Our Favorite Drives of 2014
Over the past months we’ve been hard at work testing out this year’s new cars. From the East Coast to the West Coast, we’ve searched high and low to find and test some of the best cars that have yet to hit America’s roads. While there are still many more out there for us to test drive, we thought it was time for us to tell you a little more about our favorites (so far).
10. Looking for a midsize crossover that’s going to let you comfortably seat 7 while still enjoying the ride? Look no further than the Hyundai Santa Fe. Scoring an overall 8.2 in our review, the Santa Fe is one of the best SUVs we’ve had the chance to drive so far. Hyundai really hit the nail on the head as far as the design on this one goes. Quite frankly, the Santa Fe looks better than almost anything in its class. While it’s still a crossover (and crossover performance is to be expected), the car does pretty well on the performance end, even feeling “athletic and responsive around city corners and mountain curves.”
9. For those who want a big car with plenty of room and a reasonable price tag, the Chevrolet Impala should be on your short list. All-new for this year, the 2014 Impala is an impressive car. With stunning good looks and impressive build quality, this is not the Impala of yesteryear (also known as 2013). Available with a 305-horsepower 6-cylinder engine, the Impala does not lack the power to live up to its sexy looks. A true testament to just how far General Motors has come as an automaker in recent years, the new Impala has racked up praise and accolades left and right since its release. We’re not going to miss this bandwagon—we love it, too!
8. If you’re looking for a comfortable and refined luxury sedan, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better one than the Lexus ES 350. Okay, okay, we know what you’re thinking: “It’s just an overpriced Toyota Camry, right?” Wrong. Lexus finally separated the ES from the Camry platform in a bid to make fewer compromises in designing the car. While the result is still a fairly tame luxury sedan, Lexus has done a good job of improving the driving experience in the ES. With its 3.5-liter V6 pumping out 268 horsepower, the ES is not going to rival the LFA anytime soon, but it is no slouch either. Like many of its competitors, the ES comes with 3 selectable driving modes. Unlike many of its competitors, the car’s dash lighting changes color with each mode—a pretty cool feature that makes the car feel even sportier. While Lexus has done a great job making the car more fun to drive, it has done that without sacrificing any of the reasons why people buy the ES: reliability, safety and practicality. For that, it’s one of our favorite cars this year.
7. Want a big, comfortable car with seriously impressive performance? You want the Dodge Charger. With a 3.6-liter Pentastar 6-cylinder engine standard (and a 6.4-liter 8-cylinder Hemi available), there isn’t much on the road the Charger can’t blow past (besides a gas station, that is). Roomy enough to fit 5 adults quite comfortably, the Charger is remarkable in its ability to accelerate all 3,964 pounds from 0 to 60 in just 6.5 seconds (with the basic 6-cylinder engine). Upgrade to one of the 8-cylinder engines, and it would be pretty easy to forget to pick up the kids or go to the grocery store. Combine all that with its cool, well-defined, retro looks and we say the Charger is a winner.
6. In at our sixth spot is the Infiniti Q50. New this year, the Q50 was designed as a replacement for the Infiniti G37 (which it will not actually replace—the G37 is now sold as the Q60). By all measures, the Q50 is an impressive car, scoring an overall 8.5 in our Test Drive Review. While that number is impressive, it doesn’t quite do the Q50 justice, given all it represents. Meant as a major step in Infiniti’s brand refresh, Infiniti hit a true home run with the well-balanced Q50. The car’s most notable feature is its menacing appearance, apparent as it drives through traffic, scowling at everything in its way. On top of this, Infiniti loaded the car with all sorts of awesome tech and connected it to a 6-cylinder engine pumping 328 ponies to the rear wheels—enough to get you to 60 in just 5.3 seconds. We’re excited to see how other Infinitis will evolve over the years, but we’d say the company’s set a pretty high bar for itself.
5. The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is a serious piece of machinery, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun and practical. Redesigned for the 2014 model year, Chevy did a great job updating one of its best-selling models and making it a heavyweight contender in the hard-hitting world of pickup trucks. For the 2014 redesign, Chevy decided to go for technology above all else, making the Silverado 1500 one of the best choices out there by updating available engines and throwing a myriad of tech options in Silverado order catalogues. The best part is that Chevy strategically placed the technology in the truck in a way that makes it very handy for those using the Silverado as a daily driver. Up front there are a large number of USB jacks, 12-volt outlets and even a standard wall jack. Coupled with the USB jacks is Chevy’s MyLink, allowing you to stay connected all day. Add to all of this the fact that, as a pickup truck, the Silverado can get you and all your stuff almost anywhere, and we’re pretty confident in saying we weren’t quite ready to give it up.
4. While the Silverado can get you almost anywhere, the Jeep Wrangler can get you anywhere. One of the most iconic and recognizable cars on the road today, the Wrangler is a workhorse that hasn’t let up since its ancestor, the Willys MB, went off to war in 1941. Fast-forward to 2014, and the Wrangler is still an extremely competent off-roader, capable of taking on almost anything out there. Where the Wrangler falls short is safety. While Jeep has done a lot to improve the car’s safety ratings, the simple fact is that the Wrangler can’t intrinsically stand up to the same tests big sedans and SUVs get put through. That being said, Jeep has done an awesome job with the 2014 Wrangler. If you’re looking for some off-road fun in the sun, this is your ride.
3. If you’re looking for a practical, safe and reliable car that’s still fun to drive, you should check out the Honda Accord. One of the best cars we’ve driven this year (we gave it a 9.2), the Accord is nothing short of excellent in almost every way. For those unsure of what they’re looking for, exactly, the Accord comes in a large variety of trims, starting with the basic LX with a manual shifter and moving all the way up to the Touring model that comes with a 3.5-liter 6-cylinder engine. Even with just the standard 4-cylinder, the Accord is a wonder to drive, always responsive and even quite fun in the twisties. If you’re looking for a refined and well-built family car that still keeps the driver in mind, there could be an Accord with your name on it.
2. One car we haven’t had the chance to test yet (but are dying to) is the BMW M4. Based on the BMW 4 Series, the M4 is what happens when a compact luxury coupe sets its sights on the Nürburgring. We expect it to be pure driving awesomeness, but we’ll have to wait to find out. We were able to test BMW’s new 4 Series, however. A brand-new model for this year (kind of—it was created by BMW when it separated the 3 Series coupe from the rest of the 3 Series), the 4 Series is certainly a great-looking car, but how does it stack up in other areas? While the car puts up impressive performance numbers and has a build quality that lives up to BMW’s reputation, there are some areas where it falls noticeably flat, mostly with regard to price. While the car is insanely fun to drive, the pricing doesn’t quite match that of some of its rivals, mainly due to the fact that BMW charges extra for things that come standard in many other cars—not what you’d expect when buying a $40,000 coupe. If you can look beyond the price tag, the 4 Series is a good buy, safe, reliable and cool, very cool. Even so, we’re waiting for the M4—all signs point to it being sub-zero.
1. Easily one of the best cars we’ve tested this year, the Mazda 3 is a driver’s car through and through. Completely redesigned for 2014, Mazda stopped at nothing to make its 3 one of the best cars in the increasingly competitive compact market. The most striking feature of the car is the brilliant use of Mazda’s Kodo design language on the exterior, giving the car a striking appearance unlike anything else in its class. Hop inside, and you’re greeted with an excellent interior layout, complemented by Mazda’s use of fairly high-grade materials in cabin construction, plus a host of safety tech features. On the road, however, is where the Mazda 3 really shines. Thanks to Mazda’s commitment to build the most fun-to-drive cars on the road, the 3 tears through corners, making it impossible not to smile while taking on a back road. One thing noticeably absent from this year’s lineup is the MAZDASPEED3. No word yet on when we can expect to see the hot hatch, but until then, we say that for the quality, performance, safety, reliability and sheer fun of the Mazda 3, there’s no other 2014 we’d rather drive.
What is your favorite 2014 model?