We narrowed the field down to five nominees for the 2014 Tech Car of the Year award at the beginning of December, and now CNET’s judges have weighed in on our final choices. There were some strong contenders, making a unanimous choice difficult, but there can only be one…
Winner: BMW i8
This car represents a marvel of innovative engineering. Carbon fiber in its construction not only keeps the weight down, but cheaper production of this material could make it a standard for cars of the future. BMW took a risk with the design, putting something on the road that looks like it should still bear a concept label. LED headlights make for another important touch, along with a head-up display and driver assistance features. Judge Tim Stevens noted that “it’s undoubtedly one of the most interesting new cars on the road.”
With an electric motor driving the front wheels and a compact gasoline engine at the rear, the i8 combines all-wheel drive with plug-in hybrid fuel efficiency. However, in the same car you can experience a thrilling driving experience, eating up corners with this nimble ultimate driving machine. Judge Wayne Cunningham notes that the i8 “is an extraordinary technical achievement.”
Finally, BMW’s iDrive cabin electronics system sneaks in an impressive roster of connected features. The car comes with its own data connection powering online destination search and built-in apps. iDrive gets expanded features through the ConnectedDrive app on a driver’s smartphone, bringing in everything from social media to online music.
The Audi A3 came in as our favorite runner-up, embodying near-perfect connected cabin tech, but its drivetrain didn’t represent a significant advance. Also up for serious consideration was the Infiniti Q50S Hybrid, an amazing technical achievement with its drive-by-wire steering and efficient gasoline-electric drivetrain. Fan favorite the Tesla Model S made the nominees list for its impressive drivetrain, but when we reviewed the 2014 P85 Plus model earlier this year we didn’t find much advancement in its cabin electronics, and it still lacked any driver assistance features. Tesla’s recent update of the Model S addresses some of those issues, so we will likely be reconsidering it for next year. The Ford Fusion Energi made our nominee list for its excellent driver assistance features and economical plug-in hybrid drivetrain, but its cabin tech couldn’t carry it over the top.
Read more: CNET