Buyer's Guide: 2014 Autos

Wondering if you should trade in your current car? New 2014 models offer more fuel economy, better safety, and awesome luxury features than you can imagine.

November 27, 2013

There was a time not too many years ago when car dealers would soap up their windows, hoping to build up anticipation for the new model year’s unveilings. These days, new products are just as likely to roll in over the spring or summer, though there’s still plenty to get excited about for 2014.

The latest crop of cars, trucks, and crossovers offers plenty of options for just about anyone’s tastes, needs, and budget. Better yet, if you haven’t been in the market in recent years, you’re likely to discover that you’re getting a lot more car for your money. Today’s vehicles are offering a wide range of comfort and performance features, including new connectivity and “infotainment” systems that permit a busy real estate professional to never lose touch with the office or clients.

More Mileage for Your Money

Equally important, new powertrain technologies mean you’ll squeeze a lot more out of your fuel budget with many of the new 2014 models, such as the 50 mpg Honda Accord Hybrid. And considering that more and more clients are demanding the latest in energy-efficient homes, doesn’t it make sense to show them you’re equally green-minded with your ride? The good news is that many of the latest mileage misers don’t require you to sacrifice performance, styling, comfort, or roominess to get great fuel economy. The new Infiniti Q50 Hybrid, for example, is actually the quickest version of that new sedan.

Advanced powertrains play a major factor in this mileage miracle. Honda, for example, now has three different hybrid packages distinctly tuned to different product lines. General Motors is expanding its line-up of plug-in hybrids with the launch of the new Cadillac ELR, which shows that luxury cars can go green. GM also has joined the German makers in adding a diesel to its passenger-car line-up, though Audi enters 2014 with three of these new high-mileage “oil burners,” including a diesel-powered A7 and Q5. Tesla, meanwhile, makes it possible to go 100 percent electric without range anxiety, its optional 85 kilowatt-hour battery pack delivering almost 300 miles per charge.

No ‘Silver Bullet’

Industry experts agree that there won’t be a single “silver bullet” in this new world of green technology. Instead, we’ll be seeing a wide range of clean, high-mileage alternatives. During the recent Los Angeles Auto Show, three automakers announced plans to launch what American Honda CEO Tetsuo Iwamura calls the “ultimate” in zero-emissions technology, the hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle. Honda and Toyota’s models won’t hit the market until 2015, but Hyundai plans to have its Tucson Fuel-Cell Vehicle in showrooms by spring. Due to the limited availability of hydrogen filling stations, all three makers initially plan to focus on the Southern California market.

Even the highest-performance vehicles are delivering fuel economy this year. Consider that the seventh-generation 2014 Chevrolet Corvette can achieve as much as 30 mpg on the highway. Such breakthroughs reflect a variety of factors, notably including more advanced aerodynamic designs that not only reduce wind resistance but also lower wind noise. There’s also what industry insiders like to call “lightweighting.” Smarter designs and the use of advanced materials, such as aluminum, carbon fiber, and ultra-high-strength steel, can have a huge impact. The new Range Rover Sport, for example, is about 700 pounds lighter than the outgoing model. When you consider that every 100 pounds of shed mass equals a 1 mpg improvement — while also improving performance — that’s nothing to take lightly.

Better Hardware

Another factor in this high-efficiency revolution is the microprocessor. For those who think that cars are old-tech, well, think again. The latest models put your new smartphone to shame: Some of the new 2014s rely on as many as 60 or more microprocessors to manage their powertrains, improve safety, and power their infotainment systems.

On the safety front, Nissan recently announced plans to put the world’s first fully autonomous — or self-driving — vehicle into production by 2014. But even today’s cars are smarter and safer than ever. Check out the all-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which uses a “fusion” of cameras, sonar, radar, and infrared sensors to monitor the world around it. The new luxury sedan is smart enough to spot a pedestrian walking into its path and, if the driver doesn’t respond quickly enough, bring the car to a quick stop. Out on the highway late at night, its infrared system can spot a deer and flash an image on the car’s reconfigurable gauge cluster.

Anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control are now mandated on all vehicles by the federal government, but an assortment of even more sophisticated systems, such as blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert, are standard gear on many models. They are now available, in optional form, on a growing array of 2014 models.

Cool Gadgets

Audi and Chrysler, meanwhile, are two among a growing list of manufacturers integrating Wi-Fi hot spots into their vehicles. In today’s hectic world, few can afford being out of touch, even while driving. Not only do models such as Chrysler’s Ram 1500 pickup make it possible to fire up your laptop on the go, but the newest infotainment systems are rapidly adding new features to keep you connected as well as entertained. Ford’s Sync system, for example, allows you to access an assortment of smartphone apps, such as the Stitcher news service and Pandora’s music library. A number of new models will translate text messages into speech to minimize distractions.

Stop into your nearest showroom, and you’re likely to spot some other big changes reshaping the U.S. automotive market. Manufacturers are racing to fill in the so-called “white space” between traditional offerings. Take Mercedes-Benz, which once could count its models on a single hand. Today, the classic C-, E-, and S-Class sedans have been joined by the ML and GL utility vehicles, the SLK roadster, and the entry-lux CLA, among others. Compact crossovers are the hottest segment in the market this year, both affordable offerings like the little Kia Soul or the new Porsche Macan.

If you’re still not convinced to trade in your current car, consider that not only are the newest models faster, safer, and more fuel-efficient than ever, but third-party research reveals today’s vehicles are significantly more reliable than ever before. 

But with hundreds of new offerings on the market for 2014, how do you select the vehicle that’s just right for you?  Check out the slideshow of a baker’s dozen of our top choices, precisely tuned to the needs of a busy real estate practitioner. They include our favorite sedans, crossovers, green machines, and models at both ends of the price spectrum.

Paul A. Eisenstein is publisher of The Detroit Bureau. He has more than 30 years of experience covering the auto industry for a broad range of print, broadcast, and electronic media.