It's never too early to see what's under the hood for the world's car makers. Because of the peculiarities of the industry, some 2014 models have already been shown at auto shows like Paris and Frankfurt, or pictures have been released in advance of other shows like Los Angeles (in November) and Detroit (January).
Manufacturers like to keep new models under wraps until the very last minute, lest they steal sales from outgoing models, but sometimes complex logistics or simply corporate flag-waving take precedence over sales tactics.
For those who can't wait for the official start of the 2014 model year on October 1, 2013, here is a peek at some of the all-new cars and crossovers that will be emerging from design studios and engineering centers.
2014 BMW i3
Unlike any BMW you have ever seen, the compact hatchback i3 is made of lightweight yet super-strong carbon fiber -- the same stuff used in the fuselage of the 787 Dreamliner. More importantly, the i3 is BMW's first all-electric car. Its range is said to be around 100 miles, and anxious drivers can add a small motorcycle-like gasoline engine that extends the EV to 190 miles. The i3 is expected to go on sale late in 2013 for about $45,000. Production versions will have doors that are solid, rather than transparent below the beltline.
2014 Mini Cooper Paceman
Mini has wrought six variations of its basic design since 2001, and here comes the seventh. Think of the Paceman as a two-door version of the four-door Countryman: The dimensions are nearly identical, and both have all-wheel drive. Anglophiles will note that with its sloping roofline and British heritage, the Paceman resembles a mini Range Rover Evoque. The first ships from the British Isles bearing Pacemans (Pacemen?) arrive in the U.S. around mid-2013.
2014 Subaru Forester
Is Subaru the next Volvo? The red-hot brand, which also specializes in functional wagons and crossovers, has released pictures of the fourth generation of the popular Forester, one of its best sellers for the past 15 years. Subaru says it is longer, lower, and wider than its predecessor, with more room for passengers and cargo. It's probably unintentional, but the silver bar cutting through the front grille recalls the diagonal slash of Volvos back in the day.
2014 Volkswagen Golf
Longer and wider than its predecessor, the 2014 Golf is 220 pounds lighter too, thanks to the use of weight-saving components and high-strength steel. VW unveiled the seventh iteration of Europe's best selling car at the Frankfurt auto show in October, but the U.S. will have to wait another 15 months before the Golf makes it across the pond. But that's OK. American buyers are in no hurry to purchase hatchbacks like the Golf, so fast-rising VW is in no hurry to make them available until other markets have been satisfied.
2014 Chevrolet Impala
GM hopes to rescue the Impala nameplate from rental-car purgatory with this high-luxe tenth-generation model. Instead of merely building a larger Malibu, engineers used a stretched version of the same platform that underpins Cadillacs and Buicks and tried to give it an upscale appearance inside and out. But despite its aspirations for premium status, the 2014 Impala retains its front-wheel-drive layout and gets an optional four-cylinder engine for the first time.
2014 Porsche Macan
The German high-end sports car maker thumbs its nose at Porsche traditionalists by introducing another SUV with another very un-Teutonic name. Originally known as the Cajun, this entry in the fast-growing compact SUV segment now goes by Macan, the Indonesian word for tiger. Its mechanicals come mainly from elsewhere in the VW family, notably the Audi Q5. But loyalists will be appeased by the Porsche engine options that may include a powerful twin-turbo 370 horsepower V-6.
2014 Acura RLX
Honda's struggling upscale line tries again to develop a memorable flagship, this time with four-wheel steering, all-wheel drive, bushels of electronics, and an optional out-there hybrid powertrain. The Sport Hybrid RLX will feature dual electric motors combined with an all-wheel-drive system that delivers power to both front and rear wheels. Potential customers get a chance to immerse themselves in the Acura's technology early next year.
2014 Jaguar F-type Roadster
Jag gets its first sports car since the demise of the E-type in 1974. Three supercharged engines will be available, and Jaguar ditches its gimmicky dial shifter in favor of a racier and more traditional stick shift. The high-end S model should really roar: The V-8 will put out 495 horses. Figure on paying $92,000 for this version when deliveries start in May.
2014 Cadillac ELR
Based on the same plug-in hybrid powertrain as the Chevrolet Volt, the ELR oozes visual wattage, with proportions and stance that rival a Lamborghini. Production of the luxury coupe alongside the Chevrolet Volt begins late next year at GM's Detroit-Hamtramck plant. Like the Volt, the ELR is expected to go 38 miles per battery charge before a gasoline engine kicks in. Thanks to its slick design, drivers can make a statement about their style and climate change simultaneously.
2014 Aston Martin Vanquish
James Bond drives a '60s-vintage DB5 in Skyfall, but actor Daniel Craig should trade it for the 2014 Vanquish faster than you can say "double-oh-seven." It has a skin of carbon fiber, the V-12 engine puts out 565 horsepower, and the car screams to 62 miles per hour in 4.2 seconds. With a top speed of 190 mph (and a base price of $280,000), even George Lazenby would have had no trouble outrunning Blofeld.
2014 Chevrolet Corvette
The seventh generation of the plastic-bodied sports car is so new that GM is still keeping it under cover. All that has been publicly exposed to date is the redesigned crossed-flag logo and the engine -- a 6.2-liter, 450 hp. V-8. The 2014 Vette redefines "all-new." It has just two carryover parts -- a filter and a latch -- from the previous model, and the Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Ky. will be shut down for six months to get ready to build it. In January, GM pulls back the drapes completely, and production starts in the fall.