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Best Car To Buy 2014 winners: Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG, Porsche Cayman

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(Read caption) 2012 Cayman S Black Edition. The 2014 model of the Porsche Cayman was named one of Motor Authority's best cars to buy in 2014.

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Fast, stylish, compact, reasonably priced, and incredibly fun, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG is Motor Authority's Best Performance/Luxury Car To Buy 2014. But it was an exceptionally close race.

So close, in fact, that the CLA45 AMG didn't score an outright win. The 2014 Porsche Cayman is also our Best Car To Buy 2014. But only one car can truly be "best," right?

Not exactly. This isn't Highlander.

In fact, if they weren't all head-to-head, each of the eight nominees could have taken the Best Car To Buy title--2014 has given us an embarrassment of riches. But two cars stood out so strongly in our testing that we felt we had to give the nod to both. Three other cars were incredibly close: the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, the 2014 Jaguar F-Type, and the 2014 Audi RS 7. In truth, you can't go wrong with any of the nominees. 

The 2014 Porsche Cayman is the very quintessence of sports car handling and styling, so magically good that we simply never tire of driving it, whether manual or PDK, whether base model or Cayman S. It's a symphony of everything that's right in the modern sports car, playing your heartstrings like Yo Yo Ma on a Stradivarius. But the Cayman is essentially the roofed version of last year's Best Car To Buy winner, the Boxster. So we're also including an all-new car to give you an alternative--and a well-rounded one at that.

If the Cayman is a symphony, Mercedes-Benz's 2014 CLA45 AMG, is a rock-star supergroup, jamming for all it's worth. Luxury, style, performance, and handling come together in a balance where each element stands out, but the whole is still somehow greater than the sum of its parts. As we noted in our nomination, the CLA45 AMG isn't the most of anything on this list--but it is the most of everything.

Going purely by the numbers, each of our eight nominees rule the charts in one aspect or another. But picking the Best Car To Buy isn't just about the hard data--otherwise, a computer would determine the result. This award is about each car bringing its data to the party, but our editors picking the right one (or two) for you to go home with.

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG

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So what makes the Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG a keeper? The masterful combination of its many aspects into a relative-bargain price bracket. All-wheel drive means you can use it all year, even if you live in the snow belt.

Four seats and four doors mean you can bring friends (or your kids) with you--while there's not a ton of space in the rear, it's more than the Cayman, Corvette, or F-Type offer.

The turbocharged 2.0-liter engine's 355 horses make it the most powerful production four-cylinder on the planet--and each one is hand-built by a single builder at the plant in Affalterbach.

Elegant four-door coupe styling, with AMG's added touches, mean you will look like you spent considerably more than the $48,375 price of entry.

But most of all, the CLA45 is the kind of car that commutes in comfort, but never fails to inspire a face-splitting grin. It is, quite possibly, the best all-around, attainable, everyday enthusiast car we've driven.

The 2014 Porsche Cayman

As specialist to the CLA45's generalist, the Porsche Cayman is surgical--but never clinical. Laser-like reflexes, some of the best electric power steering assist in the world, and an inherently balanced chassis with the engine where it should be--right in the middle--give it the genes for success.

Like all gifted athletes, however, it takes more than just the raw materials. Porsche has graced the Cayman with not only cutting-edge engineering, but with the expert tuning and fun-loving attitude that it has, for more than a half-century, built its name upon. Scrabbling for grip at every apex, slinging out of corners with throttle-steerable ease, hanging on the driver's every input, the Cayman seems to know what you want the moment you want it.

In the Cayman, the driver and the machine truly become one.

Unlike many cars that angle for headlines with show-stopping horsepower figures or radical acceleration, the Cayman satisfies itself (and the driver) with figures that are fairly average--even the four-door CLA45 AMG gets to 60 mph within a few tenths of the Cayman.

With the Cayman, it's not about getting there, or anywhere, in particular. It's about how you get there, and how you feel as you do. In fact, the sense you get while driving the Cayman is the reason so many of us spend hours in our cars on weekends and afternoons only to end up right where we started. It's the reason so many of us came to love cars and driving in the first place.

And in the Cayman, it's all included in the list price, fresh from the showroom floor.

They say money can't buy happiness, but it can sure can buy a Cayman, and for us, that's the same thing. 

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