For most Canadians, February is a month of hearts and flowers and weather-predicting rodents.
But for those of us with a deep and abiding love for all things automotive, it’s also the time of year when the Canadian International AutoShow — which opens to the public next Friday — rolls into the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
This year, to mark its 40th anniversary, the auto show will celebrate past, present and future with exhibits like Auto Exotica, Eco-Drive and Hot Rod Builders Showcase in addition to the many vehicles making their Canadian debuts.
Here are some highlights from the many manufacturers who will have vehicles on display.
Although the Cadillac ELR extended-range electric vehicle will garner its own fair share of attention, the spotlight will be on the new Chevrolet C7 Corvette. Heralded as the finest Corvette ever produced, the C7 wears the newly-resurrected “Stingray” badge, one of the most revered names in sports car history. In a departure from its blue-collar, muscle-car roots, the C7 has more than a touch of European exotic flair. Lighter, stiffer and now claiming an estimated 9L/100 km from its all-new 450hp 6.2L V8, the Corvette aims to compete against such lofty rivals as the Audi R8 and Porsche 911.
The venerable Econoline has recently been laid to rest after more than 50 years of service and Ford is rolling out a whole new lineup of Transit Connect vans in its stead. Unlike the small European-designed Transit Connect cargo vehicle that arrived here in 2011, the 2014 Transit Connect is offered as a full-size commercial, or 15-passenger Transit Connect Wagon.
Available in long or short wheelbase, with a choice of three roof heights, the Transit will also offer a variety of powertrains — including a 3.2L turbodiesel.
Though it’s unlikely that such a wildly futuristic concept will appear in your dealer showroom any time soon, the HDC-14 Genesis concept indicates a new styling direction for the company’s premium rear-wheel drive cars, while showcasing Hyundai’s interactive technology. The huge carbon-fibre wheels and suicide doors will probably never see the light of day, but high-tech features such as the heads-up display, hand-gesture recognition and an optical tracking system that allows the driver to change such functions as climate or audio just by using his eyes could start showing up on the next crop of Hyundai luxury sedans.
Following their announcement that all Infiniti vehicles henceforth shall be badged “Q” for sedan and “QX” for crossover, Infiniti’s new Q50 sedan is the first to bear the new nomenclature. Described as having a “tight, athletic appearance,” the Q50 features crisp, wavy character lines. Bulging fender flares create visual drama, and the swept-back roofline suggests fluid movement. Available in either rear, or all-wheel-drive, the Q50 has the same wheelbase as the previous G37. Underhood is the 3.7L, 328 hp V6 carried over from the G27, or Infiniti’s Direct Response Hybrid System consisting of a 3.5L V6 combined with an electric motor to produce 354hp.
Chrysler’s riding high after the Ram was named North American Pickup Truck of the Year, and Jeep sales are stronger than ever. Not bad for a company that appeared to be at death’s door just three short years ago.
An all new version of the Grand Cherokee arrives for 2014. Upgrades include an eight-speed automatic transmission, and a new 3.0L diesel from parent company Fiat.
Unveiled in Chicago, the limited edition Mopar Dart is the fourth special edition Mopar vehicle to be created since Chrysler paired with Fiat in 2009.
In addition to their new Crossover sized Paceman, Mini will be introducing the limited production ultra-high performance Mini John Cooper Works GP. The fastest Mini ever to tackle the Nurburgring, the JCW GP features a 211hp twin-scroll turbo-charged engine, fully adjustable coil over suspension and a Brembo brake system. The production run will be limited to 2,000 vehicles worldwide, only 50 of which will be available in Canada.
Probably the most unveiled concept car in history, the NSX is inching that much closer to actual production. Unveiled in Detroit, the NSX II is sure to be on display in Toronto where fans can admire its sleeker, more polished lines — and the addition of a finished interior. Aside from its mid-engine layout, the new NSX bears little resemblance to the original, and will feature an AWD Sport Hybrid drivetrain.
Although many fans will be too busy salivating over the glorious gull-winged SLS AMG to notice, Mercedes Benz will be introducing a small, coupe-like four-door called the CLA. Available in front or all-wheel-drive, the CLA is powered by a 2.0L turbo-charged four cylinder with 208 horsepower. Looking much like a scaled-down version of the CLS premium sedan, the CLA delivers german luxury at a more affordable price — yet still offers a full suite of Mercedes-Benz’s safety technology.
Mere words hardly suffice to describe Toyota’s wildly outrageous Fun-Vii concept. If the immortal sci-fi author Ray Bradbury had been consulted during the conception process, perhaps it would explain this wonderful exercise in the unlimited potential of imagination. Featuring an exterior skin that acts as a digital display, the Fun-Vii (short for “Vehicle, Interactive, Internet”) is a futuristic vehicle for owners to broadcast their personal expressions using colour, pictures and messages. The highly customizable interior boasts a holographic concierge, reality-gaming and vehicle-to-vehicle integration. Configured as a three-seater, the Fun-Vii boasts autonomous driving capability and has a wireless charging system for its fully electric powertrain.
Audi recently unveiled the latest in its arsenal of potent RS models, with the addition of the lovely RS 7 Sportback. Although the RS 7 shares the same twin-turbo, 40L V8 with the S8, it’s been tweaked to produce 560hp and 516 lb. ft. of torque. Turbo lag has been virtually eliminated thanks to the engine’s internal exhaust routing. Despite its prodigious power output and 0-100 km/h in 3.9 second capability, the RS 7 achieves decent fuel economy thanks to its “Cylinder on Demand” deactivation technology.
Probably the most noteworthy change to the BMW lineup is the introduction of a new Coupe concept that’s so different from the existing 3-Series sedan, that BMW decided to name it the 4-series. Long, low and wide, the 4-series has a unique, sloping rear deck featuring L-shaped taillights. Following the same badging hierarchy as the sedan, the 428i will probably receive the 2.0L turbo four-cylinder, with the 435i being powered by the 300 hp turbo straight-six. Slated to replace the 3-Series coupe in fall 2013, the 4-series will offer all-wheel-drive; and perhaps even an AWD convertible.
Unveiled in Detroit as the first entry-level luxury sedan in Kia’s North American lineup, the flagship Cadenza will be more lavishly equipped than the Optima. The clean, subtle lines feature a signature “Tiger Nose” grille and upscale, LED tail lamps. Premium cabin materials include supple leather, and genuine wood trim. The 293 hp Cadenza will boast all the requisite technology systems from navigation with SiriusXM Traffic, an 8.0 inch touch screen, 12-speaker Infinity Sound and Smart Key with push button start.
Continuing a trend established by the success of its Passat, Volkswagen once more targets a popular North American segment with the introduction of a new mid-sized crossover that will take aim at such other family utility vehicles as Nissan’s Pathfinder, Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander.
The VW CrossBlue debuted with a plug-in diesel hybrid powertrain, although a production model would probably be available with either gasoline or VW’s 2.0L TDI turbo-diesel.
There will be three Canadian premieres from Nissan at the Toronto show this year. In addition to the Juke’s high-performance Nismo model and the Versa Note – a five-door, more aerodynamic version of the Versa hatchback, is a new crossover concept called the Resonance. With its unique “floating roof” and knife-edge sharp creases, the Resonance is a hint at how the next generation Murano may appear. Powered by a hybrid electric drivetrain, the Resonance features a high-tech cabin luxuriously finished in leather with wood trim.
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