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Budget Benzes and bite-sized Audis steal the spotlight at the New York Auto Show

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With thousands of square feet packed with the latest and greatest cars from automakers across the globe, we did our best to pluck out the strongest, techiest, and downright awesomest debuts at the 2013 New York Auto Show. 

2014 Cadillac CTS: Cadillac looks to liberate luxury and performance from Germany’s iron grip

We have been saying it a lot lately but it bears repeating: Cadillac is on a roll. Following the release of the 2013 ATS, a car many – ourselves included – felt was a true challenger to BMWs performance sedan, Cadillac has gone and dropped a bigger, bolder, and badder CTS.

We almost feel sorry for Cadillac, competing in a segment that houses perennial performance powerhouses like BMW, Mercedes, and Audi. Developing a car that will engage customers aesthetically and with top-tier performance is no easy task against that kind of competition but it seems like the American luxury marquee has learned from its past mistakes and is trying to become a true contender in the performance luxury space.

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With the same rear-wheel architecture, a stunning new front fascia with dramatic new daytime running lights, and an all-new twin turbo V6 option producing 420 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque, it appears Cadillac’s 2014 CTS will – at least on paper – take the fight to the Germans like never before.

Needless to say, it was easily one of the best looking cars on the show floor and one that we’re incredibly excited to drive.

2014 CLA 45 AMG: Mercedes’ budget Benz gets a boost

Whitney Houston sang that children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way. It would appear that the bigwigs at Mercedes are taking that lesson to heart. Except for Mercedes, children translates to young drivers and the future, well… the future is the 2014 CLA250 and (hopefully) an infusion of younger buyers into the Mercedes-Benz brand.

While we’re thrilled Mercedes is taking a gamble developing an affordable (sub-$30,000), front-wheel drive car a la the CLA250, it’s the debut of the 2014 CLA 45 AMG that has our engines redlining.

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With AMG’s performance-obsessed paws on the CLA, a number of standard tweaks have been made. For starters, AMG has done away with the front-wheel drive option and added 4MATIC all-wheel drive as standard.

That turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four nestled inside the CLA250 has also been massaged by AMG to yield an improved 355 hp and 332 lb.ft of torque and a 0-60 sprint speed of 4.5 seconds.

Let’s not forget a host of aggressive styling tweaks (those red brake calipers look devilishly delicious) and a number of driver assistance technologies and we’re left asking who wants to go halfsies on the $47,450 sticker price?

2014 Range Rover Sport: Land Rover’s versatile SUV is packing the right amount of style, sophistication, and sauciness

There was a slight guilty feeling during Land Rover’s unveiling of its 2014 Range Rover Sport. This is a car that is beyond opulent, and it’s expensive, to the tune of $80,000, which buys a supercharged V8 version piece of British made sheet-metal that is oh so impressive. And one we felt compelled to jump in Dukes of Hazard-style and head for the border.

And really, could you blame us? The Range Rover Sport has been built from the ground up with style, performance, and comfort as its main pillars. Hell, there is an available champagne chiller!

But that’s not what makes this hotel on wheels worthy of our list.

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The Range Rover Sport is packing a number of driver assistance technologies we simply can’t wait to test out. A new traffic sign recognition system that utilizes a forward facing camera and a number of front-mounted sensors interface with the car’s LCD instrument cluster to provide driver’s with a wealth of information such as road closures, passing regulations, and posted speed limits.

An enhanced version of Range Rover’s adaptive cruise control system is also included, which Land Rover says will be able to bring the car to a complete stop during traffic.

But perhaps more impressively is the new 510hp supercharged V8 that will rocket the Range Rover to 60 from a standstill in less than five seconds.

2014 Cherokee:  Change is good but oh so scary 

The problem with change is that not everyone is accepting of it. Case in point: the 2014 Jeep Cherokee.

Pictures of the Cherokee leaked ahead of the New York Auto Show debut and it was – unsurprisingly – met with a lot of criticism.

However, bringing back an iconic car like the Cherokee is never easy. And dramatically changing up its styling is even less so, so credit to Jeep for possessing the ball-bearings to release such a forward-thinking design in spite of more than a few naysayers.

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Beyond its (arguable) good looks, the 2014 Cherokee seems to be built with the utmost attention to off-road ability and ride comfort.

Jeep has raised the vehicles ground clearance, thrown in a suite of driver assistance technologies (including a nifty sounding park assist system), and added a number of engines to match different performance needs.

2015 A3 Sedan: Audi’s next big thing isn’t big at all

A 900-year old puppet once said that “size matters not.” And he just might be right.

Audi, clearly feeling one with the force, rolled out its diminutive 2015 A3 sedan and performance-oriented S3 variant this week. And while they might be small, both cars could have big repercussions not just for Audi but the luxury space in general.

The compact luxury segment looks to be the next big battleground for automakers.

Mercedes-Benz is trying to increase volume and sales by bringing younger customers to the brand with the more accessible (read: affordable) CLA-Class.

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But where Mercedes-Benz is positioning the CLA as a budget Benz, Audi says the A3 sedan is every bit as luxurious as any other model in its stable, despite its expected sub-$30,000 price tag.

While we have no issues with hatchbacks, the A3 has always been our least favorite of Audi’s lineup. (Audi, if you’re reading this, we’re still waiting on that R8, please.)

Essentially, the 2015 A3 is a bite-sized A4, sporting the same shield grille, LED underliner, and dramatic lines pinching at every corner.

It’s meant to slot in between the current A3 and the A4, measuring 6.6-inches longer than the former and 10-inches shorter than the latter.

Adding to Audi’s proclamation that the 2015 A3 is every bit as sophisticated as any other model, the A3 will come with 4G LTE connectivity, a new touch-sensitive screen located above the rotary controller (similar to interfaces seen in newer BMW and Lexus systems) and a 7-inch LCD screen that electronically comes out of the center stack a la the 2013 A8.

Of course this wouldn’t be an Audi without Google integration, which is why the 2015 A3 will also support Google Local Search and Google Earth 3D satellite imagery.

We were especially thrilled to learn that following the release of the standard 1.8-liter TFSI turbocharged four-cylinder and 2.0-liter gasoline version, Audi is throwing diesel lovers a bone with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder.

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