It’s that time of year again, when the authorities in charge decide which vehicle will be ruled as the North American Car of the Year. Numerous automotive journalists get together, sort through the vast array of eligible vehicles, and ultimately crown one to be the Car of the Year for 2014.
General Motors and its arsenal of redesigned and refreshed products has dominated the competition this year, according to Mark Phelan of the Detroit Free Press. Phelan is one of the panelists charged with rating the vehicles; the winner will be announced at the Detroit Auto Show in January.
Phelan discussed the short list of vehicles in the running for the title, which is “among the auto industry’s highest profile, most prestigious awards,” he wrote. Here is the list of cars in contention, arranged alphabetically:
BMW 4 Series
New for 2014, BMW has spun off the 3 Series coupes as a separate numeric, the 4 Series. Like the 3 Series, the 4 Series will offer a variety of powertrains, including the range-topping M4.
Entirely redesigned, Cadillac’s new CTS brings a spark of life to an otherwise dull lineup, and it is a key model in Cadillac’s vehicular renaissance. The interior has received the same treatment as the outside, and buyers will soon have the choice of a 420-horsepower, twin-turbo V6, hopefully putting Cadillac’s reputation as a lumbering, geriatric brand behind it.
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
While Cadillac has been busy, General Motors’s Chevy division has been, too, working on the recently released C7 Corvette Stingray. If 460 horsepower and equally impressive torque specs don’t sell the car as it is, the ‘vette also boasts a class-leading 30 miles per gallon on the highway thanks to some clever use of cylinder deactivation.
Like the CTS is to Cadillac, the Impala is a key vehicle for General Motors’s multi-pronged industry storm. While older generations of the Impala found themselves filling fleet lots, the new car aims to make the sedan an enjoyable driver’s car.
Replacing the now-deceased G line in Infiniti’s lineup, Nissan’s (NSANY.PK) luxury offspring has made the Q50 into a sleek and sporty sedan that puts Infiniti back on the map as more than a Lexus alternative, and it adds a good dose of reinvigoration into the luxury midsize scene.
While Jaguar made a strong resurgence with its large sedans and the XK roadster, the company has followed up with the F-Type, a powerful little two-seater that, in its top spec, will put out a ferocious 495 horsepower with a 186 mile per hour top speed.
Hyundai took a big leap with its Equus luxury sedan, and it’s making a similar jump with its sister brand, Kia, and the Cadenza. The Cadenza is more on par with the Hyundai Genesis and Azera, and, similarly, “will serve as a test of sorts to see how much customers are willing to pay for a Kia.” However, the car yields 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque, enough to make the Cadenza Kia’s most powerful model ever.
Swooping lines combined with sharp and angular styling help define the Lexus (NYSE:TM) IS’s redesign for 2014. However, the IS is more than a new face: “Toyota is returning to stride after the credit crisis, an earthquake and floods delayed and disrupted its new model plan,” Phelan writes.
Mazda, like numerous others in the auto industry, has initiated a full redesign of its products — the company introduced new design language on just about every model. Further, Mazda’s beauty is more than skin deep: “Mazda’s fuel-efficient new engines, transmissions and vehicles have reinvigorated the brand,” Phelan says.
The Mazda6 has been released to critical acclaim, and it offers some of the best non-hybrid fuel economy in the midsize sedan segment. Moreover, the car is set to see the addition of a diesel unit, which will likely help boost the car’s economy even more, and put the Mazda6 in the exclusive ranks of diesel-powered sedans in the U.S.
Mercedes-Benz’s new CLA is the smallest Benz on sale in the American market — and the cheapest, too, with a base price of $29,900. “Mercedes-Benz’ move into the small-car business with the CLA will draw plenty of attention,” Phelan notes, and rightly so: Next to the other small-luxe contenders, the CLA certainly stands out in a crowd.
While the small sedan landscape has long been dominated by cars that tend to play down bold styling, Toyota took a gamble, and it seems to have paid off. The 2014 Corolla offers a sharper, more aggressive look for the compact, which is facing hotter competition than ever before.