The seven-model shortlist for Car of the Year 2014 – just revealed – combines adventurous choices and predictability in almost equal measure.
Undoubtedly the most eye-catching finalist, chosen by the competition’s 58 jurors from 22 European countries, is the rule-breaking Tesla Model S, an American-built (though European finished) battery-electric car whose early reviews — not least our own — have been almost universally positive, but whose backing company nevertheless lacks the proven dependability of almost ever other brand in the competition. Jurors have clearly been impressed by the car’s BMW-like driving virtues, plus its great looks and technical promise, and have been prepared to take the claims of its impressive founder, engineer-billionaire Elon Musk, on trust.
Also firmly in the new technology camp is the BMW i3 “efficiency” hatchback, available either as a pure battery machine with an 80-100 mile pure-electric range, or with a range-extending generator engine and a nine-litre fuel tank that doubles its range. Both versions are doing what hybrids and electric cars have so far failed to achieve: invest the economy breed with decent, old-fashioned desirability.
You’d never class the Mercedes S-class as an economy car, though in most versions efficiency most definitely comes with the luxury. And like flagship Mercs back through the generations, this latest edition succeeds in establishing new standards for quality, refinement, agility-with-size, economy-with-size and just about every other worthwhile big-car standard.