10 Best Cars of 2014
With 2014 coming to an end in just a couple of weeks, we figure now is as good a time as any to reflect on the outgoing year and check out the best new cars of the past 12 months. Times of reflection on the past — or in this case, the very near past — are always food for thought, as they provide a more objective angle of approach toward a certain subject.
As the automotive industry is obviously a global entity, we decided to pick 10 of the best new cars that were launched in 2014 all over the globe, based on the impact that each has had in its segment, respectively.
Considering the name and overall editorial direction of TopSped.com, one may expect the following list to be filled to the brim with supercars, sports cars and hypercars, but that would not be very constructive, would it now?
Click past the jump to the 10 most important new vehicles of 2014 from our perspective, and in no specific order.
While the first BMW i3 models started reaching European dealerships during November 2013, it was this year that the smallest BMW in the started to really make a name for itself, with the U.S. launch of the vehicle having taken place in May 2014.
Part of BMW’s all-new "i" sub-brand, the i3 is not only the smallest model in the Bavarian lineup, but it is also the greenest, thanks to its electric powertrain and the materials used for its build. It is the first ever mass-produced vehicle that is mostly made from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics (CFRP) and BMW’s first electric vehicle that is volume produced and not sold to a distinct pool of testing customers like its predecessors.
Predicting that probably not all customers will be swayed by the 124 MPGe combined EPA range, BMW also offers a Rex variant of the i3, which uses a gasoline range extender engine that is borrowed from the BMW C650 GT motorcycle. With the range extender fitted, the BMW i3 achieves an EPA-rated 117 MPGe combined range or 39 mpg while the internal-combustion engine is working to maintain the Li-Ion battery’s charge.
Not necessarily coincidental, the i8 is both the second BMW on our list and the second model in BMW’s soon-to-be-increased "i" sub-brand, albeit an entirely different type of car compared to its little brother. In fact, the somewhat-green aspect of the BMW i8 is the only thing it has in common with the i3; that and the fact that it follows a somewhat similar design language.
Unlike the BMW i3, the i8’s main focus is more "green performance," as the model’s numbers easily give it the title of the world’s fastest plug-in hybrid.
In fact, the car’s emphasis on killing two birds with one stone is probably why it shouldn’t be seen as a direct nephew of the iconic BMW M1, but the forerunner of an entirely new segment of cars, which can offer near-supercar performance without the added cost of murdering penguins and polar bears because of its emissions.
The performance bit comes from the i8’s lightweight CFRP construction and central positioning of its three-cylinder, internal-combustion engine, whose specific power output of 152 horsepower per liter of displacement is the highest in the entire BMW lineup.
As far as the green aspect goes, the addition of a 129-horsepower electric motor that can also power the car by itself makes the i8 achieve either 76 MPGe combined fuel economy when running in EV mode or 28 mpg combined when only gasoline is used.
The third (and final, don’t worry) BMW on our list is inevitably the M4, a model which also brings a number of firsts for the Bavarian automaker.
Its most blatant novelty probably lies in its name, as this is the first time in BMW’s history that the M3 Coupe follows a different nomenclature, making the new M4 be the first of its kind from this point of view.
As most of you know, all coupe — or coupe-like — BMWs will be named with an even number from now on, but that is not the most important aspect of the new M-built 4-Series. Unlike its predecessors, the BMW M4 gets its added performance from two fewer cylinders fed by a pair of low-inertia turbochargers. This addition of forced induction brings a lot of extra torque and a much better fuel economy to the table.
While its twin-turbocharged straight-six is no match in terms of auditory delight to the naturally-aspirated S65 V-8 of its predecessor — BMW relies on digital engine sounds to impress the passengers now — the new BMW M4 offers quite a lot more performance both on and off the track.
Almost 32 years since the over-engineered 190 E (W201) was carving a road never before taken by the three-pointed star, the all-new C-Class (W205) was launched into a much more crowded segment.
Almost always behind the usual suspect in this segment (read: BMW 3-Series) in terms of sales, the C-Class has apparently gotten tired of playing second fiddle, with the W205 generation coming to wash a lot of its predecessors’ sins. Re-establishing the "smaller S-Class" look of the first generation, the newest C-Class comes with a host of novelties that not many were expecting in this segment, with the most important one probably being its interior, which almost puts it on par with sedans that cost twice as much.
Another C-Class W205 innovation is the optional air suspension, making it the only vehicle in its segment to offer such a technology and limousine-like levels of comfort.
With the AMG variant having been unveiled with two levels of power, which are also segment-leading, right from the start, it seems that the smallest rear-wheel drive (or AWD) sedan in the Mercedes-Benz’ range is off to a pretty good start.
The only other time period when the two-door version of the mighty Sonder Klasse sported the "S-Class Coupe" moniker happened between 1994 and 1996. Fast forward to 2014 and the all-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe (C217) is actually the first of more upcoming versions of the S-Class family, with an open-top variant to also arrive in 2015.
With three engines available, of which two being shoved in by Mercedes-AMG, the new S-Class Coupe is more ready than ever to steal a slice of Bentley Continental Coupe sales.
While its exterior and interior design is a question of individual taste, its performance and comfort is actually measurable, and the numbers give it quite a good array of qualities. Thanks to the small greenhouse, good aerodynamics and other parameters, the S-Class Coupe is apparently the car with the quietest interior in the world, surpassing even models like the Rolls-Royce Phantom and even the S-Class W222 sedan. In terms of performance, the 3.9 seconds required by the S 63 AMG Coupe 4MATIC to reach 62 mph from a standing start probably speak for themselves, while those searching for supreme torque numbers combined with a wafting driving experience can always go for the S 65 AMG Coupe.
The talk of the town when it comes to the sixth generation of the iconic Ford Mustang was most definitely its choice for a rear suspension, with the drag-friendly but archaic live axle being finally replaced by a modern independent one that should make it corner like never before. The independent rear suspension (IRS) isn’t the only novelty that the newest Mustang has though, and in terms of sales it’s probably not the most important one either.
We say this because the inventor of the pony car is finally going global, with Ford investing in a model that will be sold all over the world, also becoming the first-ever Mustang to be manufactured in right-hand-drive guise.
Thanks to the model’s allegiance to the "One Ford" global campaign, the new Mustang also received a couple of design motifs from the rest of the current Ford lineup, but its overall look is still faithful to the retro-futurism idiom introduced by J Mays on the fifth Mustang generation.
Now also available with a 2.3-liter turbocharged four cylinder, situated between a 3.7-liter V-6 and the 5-liter Coyote V-8, the newest Mustang comes with both pedigree and modern technology, making it more fit than ever to take on the global market.
Few people know this, but the original Cayenne was actually supposed to be built in cooperation with Porsche’s neighbor in Stuttgart, Mercedes-Benz, but since the three-pointed star bosses had plans of their own with the M-Class, Porsche turned to Volkswagen to share the costs for its first SUV’s platform.
While most purists saw a Porsche SUV as a blasphemy in the beginning, it soon turned out that the Cayenne became largely responsible for the success of the brand in the next decade. Surfing on its big brother’s success and trying to enter in a more affordable segment, the all-new Porsche Macan is not exactly seen as an atrocity in the current lineup, especially since it pretty much is a better Audi Q5, a compact crossover/SUV with tons of fans.
With current predictions forecasting an increase of buyer appetite for premium crossover/SUVs in the upcoming years, the Macan arrives at the right time and with the right package, its sales success being only a question of time.
Powered exclusively by V-6 engines with or without turbochargers, the Macan’s performance compared to its competitors has been praised by pretty much every car reviewer on the planet, owing to the talent of Stuttgart’s engineers.
If SUVs are good or not for the Porsche brand in the long term is a different story, but keep in mind that thanks to models like these will Porsche still be able to give us cars like the 911, Cayman/Boxster or jewels like the 918 Spyder in the future.
Representing a history in the making since 1963, the 911 has become synonymous with Porsche, and among the motley array of its versions it is the Targa variant that usually steals the most looks of envy. Sporting a novel and highly complicated roof-opening mechanism and a design motif that harks back to the original 911 Targa, the 991 generation of the 911 Targa stole its fair share of hearts when it was unveiled in the beginning of 2014.
Despite the fact that the complexity of its roof mechanism makes it by far the heaviest and the least sporty 911 in the current lineup, the newest Targa model sports a certain character that can’t be even be topped by the 911 Turbo S or the GT3 in the minds of many.
Its je ne sais quois also comes from the overall neo-retro look, yet another good reason to put it on our 10 best cars of 2014 list.
Twelve long years after the first generation of the XC90 brought Volvo into the seven-seat SUV battle, the Swedes finally got their act together and released its replacement, and by the looks of it all that waiting was worth it.
Featuring an all-new design language for Volvo, the new XC90 is built on a modular platform that will be used on a number of other Volvos in the future, also bringing a number of new safety and green technologies.
Quite a bit larger in just about every direction compared to its predecessor, the new model couldn’t come at a better time for Volvo, as the old XC90 was the oldest SUV in its segment.
Since the top of the range T8 variant is actually a plug-in hybrid, the new XC90 is touted by Volvo as being the world’s cleanest SUV, with the said model achieving a US driving cycle economy figure of 59 MPGe.
Technically, the car is a messenger of things to come at Volvo, especially since it introduces a new design language, a new platform and new engines. You can call it a taste of the future.
What "Top 10 Cars of 2014" list would be complete without the addition of the Dodge Challenger Hellcat? Precisely zero...
Commended by Chrysler as being the most powerful muscle car ever — which is in no way an exaggeration — the Hellcat’s supercharged, 6.2-liter V-8 comes rated at no less than 707 horsepower and a tire-torturing 650 pound-feet of torque.
Those numbers alone should be enough to scare every owner when giving the keys to a valet, which is why the Challenger Hellcat comes with two separate ones (keys, that is).
The "regular" key with a black fob limits the model’s power output to "only" 500 horsepower, while a different key with a red fob unleashes all 707 of them, also making the car achieve quarter-mile and 0-to-60 times on par with supercars.
Is it the most important car launch in 2014? That is very tough to say, as it very much depends of the context, but when it comes to American muscle, it certainly wins that trophy.