Welcome to the first ever AutoKing COTY Awards! Our Associate Editor, Travis J., came up with the idea, and all of our editors have contributed. Now, without further ado, I present to you the 2014 award winners...
CHRIS MCMAYS, Editor-in-Chief
You may be wondering why I didn't pick the BMW i8 as my car of the year. After all, it really is the most important car of the last twelve months. But Ian beat me to it, so I've chosen to name my original runner-up my 2014 Car of the Year, which is the new Hyundai Genesis.
There are two main reasons why I have given my 2014 COTY award to the Genesis, those being luxury and price.
The Genesis, for those of you who don't know, is the South Korean equivalent of a BMW 5-Series or Mercedes E-Class, except for in one key area: price. Hyundai has priced the Genesis extremely competitively, with the MY2015 sedan starting at $38,000. That's nearly $12,000 cheaper than the similarly-sized Bimmer, and nearly $14,000 cheaper than the rival Merc.
What makes this price point even more astonishing is the level of luxury and technology that comes with it. For example, leather seats come standard on even the base-model Genesis 3.8, whereas leather is an optional extra on the base E250 BlueTEC. It's the same way with many other features.
All in all, the Genesis is the ultimate expression of bang for your buck, bringing more luxury, comfort, and technology at a cheaper price point than any established German competitor, and that's why it's my 2014 Car of the Year.
IAN FARNSWORTH, Deputy Editor
The BMW i8 is easily the most important car of the year. It's also my 2014 COTY award winner.
No, it's not the most powerful car of the year, or the fastest, or the most luxurious, but the i8 is simply just a rolling innovation, and that's all that matters. It's got neat tech toys like the first laser headlights fitted to any production car, nifty aerodynamic management bits, sleek wing doors, a carbon fiber body shell, and a nearly perfect 50:50 weight distribution ratio.
The advanced technology features aren't all that this car is about, though — it also has a hybrid powertrain. Unlike the Toyota Prius, however, the i8 doesn't just have any ordinary hybrid powertrain. Consisting of a 1.5-liter three-cylinder gasoline engine that drives the rear wheels and an electric motor that drives the front, total output is 362 horsepower. It can return up to 134.5 mpg in a European mixed cycle, and can recharge as much as 80 percent of the batteries in around two hours.
The i8 is an elegant, German middle-fingered salute to conventional eco-friendly cars. That's what it is, and that's also why I've chosen it for my 2014 Car of the Year award.
Chevrolet Corvette Z06
TRAVIS J., Associate Editor
I won't argue that the Z06 is the most technologically sophisticated car, or even the most important to the industry of all the 2014 models. I think that 2014's most important car is actually the BMW i8. All technology, engineering, and extremely functional, futuristic low drag design. It's fantastic. So why then would I pick the Z06 as my car of the year? It's quite simple really.
The Corvette Z06 is a tire smoking, 650 horsepower monument to Badassitude, for posterity's sake. Compared to the hybrid McLaren P1 or Porsche 918 Spyder, it's a dinosaur. It's a "rip your face off and terrorize you" T-Rex of a car. Its technology isdated from the cretaceous as well, the engine still counts on sixteen pushrods to motivate half the valves of a "modern" V8;the suspension still utilizes a leaf spring when others are using pushrod actuated inboard coil-overs. When you first start it up, the rumble of the exhaust might as well be making a cup of water shake like a T-Rex on approach (or maybe that's just your heart beating out of your chest in anticipation). Just like the T-Rex from the first Jurassic Park film, the Z06 is a terrorizing anachronism when pushed to the limit. At the end of the movie when the T-Rex fights off the velociraptors allowing the main characters to escape to safety and the banner falls behind it and it lets loose a mighty roar, it's a hero and it is an iconic shot in film history.
That's what this car signifies: an iconic moment in automobile history. It's a hero for those of us who like to steer with our right foot and care about the actual sensation of driving, not the image the car projects. The tightening emissions restrictions, the downsizing of engines, and the increasing use of hybrid powertrain, on everything from commuter cars to one million dollar supercars would suggest that the big American V8's time in the sun is waning. Some would say that soon the 5+ liter V8 will be dead and gone just like the dinosaurs. Replaced by small turbo V8's like the Euro 6 emissions compliant Mercedes M178, or BMW 4.4L twin-turbo V8, or even the 450 horsepower 3.6Ltwin-turbo V6 in the new ATS-V. Sure they make great power and have flat as a pancake torque curves, but they lack the gravitas of a lopey, grumpy idle and the roar only a large displacement V8 can make flat-out. But, an engine is simply a means of producing power. Electric cars like the Tesla Model S P85D are damn quick. Maybe the big American V8 is on its way out, I can't answer that question but if it is, there is no better example than the LT4 found in the Z06.
I'm not going to compare the Z06 to its European counterparts, because that would be wholly unfair to them, the Z06 is in class of its own: Brasher, Bolder, Bigger and Badass-er. Comparing this car to cars that cost three times as much for inferior performance is a played-out trope. Saying "For the money there is no better performance car than Corvette Z06." Is at this point like saying "water is wet", or "the sky is blue." So I'm going say something even bolder: The C7 Z06 is the best red-blooded gearhead performance car ever. I cannot imagine any way that General Motors can eek out even a sliver more performance from this car. I seriously pity the Corvette engineering staffsecretly cooking up the next one. One-upping God, the laws of physics, and Ferrari is a damn near impossible task. That being said, if the C7 Z06 is any evidence of their capability, they will find a way.
The C7 Z06 then isn't a swan song; it's a monument to what happens when America is at its absolute best: when the elements that we have refined for over 50 years culminate in a design that is truly world class, world beating even. When we look back on cars 50 years from now, the C7 Z06 will be the high point of American design, ingenuity and brute-f%$#ing-strength in automobiles.
Suck it, Enzo.
Ferrari 458 Speciale
SIMON CUELL, Columnist
The regular 458 was already my ultimate ugh car. The looks, the noise, the badge... I never thought anything could surpass it for me. Then again, when I was a small boy, I thought that the Pontiac Solstice was the penultimate motoring machine, so my opinion holds zero credibility. That low level of credibility does have the advantage of being continuously impressed however, and the 458 Speciale has broken through my glass ceiling of desirability.
To my eye it's not as good looking, it's just lost a little bit of the prettyness, but that is where the complaints end. To me, this car is distilled happiness, with three shots of tabasco (or 11). They have truly done their level best to make this a racing-car for the road. From what I hear, on all fronts, it is an improvement across the board over the regular 458, and to me it doesn't get much clearer than that. For all the tricks and gadgetry that the new breed of hybrid super-car promises to bring, nothing will fill my heart with passion like this car does. I can only hope that one day I will get to experience it for myself.
Cadillac CTS Vsport
SOL MARBURG, Contributor
There were many cars that came out over the last year that proved to us that now is a wonderful time to be a gearhead. The Alfa Romeo 4C, Jaguar F-Type Coupe, and new Mazda Miata showed us that the sports car is alive and well. The McLaren P1 and BMW i8 showed us how to embrace the future. The Range Rover Sport and Porsche Macan showed that crossovers can be damn good fun. All these things were great landmarks for car enthusiasts, who were thought to be a dying breed just a few years ago. And all of these fantastic, wonderful cars could easily be my personal pick for 2014 Car of the Year. But, as Jalopnik pointed out to us, the biggest thing to happen in 2014 was the true return of the American car industry. This was marked by the introduction of good cars across the board. If you want to go fast, both in a straight line and on the bends, the Yanks have you covered with the Hellcats, the GT350, and the scary-fast Z/28 Camaro and Z06 Corvette. If you need a truck, you've got the new Colorado, the nifty F-150, and the Chrysler 300/tractor combo that is the Dodge Ram Ecodiesel. And even the normal cars, cars like the Chevy Impala, Ford Focus, and Chrysler 200 have made enormous strides so that now, they are every bit as good as their competitors from Asia and Europe. Once again, any of the cars I just mentioned could be my Car of the Year. The thing is, my favorite cars aren't muscle cars, or sensible sedans, or pickup trucks. I like quick, sleek, European luxury cars. Which is why my 2014 Car of the Year is the 2014 Cadillac CTS VSport.
I got a chance to ride in a VSport back when they first came out. I knew even before I had seen it in person that it was a real looker; the pictures told me that. Still, I wasn't quite prepared to see it in person. It is a thing of phenomenal style and beauty. I have only ever felt the same way about a modern sedan at first sight on three other occasions: With the Rolls-Royce Ghost, the new Jaguar XJ, and the old Mercedes CLS. It really is that good. The interior matches the exterior. It is modern and high-tech, but with just enough old-school class and charm that it isn't overwhelming. The seats are comfortable, the equipment is all there, and for the first time I can remember in an American car, everything looked and felt as though I was sitting in an Audi or BMW, not a Cadillac. Once underway, the CTS Vsport is as quiet and comfortable as the Germans, making for a superb highway cruiser. It's when you get frisky, however, that the CTS really shines. The twin-turbo V6 may not roar and pop and bellow like the mighty Corvette engine in the V before it, but my God, is it ever quick. Zero to sixty in 4.5 seconds puts it on par with the old V10 M5, yet it still averages 18 MPG. Around corners, the chassis, steering, and Magnetic Ride Control work like a charm. The car handles with the same poise, precision, and enthusiasm that BMW once did. It grips like a Quattro Audi, but unlike the A6, pushing it a little harder results in friendly, controllable oversteer, not understeer. It's a proper riot to drive.
For decades, the Germans have been comprehensively kicking America's ass when it came to building luxury cars. Their models were faster, safer, more efficient, more opulent, more comfortable, better equipped, better looking, better made and better to drive. Basically, everything that defined a modern luxury car was defined by Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. And while Chrysler and Lincoln are still floundering somewhat, producing nice but uninspiring sedans based off of much more humble siblings, Cadillac has deemed that enough is enough. They used to be the standard of the world, and with the 2014 CTS and particularly the VSport, they are once again. So fly your flags, launch your fireworks, and feed your bald eagle a celebratory cheeseburger: The Cadillac CTS Vsport has put America back on top.