8 great new rides for 2014

Innovative cars and trucks hitting the road for the first time

The model year is changing, and we've already picked our favorite all-new rides for 2014. And by all new, we mean all new. These aren’t updated versions of models you've seen on the road before. We're talking about the freshest, most original designs arriving in showrooms now or a little later this fall.

They range from a practical urban runabout and luxury electric coupe to a V-8-powered muscle sedan and turbocharged sports car with a legendary family tree. You'll find something here for every taste and pocketbook. Whether you’ve got $22,000 or $70,000 to spend, we’ve got you covered.

Fuel economy numbers are EPA estimates, and all prices include automatic transmission, power windows, door locks and outside mirrors as well as the destination charge. Let’s start with our most affordable favorite and work our way up …

2014 Fiat 500L Easy

Price: $22,345

Fuel Economy: 24 mpg city/33 highway/27 combined

Creating a larger, four-door version of the tiny 500 seems to defeat Fiat's high-mileage, urban-warrior mandate. Fiat execs, however, argue that too many shoppers were walking out of its studios — Fiat-speak for showrooms — because they couldn't live with a car half a foot shorter than a Mini Cooper.

Two feet longer than the 500, the 500L falls in length between Ford's Fiesta and Focus. Surprisingly roomy inside, the 500L is wide enough to sit three across the backseat. We especially like the nearly uninterrupted 360-degree view from the driver's seat.

We specified the Easy trim level because it allows upgrading to the optional six-speed automatic transmission as priced here. A 160-horsepower, 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine turns the front wheels. A 5-inch touchscreen and rearview camera are standard.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Latitude

Price: $27,490

Fuel Economy: 19 mpg city/28 highway/22 combined

There is so much to like about the Cherokee, we don't know where to start. Yes, it looks something like the love child of a Nissan Juke and a Land Rover Evoque, but it's also the most contemporary-looking Jeep ever.

There is a slightly more affordable base version, but we think the additional $1,500 for the Latitude is a bargain for extras like alloy wheels, a 115-volt power outlet and tinted glass. Standard is a 184-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. There is also an optional 271-horsepower V-6.

Both use a nine-speed automatic transmission to turn either the front or all four wheels. While Cherokee's competitors offer only foul-weather AWD, Cherokee has, in addition to its available AWD system, an optional traditional four-wheel-drive system with a low-range gear for true off-roading.

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA

Price: $30,825

Fuel Economy: 26 mpg city/38 highway/NA

A Mercedes! For just $29,900! How did they do it? Well, the CLA is the first big-volume front-wheel-drive Mercedes to be sold in the United States. That's a major departure from the German luxury brand's engineering gospel. But we think the CLA is a beautiful addition that will supplant the rear-wheel-drive C-Class as Mercedes' most affordable car.

The automaker calls the CLA a four-door coupe because of its coupe-like roof line, which does restrict rear-seat headroom. But the CLA is loaded with high-end features like adaptive cruise control, Collision Prevention Assist, rain-sensing wipers and available parking assist.

Under the hood, you'll find a 208-horsepower, 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and seven-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission. It will sprint from 0 to 60 in less than seven seconds. AWD is available.

2014 Kia Cadenza

Price: $35,900

Fuel Economy: 19 mpg city/28 highway/22 combined

Kia's new flagship sedan is superior in almost every way to the disappointing Amanti, which Kia yanked from dealerships three years ago. The Cadenza looks great and is packed with value. GPS navigation, Kia's Uvo infotainment and voice command system, 8-inch touchscreen, 12-speaker Infinity audio system and leather seating are all standard.

In fact, Cadenza only comes in one well-equipped trim level that makes the buying experience pretty user-friendly. Its cabin is roomy and easily accommodates five adults. We really like the way it behaves on curvy roads. It's no sport sedan, but the Cadenza does react predictably in the turns. A 293-horsepower, 3.3-liter V-6 turns the front wheels through a six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission. In addition to Kia's industry-leading 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, the first three years of scheduled maintenance is free.

2014 Infiniti Q50

Price: $37,605

Fuel Economy: 20 mpg city/29 highway/23 combined

Changing the way it names cars, Infiniti christened this replacement for its G37 Sedan the Q50. Because the current G37 will hang around showrooms another year, we feel the Q50 qualifies as an all-new model. The G37 was one of our favorite sport sedans; the Q50, no doubt, will be as well.

We've priced out the base version here, but it also comes in Premium and Sport trims. A hybrid model is also available. Exterior styling is an evolution of the G37's lines.

A bit of gee-whiz technology is the available Active Lane Control, which responds to crosswinds and such to make minor steering corrections to keep the car on course without driver input. Turning the rear wheels is a 328-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 and seven-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission. AWD is available.

2014 Chevrolet SS

Price: $44,470

Fuel Economy: 14 mpg city/21 highway/17 combined

Chevrolet hasn't offered a rear-wheel-drive performance sedan since 1996, but that all changes with the arrival of this Australian-built muscle car. Chevrolet only offers it in one loaded version with leather-trimmed seating for five and technology galore, including a navigation system, nine-speaker Bose audio system and the first automatic parking assist in a Chevy.

The 6.2-liter V-8 tucked under that nice power bulge on the aluminum hood cranks out 415 horsepower, which can launch the SS from 0 to 60 miles per hour in under five seconds. (It's not the Corvette's new LT1 V-8 enthusiasts had hoped for, but we don't think they'll be too disappointed.) Steering wheel-mounted shift paddles allow manual shifting of the six-speed automatic transmission. Although the fuel economy isn't going to win any Sierra Club awards, we are stoked Chevrolet is back in the performance sedan business.

2014 Cadillac ELR

Price: $65,000 (Estimated)

Fuel Economy: Not Available

Does the world need a luxury version of the Chevrolet Volt? Sure, why not? If you're going to drive an electric car, we think it makes a lot of sense to have an on-board gasoline engine to recharge the batteries, and the ELR definitely builds on the Volt's technology.

Range on a full electric charge and tank of gas is 300 miles. Cadillac says the range on battery power alone is 35 miles. The downside, the price — yet to be announced — will probably surprise the typical Cadillac buyer as much as the Volt's hefty price makes the typical Chevy customer gasp.

That said, on the outside it looks every inch a Cadillac. The ELR is a racy-looking coupe that will turn heads when it reaches showrooms early next year. Inside you can bet the ELR will be loaded with luxury, convenience and technology features.

2014 Jaguar F-Type

Price: $69,895

Fuel Economy: 20 mpg city/28 highway/23 combined

It took Jaguar more than 40 years to try and recapture the magic of the E-Type — the legendary roadster Enzo Ferrari called "the most beautiful car ever made." But the F-Type is finally here, and we think it's been worth the wait. It's flat-out gorgeous and delivers the performance you'd expect.

The F-Type will race from 0 to 60 mph in just six seconds with the standard 340-horsepower, turbocharged 3-liter V-6 and eight-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission. Yet the 28 mpg highway mileage isn't a misprint. The F-Type achieves decent fuel economy.

And if you just have to knock another second off the gallop to 60, you can pony up another $23,000 for the V-8 version. The fabric top goes up and down with the push of a button in about 12 seconds. Leather spreads throughout the cockpit. If you won the lottery, this is the car on our list you'd want to buy.

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