Auto News: Moscow Motor Show

Mazda6, Audi R8, Land Rover LR2, Bentley Continental, Chevy Colorado and Kia Sorento and Quoris all unveiled at Moscow show.

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After more than two decades of capitalism, Russians no longer buy only Russian cars. Instead of Ladas or Moscovichs, they now prefer Lamborghinis and Mercedes.

The result? Like other countries with rapidly emerging middle-classes, such as Brazil, India, and China, Russia has become one the fastest-growing new-car markets on the planet.

Vehicle sales in Russia jumped a whopping 39 per cent last year, for a total of 2.6 million units. Sales this year are expected to grow to 2.8 million, almost as large as the German market.

Yes, there still are a handful of Russian brands (such as Lada) on sale here. But foreign brands have fuelled the growth.

The number of world debuts from Asian, European and American automakers at this year’s biennial Moscow show highlights the importance of this market to automakers.

Mazda6 debuts

With a new Russian plant about to open, Mazda further showed its commitment to the local market with the world premiere of its long-awaited 2014 Mazda6.

Like the current model, the mid-size, four-door sedan is front-wheel-drive. But riffing off the well-received Takeri concept car, its styling looks much more upscale.

Expected to arrive in Canada early next year, the Mazda6 is the second Mazda to exclusively offer the Japanese automaker’s new fuel-efficient SkyActiv technologies.

Either a 134 hp 2.0-litre gas engine or a 189 hp 2.5 L unit will power Russian versions.

Audi redesigns its icon

Since 2006, the Audi R8 sports car has been the German brand’s design icon, and a sales success as well.

So when it came time to give the mid-engine, two-seat R8 Coupe and Spyder convertible fresh looks, Audi designers were understandably cautious.

Although several engineering changes have been made, the new R8’s visual changes have been limited to lighting front and rear, and subtle alterations to its styling.

The base R8 with a 430-hp 4.2 L V8 can be ordered with a six-speed manual or a newly optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The autobox is standard fare with the 530-hp V10.

British (sort of) luxury

Jaguar/Land Rover and Bentley are now owned by Indian and German interests — Tata Motors and Volkswagen, respectively. But Russian buyers still love these formerly British brands. And all three made world premieres here.

Bentley says its new performance flagship, the Continental GT Speed coupe, appeals to “driving enthusiasts who place a high value on outright performance and agile handling.” A 329-km/h top speed and 0-96 km/h acceleration time of just 4.0 seconds back that up.

Land Rover’s LR2 compact SUV (known as the Freelander outside North America) gets its first refresh since going on-sale for 2008.

The updated interior and exterior styling follow the style of the new Range Rover Evoque.

The four-door LR2 also chucks its naturally aspirated 230-hp 3.2 L six in favour of the Evoque’s more powerful and fuel-efficient 240-hp turbocharged 2.0 L four.

If not as rugged off-road as the Land Rover 4X4, Jaguar debuted a new all-wheel-drive system for its XF mid-size and XJ full-size sedans.

Chevy trucks on a roll

Following its success in China, General Motors is looking for similar results in Russia.

“As the fourth-largest market for Chevrolet, Russia has become a priority for General Motors,” says Jim Bovenzi, president and managing director of GM Russia.

To that end, Chevrolet debuted its new Colorado small pickup, and the truck’s sister model, the new Trailblazer SUV.

Based on GM’s new global body-on-frame platform, the company says the Colorado was developed across five continents for customers in more than 60 markets. Canada will be one of those markets, but the seven-passenger Trailblazer has not been confirmed for us yet.

Double debut for Kia

The first of two world debuts from the Korean automaker was a redesigned Sorento crossover, with new styling front and rear, a much-nicer interior, a new three-mode steering system, and a re-jigged suspension.

The other was the debut of its new flagship vehicle: the Quoris, pictured. The large sedan shares its platform with the next-generation Hyundai Genesis.

Canadian-market powertrains haven’t been confirmed. But in Korea, where it’s sold as the K9, there are 286-hp and 329-hp versions of a 3.8 L six-cylinder, tied to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

  • Auto News: Moscow Motor Show
  • Auto News: Moscow Motor Show

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