a level truly competitive with the imports. Its new 3.6-liter V-6 generates 283 horsepower -- the most of any vehicle on our list. A six-speed, driver-shiftable, automatic transmission ushers power to the front wheels.

Three rows of seats can carry up to seven, yet when more cargo space is needed, the Stow 'n Go second- and third-row seats can be folded flat with the cargo floor for 143.8 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity.

In addition to standard amenities that include power accessories, power-adjustable pedals, tri-zone climate control and a trip computer, the R/T comes with a sport-tuned suspension, leather seating and an upgraded nine-speaker Infinity audio system with CD player and auxiliary input jack.

2012 Kia Sedona EX

Price: $29,190 Gas mileage: 18 city and 25 highway mpg

Macho factor: Second-best horsepower, best warranty and bargain-basement car price.

At a bargain car price, it isn't usually thought of as macho, but with the money saved over more expensive competitors, you can spring for a high-tech, man-toy option or two, such as the 10-speaker premium Infinity-infused audio system or GPS navigation unit.

U.S. News & World Report called the Kia Sedona the best minivan for the money for 2011.

Kia shoved a new 271-horsepower, 3.5-liter engine under the hood for 2012. That's enough ponies to put it right behind our list-leading Chrysler Grand Caravan. A driver-shiftable, six-speed, automatic transmission directs engine production to the front wheels.

What's more, as many as seven can ride comfortably in the Sedona. Second-row seats are easily removable and third-row seats can fold flat into the floor, creating up to 141.5 cubic feet of cargo space.

Among the standard features are full power accessories, dual power-sliding side doors, power rear tailgate, rearview camera, trip computer, cruise control, and a six-speaker audio system with CD player, USB port and auxiliary input jack.

2012 Mazda5 Grand Touring

Price: $23,875 Gas mileage: 21 city and 28 highway mpg

Macho factor: Sporty styling and athletic handling.

If your idea of macho transportation is a big honking pickup truck, you will probably be underwhelmed by the smallest entry on our list, the Mazda5 Grand Touring.

But you shouldn't be. Think of it as minivan lite. It's the most fuel-efficient among our choices.

At 180.5 inches, it's nearly 2 feet shorter than the Kia Sedona, yet it still seats up to six. With the second- and third-row seats folded down, it offers about 28 cubic feet of cargo room. Arguably this isn't a big space, but because of the way it is configured, it can hold a lot of stuff.

The optional driver-shiftable, five-speed, automatic transmission delivers the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine's 157 horsepower to the front wheels. It doesn't sound like much giddy-up, but the Mazda5 is surprisingly quick.

Because it isn't as tall as other minivans, has a lower ride and its suspension is tuned for sporty, car-like handling, the Mazda5 is a blast to drive.

Its standard features list includes full power accessories, remote keyless entry, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather seating, automatic climate control with pollen filter and a six-speaker audio system with six-disc CD changer and auxiliary input jack.

2011 Mercedes-Benz R350 BlueTEC

Price: $51,740 Gas mileage: 18 city and 24 highway mpg

Macho factor: Arguably not a minivan, all-wheel-drive and 400 foot-pounds of torque.

Sporting the highest car price on this list, Mercedes-Benz might take issue with calling it a minivan. But that provides good cover to a guy who wants to claim it's a sport wagon or whatever other label is handy.

We chose the turbodiesel BlueTEC because its EPA-estimated 18 city and 24 highway mpg make it a more fuel-efficient car than the gasoline-fueled R350 and on par with the rest of the minivans on this list.

Torque is what gets a vehicle rolling. Although the R350 BlueTEC's 3-liter turbodiesel makes just 210 horsepower, it generates a whopping 400 foot-pounds of torque, which gets this wagon moving in a big hurry. A seven-speed, driver-shiftable, automatic transmission hustles power to all four wheels.

Capable of seating seven, folding the second- and third-row seats creates 85 cubic-feet of maximum cargo space.

Listed as standard are full power accessories, automatic wipers, power sunroof, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio controls, dual-zone automatic climate control, trip computer, and an eight-speaker Alpine audio system with six-disc CD-DVD changer and auxiliary input jack.

2011 Nissan Quest LE

Price: $41,350 Gas mileage: 19 city and 24 highway mpg

Macho factor: All the high-tech bells and whistles.

When it comes to a mine-has-it-and-yours-doesn't argument, the owner of the Nissan Quest LE is going to come out on top nearly every time. Its standard features are staggering.

Brimming with all the must-have features, such as hard-drive-based navigation system, rear-seat DVD entertainment system and second-row, 11-inch DVD monitor, blind-spot warning system, power-folding/return third-row seat, power liftgate, rearview camera and iPod integration, Quest LE is the whole package.

The 260 horsepower developed by the 3.5-liter V-6 engine are delivered to the front wheels via a continuously variable automatic transmission.

Nissan has a reputation for sporty handling and this includes Quest.

Seating for up to seven is comfortable. The second- and third-row seats don't fold flat with the cargo floor, but when folded down, make 108.4 cubic feet of maximum cargo room.

In addition to the standard equipment already listed, the Quest LE provides full power accessories, leather seating, tri-zone automatic climate control, trip computer, heated front seats, leather-wrapped, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio controls, and a 13-speaker, Bose-infused audio system with 8-inch color display, CD player and USB port.