Cadillac has been raising our expectations lately. First, our own Matthew Askari was taken by the elegance and sophistication of the 2013 Cadillac XTS. Then, news director Keith Buglewicz sampled the BMW 3 Series fighter known as the 2013 Cadillac ATS, and came away impressed. Now, Cadillac has introduced the next generation of its major moneymaker, the 2014 Cadillac CTS. Again, we are impressed. Caddy has moved the CTS upmarket, targeting the BMW 5 Series instead of the no-man's land between that and the BMW 3 Series that the previous CTS occupied. The result is a bigger, more elegant car, one boasting good rear seat room, an comfortable driver's cockpit, and a choice of some pretty awesome engines, including a 420-horsepower twin-turbo V-6 connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This one is definitely on our short list of "must drives."Stud: 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 What's significant about the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 isn't that Chevy made the car. The parts were there all along; it just took some time to put them all together. No, what's really significant is that Chevy is getting back to its roots with the model. This isn't the choice of be-mulleted high-school dropouts anymore; erase those "IROC-Z" memories from the '80s. No, this is what the Z/28 was supposed to be all along: A barely street-legal, stripped down, crazy-powerful version of the Camaro that you buy when you want to race. Can you drive it on the street? Sure you can. Would you be crazy to? Yes, you would. Stud: 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Mercedes-Benz calls its high-performance division AMG, and the sub-brand has become synonymous with groundbreakingly powerful, fun to drive, and expensive vehicles. But with the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG, the "expensive" part is falling by the wayside. Under the sexy sheetmetal is a 355-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder driving all four wheels. The engine is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and the suspension is tuned to extract maximum handling from the chassis. Yet all of this can be yours for $47,450. Yes, that's still pricey, but consider this: Until the CLA45, the least expensive AMG you could get was the C63 AMG, which costs just under $60,000. This new AMG opens up the brand to a whole new price bracket, and we think they're going to be very happy with what they find. Stud: Subaru WRX Concept It's common practice these days for automakers to slap the "concept" moniker on cars we know full well to be nearly production-ready. That's the case with the Subaru WRX Concept. Despite the dramatic headlights, tiny mirrors, and lack of things like door handles, this is pretty close to what we'll see when the production version of the Subaru WRX goes into production in the next year or so. The WRX is a rally-inspired, turbocharged, all-wheel-drive high-performance version of the Subaru Impreza. It's also a significant vehicle for the company. The WRX has a cult following--our own Jason Davis owns one--and this next WRX has some pretty big shoes to fill. Of course, this is still a concept, so we don't know particulars like horsepower or how much it'll cost. But we're guessing that the lines at Subaru dealerships are going to be pretty long. Stud: 2015 Volkswagen Golf Like virtually every successive Golf before it, the seventh-generation 2015 Volkswagen Golf doesn't look a lot different from its predecessor. It has the same basic proportions, the same rearmost window pillar shape, the same basic grille, etc. It's obviously a Volkswagen from first glance, and that's just what the company wants. But what's under the skin of this new car is what lands it here on our Studs list. Volkswagen is finally ditching its 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, swapping it for a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder for the standard engine. The new car's at least 200 pounds less than its predecessor; combined with the engines, it could make the new Golf a fuel-economy leader, and that's before considering the new diesel engine. Inside, Volkswagen has upped the features, including a new and much bigger touchscreen as standard equipment across the board. Throw in active safety systems like the automatic braking system, and you have all the makings of a new class leader. Dud: 2014 Kia Soul When the Kia Soul first came out several years ago, it was a groundbreaking vehicle for the brand. The funky styling and quirky marketing campaign--dancing hip-hop hamsters?--resonated, and the little Kia hatchback became the company's bestseller. The second-generation 2014 Kia Soul is all new, but you'd never know it by looking, and we think that's the problem. The reason the first Soul was so important for Kia, and why it sold so well, is because it wasn't anything like any other Kia available at the time. It was new, hip, funky, and cool. The new one is...the same thing, just with improved engines and an admittedly better interior. We think the Soul should stay groundbreaking, and that by playing it safe, Kia is missing the very point it was trying to make with the original. Dud: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage Mitsubishi is at a serious crossroads with its car sales in the U.S. The company's sales have declined steadily over the past couple years, and despite being the world's sole source of Outlander Sport models, Mitsubishi's prospects in the U.S. are dim. The company needs something. Something big. Something attention-grabbing. Something that isn't the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage. Granted, the little Mitsu's projected fuel economy numbers look pretty good; 40 mpg is nothing to sneeze at. But other automakers have learned that fuel economy on its own doesn't move the sheetmetal. The Chevy Spark, one of the Mirage's closest competitors, has styling in extreme. Although we're not huge fans of the car, the Scion iQ is at least interesting to look at. Heck, even the Toyota Prius C has clever styling touches. The Mirage is just rolling blandness that not even the car's red paint can liven up. Dud: 2014 Scion tC The Scion tC is one of those cars that is a perennial disappointment. In a vacuum it's fine, with front-wheel drive, decent power, good cargo space and a reasonable price. But as the sporty edition of the Scion lineup, it just doesn't live up to the hype. Sadly, the 2014 Scion tC doesn't seem to really change this much. It has the same engine, the same interior, and the same lack of pizazz as its predecessor. Granted, the styling is updated, and it looks pretty nice. But overall, the tC is still lost in the shadow of its rear-wheel-drive stablemate, the Scion FR-S.
2013 New York Auto Show: Studs and Duds
The 2013 New York Auto Show press days are over, and after a weekend to reflect on what we saw in New York City's Javits Center, we've distilled the dozens of debuts into our list of the best and worst. We call it Studs and Duds, and it's all pretty simple. To be a Stud, a car has to move the goalposts, grab our attention, or otherwise reset our expectations for that vehicle, and maybe even the whole segment. They're not always the flashiest or fastest cars, but the ones that make us sit back, and keep an eye on them. Duds, on the other hand, do the opposite. They aren't necessarily bad cars, but cars that just miss the mark somehow. Maybe they don't advance the state-of-the-art enough. Sometimes they don't change enough from one model cycle to the next. And, yes, sometimes they're just not very good. Stud: 2014 Cadillac CTS
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