10
Cars to Watch in 2014

The 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C

(Courtesy of Fiat Group Automobiles/Alfa Romeo)

Alas and woe! The days of high horsepower are over! All of our cars will forevermore be gas-sipping or -- *shudder* -- electric-powered cars. We shall be doomed to slow driving and bland design and we'll never, ever have fun in a car again.

Or, you know, maybe things will be fine. They might even be kind of cool. Here are 10 cars that'll be available for actual purchase (no vaporware here) in 2014 that bring something new -- and possibly something awesome -- to the table. They're not million-dollar vehicular wonders, and they're not all powered by alternative fuels, either. As a matter of fact, a couple of them are even happy in the dirt. So fear not -- this year's list has something for everyone: true car lovers and those that just tolerate cars alike.

 

10: Maserati Ghibli

The 2014 Maserati Ghibli

(Courtesy of Kristen Hall-Geisler)

The news here, not that Maserati wants you to know it, is that the Ghibli is the company's most reasonably priced model -- it's well under the six figure amounts that the other Maserati models command. And, yes, Maserati will go on and on about the exclusivity of its brand (except the part about how more people will be able to afford the Ghibli) and it'll also tell you that it's superior to all other car manufacturers (the ones who Maserati are desperately trying to compete with in the luxury car market as opposed to the rarified air of the exotic car market). But for all the bluster, the Ghibli is a seriously sexy little four-door -- and one available at a bargain price.

 

    9: Cadillac ELR

    The 2014 Cadillac ELR

    (Courtesy of Kristen Hall-Geisler)

    Cadillac has been building some fast (and fast-looking) luxury sedans for the past few years, and now they're bringing that same feel to eco-cool cars. This is the gussied up Caddy version of the extended-range electric Chevy Volt that's been on the road for a few years now. That's right -- behind that aggressive front end is a bank of batteries and a silent electric motor, with a small gasoline-powered generator on board just in case your commute gets a little crazy and you end up in the next state on a whim. It's an electric car with fat 20-inch wheels, leather interior and a bangin' Bose stereo.

     

    8: Corvette Stingray

    The 2014 Corvette Stingray

    (Courtesy of Kristen Hall-Geisler)

    The Corvette hasn't ever gone out of production, so it can't be dredged up from the past, like some nostalgic muscle or sports cars we could easily name. The Corvette can only be reinvented, like Madonna or Lady Gaga. But like Gaga's sonic references to Madonna, the resurrected 2014 Corvette Stingray pays homage to its predecessor without being retro. The new Stingray is not only the most powerful Corvette -- with 455-horsepower in its V-8 engine -- but it's also got the best gas mileage of any sports car on the market, according to Chevrolet, reaching an EPA-estimated 29 miles per gallon (12.3 kilometers per liter) on the highway. And inside, it's loaded with the good stuff: carbon fiber, leather and even a pair of 8-inch display screens.

     

    7: Porsche 918 Spyder

    The 2014 (?) Porsche 918 Spyder

    (Courtesy of Kristen Hall-Geisler)

    Trainspotters. Bird watchers. Every hobby seems to have its weirdos who keep lists of rarities in their heads. Those aficionados who have seen almost everything already -- and would do anything to see what they haven't yet. For you, automotive friends and weirdos, there is the probably-going-to-be-produced-this-year-but-don't-hold-us-to-it Porsche 918 Spyder. This hybrid will blow the doors off every hybrid currently on the road. That's because its electric motor and internal combustion engine combine to create 885-horsepower. When it does become available, only a few will be built, and they'll cost a whopping $845,000 -- that's nearly a thousand bucks per horsepower. But what a beautiful rare bird.

     

      6: Mazda3

      The 2014 Mazda3

      (Courtesy of Kristen Hall-Geisler)

      Some people are awards show junkies -- Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, AMAs, CMAs, VMAs, ESPYs, and all the rest. For these folks, 2014 brings the totally redesigned Mazda3: voted the "Best Compact Car" (Yahoo! Autos), "10 Best Cars" (Car and Driver), "Innovation Vehicle of the Year" (Motor Press Guild) and several others. This year, the Mazda3 got all the Skyactiv technology the manufacturer has on hand, which means every inch of the car is devoted to delivery of better fuel economy and performance. Thanks to these engineering improvements, design enhancements, and a splash of zoom-zoom, Mazda has created a fun car that gets 41 miles per gallon (17.4 kilometers per liter) on the highway.

       

      5: Jeep Cherokee

      The 2014 Jeep Cherokee

      (Courtesy of Kristen Hall-Geisler)

      At first, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee looks like someone in the design studio was trying too hard to impress the higher-ups at its fashion-y Italian parent company, Fiat. Maybe at first you miss the round headlights and the upright grille of the old Jeeps. But you know, those new skinny LED headlights do look kind of cool. And the front end is a bit rakish, not just off-putting. And then you find out there's a cubby for your purse in the flip-up front passenger seat, and it's all over. The new Jeep Cherokee has rock-crawled its way into your hardened little heart like a robot puppy who obeys your every command.

       

      4: Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

      The 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

      (Courtesy of Kristen Hall-Geisler)

      Does it seem surprising that, even in 2014, there's a car company out there without an alternative fuel vehicle in its lineup? Subaru remedies its gas-only situation this year with the XV Crosstrek Hybrid. This little crossover was all-new for 2013, and now it's getting the new hybrid system, too. Maybe Subaru is dipping a toe into new waters in both cases rather than committing all the way with a hybrid in one of its iconic models, like the Forester or the Impreza? But the XV Crosstrek is also one of the only crossover vehicles to have a hybrid on board, so maybe they're marching boldly into new territory. We'll just have to wait and see which way the coin lands in 2015.

       

        3: Honda Accord Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid

        The 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid (and plug-in hybrid)

        (Courtesy of Kristen Hall-Geisler)

        Don't wait around for the Honda Accord to wow you or woo you in 2014. It probably won't. It's a Honda Accord. Whoop-de-doo. But it does make this list for being so gosh-darn-good at being a Honda Accord, and for being so goody-two-shoes green about it, too. The whole lineup of Accords was given the "Green Car of the Year" award by Green Car Journal for being, well ... so boringly, reliably efficient. For being a four-door sedan that, as a hybrid, gets 50 miles per gallon (21.3 kilometers per liter) in the city, and as a plug-in hybrid, it gets 115 MPGe (48.9 kilometers per liter equivalent). Even just a normal old 4-cylinder, gasoline-powered, Honda Accord gets 34 miles per gallon (14.5 kilometers per liter) on the highway. It's the car next door you never knew you loved.

         

        2: Jaguar F-Type Coupe

        The 2014 Jaguar F-Type Coupe

        (Courtesy of Kristen Hall-Geisler)

        Jaguar apparently lives in backward land, where convertibles are released before hardtops and rain falls upward and Palpatine runs a puppy rescue instead of ruling the Dark Side. But the Jaguar F-type coupe that hits dealerships in spring of 2014 is, if possible, even cooler than the convertible. For one thing, it's the direct descendant of the C-X16 concept vehicle designed by Ian McCallum that wowed gearheads and design aficionados alike in 2011. Plus, the coupe has a race-ready R version with 550-horsepower from a 5-liter, supercharged V-8 engine. Oh, and then there's also the sheer practicality of, you know, having a roof.

         

        1: BMW i3

        The 2014 BMW i3

        (Courtesy of Kristen Hall-Geisler)

        For many, electric cars are the automotive equivalent of vegan gluten-free cake. Sure, it's good for you, but it's not nearly as tasty as devil's food cake with eggs and butter cream frosting. But BMW says it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, it says you can have your emissions-free cake and drive it too. This little guy can reach 62 miles per hour (100 kilometers per hour) in 7.2 seconds and has a top-speed over 90 miles per hour (144.8 kilometers per hour). Of course, if you try to reach either of those two numbers regularly, you probably won't reach the maximum driving range of the car -- about 100 miles (160.9 kilometers). And if you've got a bad case of range anxiety, BMW offers a little two-cylinder gasoline engine to extend your range well past 150 miles (241.4 kilometers).

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