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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
General Motors has developed a self-driving car called the Cruise AV that has no steering wheel or pedals. Learn more at HowStuffWorks.
Author's Note: 10 Cars to Watch in 2014
Being a freelance writer isn't all hooded sweatshirts in the home office I share with the dog and too many cups of coffee -- as fantastic as that sounds. It's also jetting off to the Los Angeles International Auto Show just as the wintry weather settles over that home office. I get a jolt of sunshine and two days of new car smell. I walk the floor of the convention center with a camera in my hand and my laptop in my backpack, taking pictures of all the concept cars while climbing into every production car that isn't locked. If I'm lucky, manufacturers will reward my patience for listening to their presentations (which happen every half hour all day long) with yummy snacks. If I'm very lucky, and the manufacturer had a good year, they send around trays of champagne-filled flutes. And if I'm very, very lucky, there are some gorgeous cars to photograph, some innovative technologies to report on and at least one presenter who can tell a joke without a teleprompter. Actually, I'm not sure that last one has ever happened. Fingers crossed for 2014!
- BMW. "Press Kit: The BMW i3." BMW Group Press Club Global. Oct. 10, 2013. (Nov. 27, 2013) http://newsroom.jaguarlandrover.com/en-us/jaguar/news/2013/11/jaguar_f-type_coupe_us/
- GM. "2014 Cadillac ELR Electrifies the Luxury Market." GM News United States. (Nov. 26, 2013) http://media.gm.com/content/media/us/en/cadillac/vehicles/elr/2014.html
- GM. "Return of the Stingray: The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette." GM News United States. (Nov. 26, 2013) http://media.gm.com/content/media/us/en/chevrolet/vehicles/corvette/2014.html
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- Huffman, John Pearley. "Coolest New Cars for 2014." Edmunds.com. July 24, 2013. (Nov. 13, 2013) http://www.edmunds.com/car-reviews/features/coolest-new-cars-for-2014.html
- Jaguar. "Jaguar F-Type Coupe Joins Jaguar Lineup." Jaguar. Nov. 19, 2013. (Nov. 26, 2013) http://www.newspressusa.com/public/ViewPressRelease.aspx?pr=38111
- Marchetti, Nino. "Porsche 918 Spyder Super Plug-In Hybrid Ready to Race." EarthTechling.com. Sept. 6, 2013. (Nov. 26, 2013) http://www.earthtechling.com/2013/09/porsche-918-spyder-super-plug-in-hybrid-ready-to-race/
- Maserati. "Maserati Ghibli on Stage in Los Angeles at the Start of the 'Opposite of Ordinary' Era." Maserati North America. Nov. 13, 2013. (Nov. 26, 2013) http://www.newspressusa.com/public/ViewPressRelease.aspx?pr=38174
- Mazda. "All-new 2014 Mazda3 Named 'Car of the Year' by Autoguide.com." Mazda USA Media. Oct. 3, 2013. (Nov. 26, 2013) http://www.mazdausamedia.com/2013-12-09-ALL-NEW-2014-MAZDA3-NAMED-CAR-OF-THE-YEAR-BY-AUTOGUIDE-COM
- Porsche. "Press Information: Porsche 918 Spyder." Porsche. (Nov. 26, 2013) http://press.porsche.com/vehicles/2015/2015_918_Spyder_Press_Information_and_Tech_Specs_Final.pdf
- Subaru. "Subaru Announces Pricing on 2014 XV Crosstrek Hybrid." Subaru US Media Center. Oct. 1, 2013. (Nov. 26, 2013) http://media.subaru.com/newsrelease.do;jsessionid=FC5E60BDF225EBEDBD61408E950EA7FD?&id=491