AS the 2014 model year clicks into full gear, the Canadian Automotive Jury has announced the dozen finalists for its fifth annual Best of the Best new vehicle awards.
The jury's Best of the Best are unique among the plethora of annual car-of-the-year awards. The not-for-profit organization is independently funded by its jurors, 11 senior automotive journalists.
As we wait for the lone 2014 Best of the Best winner to be announced in January, here are this year's nominees:
Audi RS 7
Sporting a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine that directs 560 horsepower to all four wheels via Audi's legendary quattro AWD system and an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission, the $115,000 (all starting MSRPs) RS 7 can rocket from rest to 100 km/h in less than four seconds, and, with an optional Dynamic Package Plus, top out at 305 km/h.
BMW 4 Series Coupe
More than a two-door version of BMW's 3 Series compact sedan, the new, $44,900 4 Series Coupe moves upmarket, with more room and features than ever before. Offering the same powertrains as the 3 Series, the 428i uses a 241-hp turbocharged 2.0-litre four, while the top-line 435i employs a twin-turbo 3.0L six making 300 hp.
Cadillac ATS (2013 Best of the Best winner)
To keep the new nominees in check, the CAJ invites back the previous year's winner. And for 2014, the $36,985 Cadillac ATS compact sports sedan hasn't lost any of the lustre that made it the CAJ's 2013 Best of the Best winner. The sports sedan marks a massive shift for Cadillac, and General Motors as a corporation, and is already having a trickle-down effect on the entry-level luxury car market.
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Sporting new carbon fibre bodywork, more upscale interior, and gearboxes and a 6.2L V8 gas engine that make 460 hp, a 3.8-second 100 km/h time, and a claimed "best in class" fuel economy of 12.2 L/100 km in the city and 6.9 on the highway -- the $54,454 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray sends a clear message that General Motors is serious about making great cars.
Proving it's not saving its best for just luxury sedans and sports cars, the new 2014 Chevrolet Impala heavily benefits from riding on the same General Motors full-sized sedan platform as the Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac XTS. In addition to a host of state-of-the-art safety features, the value-laden and boldly styled $28,445 Impala can be had with either a 196-hp four-cylinder, a 305-hp V6 or as a mild hybrid.
As per any new Kia, the $15,995 2014 Forte looks more expensive than its price would suggest. Its luxury-car options include three-mode steering, rear-view camera and heated and cooled seats -- to name only a few. Having a choice of a four-door sedan, hatchback or 201-hp two-door coupe broadens the Forte's appeal.
The new Q50 is just the start of an ambitious plan to jump-start Nissan's Infiniti luxury brand. Replacing the outgoing G37 compact sports sedan, the new, rear- or all-wheel-drive $37,500 Q50 is larger, gets a new hybrid model in addition to the gas V6, and offers a phalanx of safety, luxury and convenience features to add to its already top-notch bang-for-the-buck reputation.
As the spiritual successor to the iconic Jaguar E-Type, the new, rear-wheel-drive $76,900 F-Type two-seat roadster has been the Jag enthusiasts have been waiting for for decades. The three-engine, F-Type lineup starts with a pair of supercharged 3.0L V6s, with either 340 or 380 hp, and a supercharged 5.0L V8 making 495 hp. But even the base F-Type is quick, taking only 5.1 seconds to go from zero to 100 km/h.
Playing in Canada's most-popular car class, the all-new compact Mazda 3 is an important car for the Japanese automaker. Available in four-door sedan and hatchback models, the third-generation $15,995 Mazda 3 offers premium styling outside and in, upscale features and a choice of two four-cylinder engines: a 155-hp 2.0L unit and a 184-hp 2.5L mill. A 30 per cent lighter chassis not only aids in fuel economy, but also allows the suspension to deliver excellent handling.
As the second model after the new-last-year CX-5 compact crossover to offer a complete application of Mazda's so-called Skyactiv Technology, the $24,495 mid-sized 2014 Mazda 6 professes to balance fuel efficiency and performance with a host of engineering efficiencies throughout the car. It's also a looker. If you're going to drive the sportiest family sedan you can find, you might as well get one that looks the part. Thankfully, the Mazda 6 does.
The fact that underneath the compact CLA's swoopy, four-door coupe styling lies the underpinnings of the B-Class tall-wagon tells you all you need to know about Mercedes-Benz's plans to dominate the premium compact class. Like the B 250, the $33,900 CLA 250 starts as a front-driver, with a 208-hp 2.0L turbo-four. Opt for the $49,800 CLA 45 AMG, though, and you get what Benz calls "the world's most powerful four-cylinder engine," spouting 355 hp, all-wheel drive, and a claimed 4.6-second zero-to-100-km/h time.
Volkswagen Jetta Turbo Hybrid
On top of a pair of naturally aspirated gas engines, a turbocharged diesel and a turbocharged gas model, the $27,875 turbo-gas-electric hybrid becomes the fifth engine option in Volkswagen's popular Jetta compact sedan lineup. Unique, the Jetta's 1.4L four-cylinder is turbocharged and intercooled. And instead of a continuously variable transmission, the VW hybrid uses a dual-clutch automatic. The result? The Jetta Turbo Hybrid is both fast and frugal.
-- Postmedia Network Inc. 2013