COLUMNS: Get Psyched for 2014

January 1, 2014
2015 Ford Mustang Front
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Welcome to 2014. It feels like it’s going to be a good year in the car world. Automobiles are faster, more powerful, more fuel-efficient, and better looking than even a few years ago. Compared to how cars looked and drove in the 1980s and ’90s, this is a veritable golden age. Obviously, things aren’t perfect. We’re just a few years removed from the malaise of the 2008 economic meltdown that nearly flat-lined the auto business, and one false step could again easily trigger dire consequences for the industry. Still, I feel plenty of optimism for the new year, and 2014 brings a tremendous crop of new cars worth your attention. These are the ones that have captured mine.
2015 Jaguar F Type Coupe Rear Three Quarter Motion

2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe

There’s a reason I’m leading off with the new Jag—it’s gorgeous. I think it looks even better than the droptop. Obviously, it’s easy as an enthusiast to sniff at a convertible in favor of a coupe, but my reasons here are not rooted in some sort of track-researched logic. Really, I just like how the coupe looks. The Ian Callum design is timeless and romantic. It’s that simple, or superficial, I suppose. The roofline blends seamlessly into the back fenders, and it’s this model that truly seems ready to pounce. Yeah, convertibles are awesome at certain times. But I’d rather just slit the windows, turn up the radio, and let cool air rush in as I hammer the throttle. Oh, and the V-6 coupe is lighter—as expected—than the V-6 convertible, and it’s cheaper, too. The V-8 coupe is more expensive than the convertible (and the same weight), but the coupe outguns the convertible 550 hp to 495 hp from the same supercharged powerplant. I think you know where I’d spend my money (if I had the money) for a Jag.
2015 Ford Mustang Front

2015 Ford Mustang

I admit that this is one is the layup of the group. If you’re not excited to drive the new Mustang, check your pulse. Like the F-Type coupe, the Mustang’s looks excite me. Ford got the design language right, and I’m excited to see it on the road. This might sound odd, but I’m really interested to drive the EcoBoost four-cylinder model. The EcoBoost F-150, with a V-6 borrowed from the Taurus SHO, has been a rousing success. I’m curious if a smaller displacement turbo four-cylinder will affect the character of the Mustang. It’s worth noting that Ford’s pony car has had four-bangers before, so this isn’t that earth-shaking. It’s just that it’s been more than twenty years. This new four-cylinder is expected to push out 305-plus hp, eclipsing the naturally aspirated V-6’s output of about 300 hp. I think the EcoBoost Mustang will be a blast—the Hyundai Genesis coupe with its own turbo four sure is—and I bet the EcoBoost Mustang is the volume model for Ford sooner rather than later.
Alfa Romeo 4C Front Three Quarters

2014 Alfa Romeo 4C

Finally, Alfa Romeo is coming back to the United States with this stunning sports car. I think the 4C has one of the strongest visual presences of any car I’ve seen lately. It’s an intricate design that skirts the line of being overdone, but the overall sense is that of an Italian Lotus. Who wouldn’t like that? Plus, it’s dripping in carbon fiber and runs a spunky, 237-hp inline four-cylinder turbo. The price—pegged to be around $54,000—is what really stimulates me. Even though Alfa isn’t going to churn out a ton of these cars, the price point makes the 4C accessible to a lot of people. It can and should get a wide range of consumers talking about the brand again, and likely in a good way. If Alfa can follow up the 4C with credible products, its American encore should go far better than its first try in the United States. I think Alfa can have success if the 4C creates a stir from its perch as a halo car, and then the image of that excitement trickles down to other products. We’ve seen Fiat return to the United States, backed by plenty of marketing muscle that positions the 500 and its variants as different and cool. With Fiat, the Italian chic stuff seems forced. With Alfa, it seems natural.
2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Front

2015 Chevrolet Colorado

Bit of a change-up here, eh? But the slightly smaller truck market is pretty thin in the United States. There’s absolutely room for an entry like the Colorado. Sure, this isn’t a true compact truck like the old Ford Ranger was, but if Chevy prices and markets the Colorado properly, it should find an audience. I like how it looks, the turbo four-cylinder diesel sourced from General Motors’ global portfolio is intriguing, and the yet-to-be revealed GMC Canyon could be a slick vehicle in Denali trim.

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