Nothing like a family car to get your blood pumping. Nothing like the thrill of five on board and a wagon area for storage and loads of cargo room to really get you excited.

A family car with personality?

That's like a pleasure trip to the dentist.

It's exactly like the Audi S4 Avant.

Seriously. You might not know what you are missing.

The S4 Avant is a new way to consider the typical family car.

Yes, it is expensive. Audi charges a premium for its S vehicles, and at $46,650, this S4 Avant is no different. We're in BMW territory here, beyond even the Hemi end of the Dodge Magnum.

But for the enthusiasts who happen to have a couple of kids, could you really go wrong?

Or consider this: The whole idea of having a family car that can really haul down the road - and haul things - is getting a new look from the industry. Family cars need to be safe. But the safest family cars are usually the ones agile enough to outmaneuver dangerous situations and ride low enough they won't tip in drastic turning situations.

After one week in our 2005 tester, the S4 Avant (you can also order a non-S model) is a driver's car with an excellent six-speed manual gearbox that will leave you a little breathless.

In a family car? Yup.

In many ways the Avant is a family ride that will accommodate a stroller, six bags of groceries, two buckled car seats and two parents.

It's more flashy than a minivan, as dynamic as a sports sedan and capable of tight turns in parking lots. And it does not require a ladder to get into.

It arrives with a softer ride than you might expect. There's no road harshness or too much bumping around. The interior is classy and attractive. Although the sporty, very clean suede seats in our tester probably wouldn't last too long with two kids and a slushy day.

There is metal and birchwood trim and the uplevel items such as 12-way electronic adjustability in the front seats and comfortable rear bench seats.

Audi even included a little ingenuity, such as a security cover that is attached to the second-row backrest that can be flipped forward to allow for more room.

There's one noticeable knock: Maximum room. The rear seat legroom is tight for adults and with an infant car seat behind the driver, the front got very cramped, forcing me to move the seat entirely forward.

But if you want to blaze a trail, if you want to be different and if you want to be a different kind of family-car owner, it might not get better.

You might not know what you are missing.

Audi S4 Avant

Vehicle type: All-wheel-drive, front-engine, four-door, five-passenger wagon

Key competition: Dodge Magnum, Subaru Outback, Volvo V70 R

Base engine: 4.2-liter, 340-horsepower V-8

Transmission: Six-speed manual or four-speed automatic

Standard safety equipment: Four-wheel ABS; electronic brakeforce distribution; brake assist; stability control; dual front air bags; dual side air bags; side curtain air bags

MPG rating: 18 city/24 highway

Manufactured: Germany

Warranty: Basic warranty is four years/50,000 miles

Base price: $46,650

Price as tested (including destination and delivery): $46,650