The global car market is struggling with a still-weak economy, but it's certainly not lacking in the number of truly excellent vehicles available, many of them all-new for the 2014 model year. We've taken the time to consult the performance and quality ratings at The Car Connection, as well as our own tastes and experiences, to compile this list of some of the absolute best hardware your money can buy right now.
Not everyone will be able to afford a brand-new Rolls-Royce or Aston Martin, however, so we've broken the list up into price ranges, spanning the under-$40,000 club and climbing to the champagne-wishes-and-caviar-dreams-o-sphere.
Each car is accompanied by a photo and links to first drive reports and The Car Connection's full review (if available). Which would you pick? Which car didn't make the list that you think should? Let us know in the comments.
2014 Scion FR-S
2014 Scion FR-S / 2014 Subaru BRZ [Full reviews: FR-S / BRZ]
These wily sports car twins have re-set the barometer for affordable, fun-to-drive possibilities in the modern market. They're not all that new for 2014, but a range of feature updates improve their value while retaining all of their simple charm.
2013 BMW 320i
2014 BMW 320i [Full review: 3-Series]
Though it's the most de-contented of the 3-Series range, the 320i represents an incredible bargain--all of the F30's engineering and most of the performance for a very affordable starting price. For the enthusiasts, there's even the possibility of tuning the car to 328i performance levels and beyond.
2014 Porsche Cayman
2014 Porsche Cayman [Full review: Cayman]
As we note in our video preview, the 2014 Cayman is a gorgeous little two-door, and it benefits from all of the proven performance of Porsche's chassis and handling engineers.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG leaked photos
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG [Full review: CLA Class]
The 2014 Mercedes CLA45 AMG is one of the most intriguing new entries to the luxury and performance world for 2014, with a very potent turbocharged four-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive wrapped in a sleek and modern body--for a relative bargain price tag.
2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray first drive
2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray [Full review: Corvette Stingray]
The Corvette is back for its seventh generation, and this is the best ever. For performance in the under-$60,000 segment, there are few cars to rival the new Stingray.
2014 Cadillac CTS Live Photos
2014 Cadillac CTS [Full review: CTS]
Beautifully styled, offering a new and very potent Vsport twin-turbo V-6 model, and up-sized to better compete toe-to-toe with the Germans, the new Cadillac CTS promises to take the American brand to new heights.
2014 Porsche Cayman S live photos, 2012 L.A. Auto Show
2014 Porsche Cayman S [Full review: Cayman S]
Like its less-potent base Cayman variant, the Porsche Cayman S delivers eye-catching looks in a well-handling package, but promises an edgier driving experience with more power and performance-based features.
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport [Full review: Range Rover Sport]
Eminently urbane yet still backwoods-capable, the Range Rover Sport balances luxury, performance, and utility in a way few manufacturers manage. It's also all-new and much improved in many respects. Check out the full review for all the details.
2014 Jaguar F-Type
2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S [Full review: F-Type]
Roaring sound, rocket-like thrust, and stunning visuals give the Jaguar F-Type the visceral appeal of an authentic sports car in a way none of the brand's cars have for 40 years or more.
2014 Tesla Model S
2014 Tesla Model S [Full review: Model S]
Undoubtedly the best all-around electric car on the market, and a very good performance sedan--regardless of powertrain type--the Tesla Model S continues to impress with its acceleration, its sleek style, and its ability to turn heads and wag tongues.
2014 Maserati Quattroporte
2014 Maserati Quattroporte [Full review: Quattroporte]
Completely redesigned for the 2014 model year, a new turbocharged powertrain line and passionate Italian design give the Quattroporte a sense of panache and exclusivity you can't find in other marques at this price point.
2014 Mercedes-Benz S Class
2014 Mercedes-Benz S600 & S63 AMG [Full review: S Class]
Whether you're after a twin-turbo V-12 as found in the 2014 S600, or a brutally effective twin-turbo V-8 as found in the S63 AMG, the upper tier of the 2014 S Class range continues to impress with performance, as well as the reputation for high-tech innovation the model line has built over the past several decades.
2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo Executive
2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo Executive [Full review: Panamera]
Subtly redesigns are Porsche's hallmark, and while the new Panamera doesn't look all that different from the last model, many changes are present beneath the surface, including the addition of a new, efficient, yet sporty Panamera S E-Hybrid which ticks almost all of the boxes on what a luxury/performance sedan of the future should look like.
2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S first drive, Bilster-Berg, August 2013
2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S
The latest generation of the Porsche 911 won Motor Authority's Best Car To Buy award when it was launched in 2012, and now that the Turbo and Turbo S models have joined the fold, the true potential of the new 911 chassis is revealed: this is one shockingly fast, supremely easy-to-drive supercar.
2014 Aston Martin Rapide S
2014 Aston Martin Rapide S [Full review: Rapide S]
Wrapped in long, flowing lines that look more sports car than sedan, the four-door Aston Martin Rapide S manages to feel as sporty as its two-door/two-seat brand mates, while reveling in the comfort and luxury that's synonymous with the brand's image--and unlike much of the competition, you're not likely to find a half-dozen in the parking lot of your favorite night-time hangout.
2014 Bentley Flying Spur
2014 Bentley Flying Spur [Full review: Flying Spur]
The 2014 Bentley Flying Spur drops the Continental name but exceeds its predecessor in nearly every respect. Luxurious to the point of opulence, fast, and fantastically equipped, the Flying Spur is one of the most refined ways to travel.
2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith
2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith [Full review: Wraith]
Rolls-Royce's most powerful car ever, the Wraith is without a real peer group. Bentley's Continental GT Speed might offer similar performance and space, but the Wraith's unique (and sumptuously extravagant) take on hyper-luxury is without any direct analogue.