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Performance and Prestige: Fast, fun and famous rides designed to impress

2014 Jaguar F-Type


How the best are evaluated: Choosing the car of the year no easy feat



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The cars below are contenders in the Sports/Performance and Prestige categories for the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada's testing for Canadian Car of the Year. The Sports/Performance category is listed first, followed by the Prestige vehicles.

2014 Jaguar F-Type Jaguar Jaguar  

1. Jaguar F-Type V-6 S

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$105,100 as tested

It may seem like this group would be a three-way battle between the Jaguar F-Type, Chevrolet Corvette and Porsche Cayman, all tasty two-seat sports cars with tremendous enthusiast appeal, but that's not quite how it all shook out, at least on my score card – which may be very different from their eventual amalgamated scores. Mine had the pricey but lovely F-Type V-6 S on top, the only convertible in the group, for its overall symphony of classy exterior and interior design, melodious but tame-able Sport exhaust, and fine dynamic moves, all leading up to major emotional appeal. (Michael Bettencourt)

2014 Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-Benz  

2. Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG S 4MATIC

$116,700 as tested

The priciest vehicle in this group, this top-line E 63 AMG did everything well. Its all-wheel-drive and turbocharged 577-hp V-8 engine helped it accelerate quickest to 100 km/h (in 4.1 seconds), while its four doors and roomy back seat gave it extra interior and roominess points. It even braked second-hardest from 100km/h, just behind the Corvette, so impressive for a large, heavy mid-size sport sedan. (MB)

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2014 Chevrolet Corvette General Motors General Motors  

3. Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

$70,410 as tested

There is no four-wheeled vehicle on the market that provides as much dynamic performance for the dollar as the Chevrolet Corvette. Even with about 18 grand worth of options, this loaded Z51-package-equipped Corvette came in at the low end of the price scale here. Its 450-hp V-8 leads to scrambles for traction occasionally, especially when damp. Its brutish athletic prowess is on full display with its group-topping 80-120 km/h time of 3.2 seconds, and braking that blew away its sporting group mates. But its loudness and incivility also cost it refinement and NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) points. (MB)

2014 BMW 4-Series BMW BMW  

4. BMW 4-Series Coupe

$64,650 as tested

The shapely BMW 4-Series was a solid all-around performer, with a smart interior, impeccable refinement and a lovely manual transmission. It excelled at offering differing levels of sportiness, between the Eco Pro (maximum fuel economy), Comfort, Sport and Sport+ settings, all of them easily dialled up. It's quicker than those that finished below it, but it's not a vehicle that wows you with its performance, as do the models above. (MB)

2014 Porsche Cayman Porsche Porsche  

5. Porsche Cayman 2.7

$62,720 as tested

How can the hardtop brother of the Porsche Boxster that won this category and placed in the top three in overall AJAC Canadian Car of Tthe Year last year end up in second-last place in its group for 2014? Well, it speaks to the quality of the competition this year, but also to a curious strategy, as all Caymans arrived with few options. This left the interior looking relatively barren, its oomph at the back of the pack, relying on its extraordinary handling and lowest price for a big final score. (MB)

2014 Mercedes-Benz E 350 4MATIC Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-Benz  

6. Mercedes-Benz E 350 4Matic Coupe

$70,500 as tested

The all-wheel-drive E 350 4Matic two-door is a good-looking, luxurious and comfortable four-seater, but it's outgunned in muscle and sporting comportment in this august group. Being mid-pack in price and down at the bottom in performance is never a good combination, but when you're judging sports and performance cars, its focus on style and comfort likely won't help it climb very high in these rankings. (MB)

***** Best New Prestige Car (Over $75,000) *****

2014 Mercedes-Benz S 550 Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-Benz  

1. Mercedes S-Class

$139,650 as tested

The class is called Prestige; these are vehicles bought for the message they send about the owner, their reputation and the expectation they will have the latest and best of everything. The big Benz excels at all of those and has traditionally introduced technologies that filter down to "lesser" vehicles. This one is no different with a host of gadgets that boggle the mind including the ability to start, stop and steer itself with no driver input. (Richard Russell)

2014 Jaguar XJR Jaguar Jaguar  

2. Jaguar XJ XJR

$124,289 as tested

What a beauty, this Jaguar got my vote for Best Design. Inside and out, this is a designer's delight and exceptional in not only appearance, but the materials used and their application. The brakes are awesome and the Supercharged V-8 delivers a beautiful bellow and pack-leading performance. I gave the XJR high marks for design, driving position, throttle response and ride comfort. It did not lead or trail in any single area. (RR)

2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid Porsche Porsche  

3. Porsche Panamera S e-hybrid

$134,825 as tested

You can go 10-12 kilometres on electric power alone, or use the extra juice to stick with the more powerful competition while absolutely shellacking them at the fuel pump. This is a Porsche so the steering, brakes and driving dynamics are class-leading. The hatchback design appears to allow for loads of cargo space. However, the height is restricted with the hatch in place, so useable space is lowest among this group. (RR)

2014 Cadillac XTS General Motors General Motors  

4. Cadillac XTS

$77,035 as tested

This is what I would call an old-school Cadillac – big and ponderous compared to the others in this match; it is hardly a driver's car – that role falls to the exciting new CTS. The other issue is that Cadillac has not yet returned to the level of respect it once garnered and, in the Prestige category, reputation and respect are the name of the game. A big, comfortable and well-built and equipped luxury car, the XTS also boasts a price tag at least $50,000 less than the others. That fact alone makes it competitive with the way scores are computed. (RR)

2014 Land Rover Range Rover Land Rover Land Rover  

5. Range Rover Supercharged

$127,375 as tested

This is a strange category in that there are a raft of sleek four-door luxury sedans that behave like sports sedans. The big, boxy Range Rover is so different in so many respects it hardly belongs in this competition. But, in terms of prestige, this RR ranks right near the top among those who cherish the ruggedness and capability of this brand. And, let there be no doubt, it is as luxurious as any of the others. (RR)

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