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2013 Toronto Auto Show: The five most interesting cars

Two massive exhibition halls, over 46,400 square metres of display areas, and $30 million-plus in cars — not counting the one-off concepts or the classics, some of which are virtually irreplaceable. Which among them stand out?

With show areas dedicated to custom hot rods, classics, exotics, and even sport compacts, it’s a tough call. Let’s for a moment narrow the focus to include only the production models, or concepts realistically slated for production; it’s still a large group. Based on what’s confirmed as of press time, allow let me share my eclectic top five most interesting new (or near future) vehicles at this year’s Canadian International AutoShow.

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2014 Mazda6 Clean Diesel

What? A family car on a “most interesting” list? Yes, because the 2014 Mazda6 will be the first non-German diesel passenger car available in this country or the U.S. since the terrible, we’d-rather-you-forgot-about-them diesels foisted on the market by over-eager U.S., Japanese, and, yes, even German automakers, in the early 1980’s. (Chevrolet is showing a diesel Cruze in Chicago, but it won’t make it to Toronto in time for the Show).

Since then, the VW Group, Mercedes, and BMW have pretty much had a lock on diesel-power on this side of the Atlantic — outside of the odd Jeep and ¾-ton and larger trucks, that is.

Diesels are hugely popular in Europe, accounting for around 50 per cent of all new car sales. I’ve had a chance to drive a Euro-spec Mazda6 with the new 2.2-litre Skyactiv-D diesel engine, and it’s a gem. Provided Mazda prices it right, Volkswagen should be worried.

Hyundai HCD-14 Genesis Concept

Important for what it represents, Hyundai’s HCD-14 Genesis concept may or may not foretell a production model. It is not likely to be the next generation Genesis sedan. My guess is that it indicates Hyundai’s desire to produce a four-door coupe in the fashion of Mercedes’ CLS and Audi’s A7, possibly as an expansion of the company’s premium Genesis model range.

While the HDC-14’s styling cues (lighting, grille shape, character lines) might be incorporated into future Hyundais, the recent appointment of Kia’s Peter Schreyer as Chief Design Officer for both Kia and Hyundai could change that too.

Let’s hope the concept’s unique eye-tracking and gesture recognition control interface never sees the light of day; it’s clever, but potentially too distracting.

Lexus LF-CC Concept

Officially a concept vehicle, it’s clear that there’s a close resemblance between Lexus’ LF-CC and the 2014 Lexus IS sedans unveiled in Detroit last month. It would be very little stretch, therefore, to suggest that the LF-CC is a fair representation of what the next two-door IS model might look like, whether it is a hard-top cabrio (like the current generation), a fixed-roof coupe, or both.

Whether you like the new “spindle” grille or not, you have to admit that Lexus can no longer be accused of damning all of its models with bland, conservative styling. I quite like the LF-CC’s dramatic profile.

The LF-CC is a hybrid, incorporating a new 2.5 litre four cylinder engine. As the larger Lexus GS 450h hybrid uses a 3.5 litre V6, this makes sense as a future IS powertrain option. I’d expect 2.5 and 3.5 litre V6 versions short-term.

2013 SRT Viper

The Viper returns, fresh from some time spent at finishing school, where it learned new manners and picked up a healthy dose of civility and creature comforts. It even has stability control now! (It had to; it’s now required by law).

No longer a Dodge, the Viper is now part of Chrysler’s SRT performance division, under the care of brand president and CEO, Ralph Gilles.

Don’t think the Viper’s gone soft, though — Ralph wouldn’t allow that. Under its carbon-fibre clamshell hood, beneath a new aluminum X-brace, is 8.4 litres of angry V10, good for a near-ludicrous 640 hp and 600 lb-ft of earth-rotating torque. When not painting 355 mm-wide strips of Pirelli rubber, the Viper can hurl itself to 100 km/h in approximately 3.5 seconds, cling to corners with over 1.0 g of grip, and power its way to a claimed 331 km/h top speed. Not soft, indeed.

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

Chevrolet’s Corvette undergoes its most substantial generational change since the high-tech “C4” Vette replaced the long-nosed ’82 model for the 1984 model year, gaining the vaunted “Stingray” moniker in the process. The 2014 “C7” Vette’s dimensions are almost unchanged, but the car’s overall appearance is considerably different from last year; this despite sharing several traditional Corvette design cues, like the front fender vents and quad taillights.

Those LED lights alone will have purists weeping — not round, oval, or even rounded squares; they’re more like mutated rhomboids. As compensation, even die-hard Vette-heads will appreciate the massive improvements made to the car’s interior design and quality.

A fifth-generation small-block V8 displacing 6.2 litres cranks out an estimated 450 horses/450 lb-ft of torque (good for predicted sub-4 second sprints to 100 km/h), while direct-injection, variable displacement, and 6 (auto) or 7-speed (manual) transmissions improve fuel efficiency by up to 20 per cent.

  • 2013 Toronto Auto Show: The five most interesting cars
  • 2013 Toronto Auto Show: The five most interesting cars

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