This week, Greg Zyla compiles his annual review on the Ten Best Test Drives from the 2014 year, which includes both 2014 and 2015 models. Additionally, our yearly review includes ONLY the cars we drove, as 49 different cars/trucks were reviewed. Here then, in order of favorites and/or surprises, are our Ten Best with as tested price included.
1. 2015 Chrysler 200C, $30,475
Our top test drive surprise this year is the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200, which really is “all-new” from finely sculptured front end to economy friendly nine-speed automatic. Chrysler 200 will be a major player in the midsize wars, and offers more value than many of the competitors. Test Drive applauds Chrysler and its parent Fiat for introducing a Detroit built automobile that is worthy of the praise it is receiving.
2. 2014 BWM 328i xDrive GT, $54,950
BMW’s great shifting eight-speed Sport Automatic transmission distributes 240-horses and 258 lb. of torque from a standard 2.0-liter inline-four engine with 10 to 1 compression. The horsepower comes thanks to BMW’s “Twin Power” turbo system and outstanding handling characteristics. This luxury compact is a winner.
3. 2014 Lexus IS F Sedan, $67, 510
With zero to 60 in 4.6 seconds and 416 horses from a 303 cu. in. 5.0-liter V8, Lexis IS F transfers power via an advanced eight-speed paddle shift automatic. Lexus says “F” sport compact models are “born on the track and unleashed on the street.” Test Drive agrees.
4.2014 Volkswagen Passat SEL Premium, $31,575
The Midsize Passat received Motor Trend magazine’s “2012 Car of the Year” award, and corporate now backs that up with this year’s VW Golf “2015 Car Of The Year” award. Passat also scores excellent in reliability reports, another big plus when shopping this market.
5. 2014 Ford Fusion Energi SE, 43,825
This midsize also surprised “Test Drive” as Fusion Energi works on electric, gas or a combination of both. We drove over 500 miles that week and still had a quarter tank of fuel left. Fusion Energi is a five-passenger plug-in hybrid sedan that comes in two trim levels, SE and Titanium, with both utilizing CVT transmissions. Check for great leftover pricing.
6. 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Sedan, $35,695
Honda Hybrid midsize is a better buy than its sibling plug-in, delivering 50 city and 45 highway MPG. Honda’s first-to-market two-passenger Insight came back in 1999, and although it more “go-kart like” compared to modern-day marvels, Honda’s hybrid theory is solid.
7. 2014 Toyota Avalon Limited, $42,785
Full size Avalon delivers impressive exterior and interior refinements and rides on a 1.7-inch longer wheelbase than midsize Camry. Avalons include many of the same amenities as Lexus ES350, the same mechanicals and are built on the exact same platform in Georgetown, Kentucky. Need we say more?
8. 2014 Hyundai Elantra Coupe, $24,735
Founded in 1967 by Korean brothers Chung Ju-yung and Se-yung, Hyundai’s first ever car on USA soil was a 1975 Ford Cortina via a manufacturer co-op agreement. Now 40 years later, Hyundai is one of the most respected standalone builders and even Consumer Reports named compact Elantra, in any dress, one of its top recommended compacts. (Kia Forte is a corporate sibling and also worthy of Top 10 note).
Subaru Outback wagons are some of the best known AWD vehicles in the world, and always succeed in market jammed with competition. Additionally, 2014 end of year deals on Outbacks are noteworthy, as the “all-new” 2015 model is just marginally larger and mostly cosmetic in newness. When it comes to mechanicals, there’s no difference between a 2014 and 2015 Outbacks, which puts a trump card in the buyers hand when negotiating on a leftover.
The full-size Impala is a fine representation of General Motors’ modern-day sedan building abilities. They offer roomy surroundings, a long list of standard equipment and a legacy that dates back to 1958. Consumer Reports magazine rated the 2014 Impala as the very best of all American sedans, regardless of price. Consumer Reports said, “With the release of our latest road tests, the 2014 Chevrolet Impala becomes the highest-scoring sedan in Consumer Reports’ ratings. No other domestic car has topped the sedans ratings since we began tracking scores in that fashion over 20 years ago.”