As 2013 draws to a close and 2014 shines brightly before us, we pause to look at what vehicles we’re most excited about in the next 12 months. The market is flooded with new models, but only a select few have caught the world’s attention with their performance, luxury, and technological advancements.

Some models push the envelope in their own respective categories while other (like BMW’s i-lineup) give a larger push towards a future of automotive technology that reduces fuel consumption while maintaining, if not increasing, the current level of performance on the street and track. Alternative fuels and self-driving cars were once novel ideas that only graced the pages of science fiction books, but as 2014 seems to promise, those ideas may very well jump off the pages and into reality.

Click past the jump for our list of exciting vehicles of 2014

Camaro Z/28

2014 Camaro Z28 Nails 7:38 At Nurburgring In Misty Weather High Resolution Exterior
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On top of the new Corvette, CTS, SS, and Silverado, the Z/28 – the top-dog Chevy Camaro – will also be new for 2014. GM has been a busy company getting these and other vehicles ready for launch within a year’s span, but doesn’t appear to have neglected the Camaro in the slightest.

The Z/28 is set to be GM’s track-ready pony. Motivated by a massive, naturally-aspirated 7.0-liter V-8 producing 505 horsepower, the Z/28 has already name a name for itself (on top of the historied Z/28 nameplate) by lapping the famed Nürburgring in a scant 7 minutes, 37.47 seconds - in the rain (!) - GM hottest track star will out lap a Porsche 911, Audi R8, and Lamborghini Murcielago. Carbon brakes keep the power in check and the shaving of some 300 pounds allows the Magnetic Ride Control to work even more efficiently.

Of course, we look forward to the Corvette Z06 and hopeful ZR1, but currently, the Camaro Z/28 fills the top spot in the outer fringe of high performance echelon in the General’s stable.

Alfa Romeo 4C

2014 Alfa Romeo 4C High Resolution Exterior
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The new Alfa will perhaps be the purest sports car sold in America in 2014. Manual steering, manual seats, and straight exhaust pipes exude greatness from this mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive coupe. Think of it sitting between a Lotus Elise and a Porsche Cayman in terms of purity verses posh.

The 4C is powered by Fiat’s 1.7-liter four-cylinder but is tuned to produce 21.8 pounds of boost resulting in 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Not bad for a 2,600-pound carbon-fiber track toy. Zero to 60 is estimated at 4.5 seconds, top speed at 160, and the standing quarter mile in just 12.8 seconds.

The price is right, too. For only $55,000 the 4C is yours. Although the line will indubitably be long and only 1,200 will be imported annually. Regardless, the 4C is one to watch for 2014 and we’re excited to welcome it stateside.

Mercedes CLA

2014 Mercedes CLA 45 AMG High Resolution Exterior
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Mercedes is entering into a new realm with the introduction of the CLA and some fear it will degrade the brand’s status. The new CLA is marketed under the C-Class and pricing will begin at $30,000. Powered by a 2.0-liter turbo four, the CLA makes 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Zero to 60 mph come in 6.9 seconds.

The CLA does wear the three-pointed star, but it is smaller and less appointed than say a $30,000 Honda Accord with all its option boxes checked. CLA buyers are paying for the name and status that follows it, and for some, that’s all that matters. On the other hand, the CLA AMG version is a less-costly way to get into a fire-breathing German sports sedan. A different 2.0-liter four cylinder somehow kicks out 355 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque to propel the sedan to 60 mph in only 4.5 seconds. Pricing jumps to $45,000 plus for the AMG, however.

Mercedes S-Class

The S-Class has long been the standard in luxury sedans the world over, including the U.S. Mercedes’ new luxo land yacht is undoubtedly keep up that reputation with some of the most impressive technology and refinement seen in a production vehicle.

Although two wheelbases are offered, on the long wheelbase (124.6 inches) will be offered stateside. With the extra room, rear passengers will enjoy heated, cooled, and massaging seats that recline an impressive 43.5 degrees. Front seat passengers aren’t neglected though, and enjoy heated and cooled leather on just about ever surface. Two huge TFT displays dominate the instrument cluster providing driver information and entertainment options all part of Mercedes’ Gen III COMMAND telematics system.

Powered by a 4.7-liter, direct-injection, twin-turbo V-8 producing 455 horsepower ad 516 pound-feet of torque, the S-Class sprints to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds. We haven’t heard any news regarding an AMG version, but assuredly, it will come. The S-Class competes directly with the Audi A8, BMW 7-Series, and the Lexus LS. With the innovations M-B is bringing to the fight, the S-Class is not short on luxury ammunition.

Cadillac ELR

2014 Cadillac ELR High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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The ELR is an interesting vehicle, to say the least. Heavily based on the Chevrolet Volt, the ELR promises to be a pioneer in the luxury hybrid segment. The two-door coupe is configured in a 2+2 setup with folding rear seats that allow for generous storage. Premium accoutrements and accessories are par for the course; along with a plethora of interior cosmetic options giving buyers the ability to highly customize their ELR.

A similar powertrain resides under the ELR’s hood as in the Volt, but develops 207 horsepower – 58 horsepower more than the Volt. Torque is also increased by 22 pound-feet. The battery pack remains unchanged and provides roughly 35 miles of gas-free driving. It is chargeable via either 120V or 240V plug with charging taking 12 hours and 4.5 hours respectively. Electro-hydraulic regenerative braking also adds to the ELR’s range while on the road.

The ELR’s major drawback is its cost - $75,000 big ones. With the Volt, dealer incentives and government rebates start chipping away at the $34,000 asking price, getting it into a more obtainable and cost-effective category for the average buyer. Keep in mind, the Volt has four doors and room for five. The ELR, however, seems like a hard sale with its higher cost and lower usability. Secondly, are buyers of $75,000 luxury vehicles concerned over fuel mileage? Lastly, if not bought for the sake of being different, buyers’ bank accounts would be much happier with a loaded 2013 CTS Coupe costing under $50,000 and still getting 27 mpg highway.

The ELR certainly continues Cadillac’s Art and Science theme to the next level, but makes us wonder if General Motors is merely hoping to pay off the Volt’s cost of development with the low-volume, high-profit luxury ELR.

BMW i3

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The i3 is certainly the newest, most different BMW we’ve ever seen come from the Bavarian automaker in recent memory. It’s a large departure away from the luxury coupe, sedan, and SUV market BMW has securely competed in. The i3 is unconventional BMW through and through, but it hasn’t lost that BMW soul.

Riding on a so-called skateboard chassis, the i3 is a festival of lightweight materials and new designs. Aluminum, carbon fiber, and plant materials work together to keep weight to a low 2,900 pounds. An optional range-extending i3 adds a small 650 cc gasoline-powered two-cylinder engine borrowed from BMW’s scooter lineup that keeps a the batteries from being fully discharged. Its 34 horsepower seems wimpy, but is never responsible for moving the car, so performance should be unaffected by battery charge. Without the gas engine, the i3 has an estimated range of 80 to 100 miles.

The i3 is a departure from what the automotive world is used to seeing from BMW, but it certainly provides a solid stepping stone into the future with its new technologies and combination of materials in an efficient, cost-effective package that’s different enough to distinguish itself from the competition yet distinctly BMW enough to qualify it for wearing the famous kidney-bean grille.

Pricing for the i3 starts just north of $42,000 and rises above $46,000 for an up-optioned range-extending model. Assuredly, government rebates and inevitable dealer incentives will combine to bring the cost down. The price seems justifiable for the high levels of tech and vogue, fashionable styling the i3 is laced with.

BMW i8

Looking Ahead: What 2014 Will Bring High Resolution Exterior
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A step beyond its little brother the i3, the i8 uses much of the same technology and systems, but employed in a sportier, 2+2, coupe design. The main difference is the powertrain. A rear-mounted gasoline 1.5-liter 3-cylinder TwinPower turbo engine producing 228 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission actually moves the car. An electric motor/generator sends 129 horsepower to the front wheels.

This AWD setup provides a “best-of-both-worlds” scenario that gives drivers that BMW feel with more fuel-efficient mpg numbers. A liquid-cooled lithium-ion batter is the main source of power, and combined with the gasoline engine, give the i8 357 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. Zero to 60 is estimated at 4.5 seconds and top speed is limited to 155 mph. Pricing for the i8 starts at $136,625 and includes destination, with examples hitting dealer showrooms starting in the spring.

The i8 and i3 have put the automotive world on notice. BMW has done an excellent job of combining cutting-edge tech and sportiness with high efficiency. The pair provide a great glimpse into the future of automotive design and powertrains with their combinations of gasoline and electricity.

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