There are a lot of interesting cars that never arrive in Canada.
You may assume that’s because a lot of interesting cars never come to North America in general, and that’s mostly true. But even the United States gets a few vehicles which remain illegal on this side of the border.
However, one bonus to Canada is that our import rule is only 15 years. Meaning as soon as a car turns 15 years old, it’s legal to import. It’s why we got JDM classics like the Nissan Skyline before they were officially legal in the United States.
Every year there are more vehicles that were never sold in Canada which become legal to import, insure and register. These are a few of the most interesting and desirable examples.
Audi B7 RS4 Avant (2006 - 2008)
Until very recently, the Germans haven’t liked selling us their wagons, especially the ones based on their hottest saloons. For example, the RS6 Avant has only been available since 2021. The cult-favorite BMW M5 Touring is rumored to come to North America next year for the first time ever.
But, if you’re a true “bicycle rack on the roof” euro-enthusiast you can now taste the forbidden fruit of the Audi RS4 Avant. Like the B7 RS4 saloon, the wagon variant featured the 420-horsepower, 4.2-litre V8, all-wheel-drive and a six-speed manual gearbox. But unlike the saloon, the Avant can also do wagon things, so, it’s way more cool… somehow (I don’t know, euro-enthusiasts are a particular sort).
Since the latest RS4 Avant still won’t be coming to Canada, you might as well go for the future classic version.
Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo (2008)
How do you say, “Kick it in the guts, Barry!” in Canadian?
The Ford Falcon nameplate died in North America in 1970. But Australia kept the car alive as a substitute for the Mustang and Torino. Of course, the Aussie Falcon would eventually become an icon of its own through the Mad Max
Late-model Falcons have more in common with a domestic market Taurus, at least, from the outside. But it’s what’s inside that makes the XR6 Turbo worth importing.
The XR6 features the epic 4.0 “Barra” turbo inline-six engine. In stock form, the engine made 360 horsepower thanks to a turbocharger producing 10 pounds of boost. Not bad as a start. But because of that high boost, the Barra engine was entirely overbuilt — sort of like a 2JZ or “Terminator” 4.6-litre engine — and became beloved by tuners for its high horsepower capabilities.
North Americans are only now coming around to the legendary reputation of the Barra engine thanks to some infamous engine swaps showcased by some of YouTube’s most popular automotive influencers.
“Just give ‘er, bud!” That’s how you say it.
Honda Civic FD2 / FN2 Type R (2007 - 2008)
The third-ever Honda Civic Type R was to be realized in two distinct models… but neither of them were for the North American market. We would have to wait another ten years before the Type R finally came across the pond in 2017.
Japan got the four-door compact, 220-horsepower K20A-powered FD2, while the UK received the 198-horsepower K20Z4-powered hot hatch FN2.
Somewhere, a Honda fanatic is rapidly typing a response highlighting the further differences between the two models. To which I say, calm down. I already bored the readers by telling them there was more than one variant of the “K20” engine.
The important bit is that both the JDM and UK variant are now 15-years-old and you can have them in Canada, albeit with the steering wheel on the wrong side.
Holden Special Vehicles Maloo (2008)
The underpinning of the Maloo should be familiar to North American buyers. It’s built on GM’s Zeta platform just like the Camaro SS, Chevrolet SS and Pontiac G8. But the Maloo is not a saloon. It’s a “ute” — a great Aussie term to once and for all settle whether vehicles like the El Camino are a car or a pickup truck. They’re neither. They’re a ute.
Like an El Camino, you sort of want a Maloo just for the laugh of it. With 400 horsepower derived from its 6.0-litre LS2 V8, rear-wheel-drive and optional six-speed gear box, this is an absolute burnout machine. And it’s unique styling means you’ll definitely be the only one at the Tim Hortons parking lot with one.
One does have to wonder, while GM was screwing around with trash like the Chevy SSR, why they never imported the Maloo, slapped a bow tie on it and called it an El Camino…
Pontiac GTO (2006)
There are all kinds of rumors and speculations as to why the final generation of Pontiac GTO wasn’t sold in Canada.
Some say it was a NAFTA thing — that GM was not willing to pay the additional import tax to sell the car in Canada. Others say that production numbers were so low, GM simply did not want to earmark any GTO models for the Canadian market.
However, the most substantiated explanation is that the front bumper did not meet Canada’s crash requirements. This was actually reported by The Star in 2004
, and is based on an interview with a rep from GM Canada.
Regardless of why you couldn’t have one in 2006, 15 years are now up on the last-ever Pontiac GTO. So you can have one in Canada as of 2021.
The 06’ is essentially the same as the ‘05 GTO, at least, in all the ways that are important. An LS2 V8 produces 400 horsepower, with either a 6-speed auto or manual transmission. Though the ‘06 does include a plug-in port for a radar detector…
Nissan Skyline 370GT (2007 - 2008)
Okay, we basically got this car in Canada. This is the Infiniti G37. It was a G37 everywhere in the world… except for Japan, where it retained the familiar Skyline moniker.
That means you get the same 3.7-litre V6 producing 330 horsepower, an optional 6-speed manual and rear-wheel-drive. There are a few different trim levels. The “Type P” (for “Premium”) upgraded the interior and comfort features. The “Type S” for (for “Sport”) offered larger wheels and tires. The “Type SP” (you guessed it) gave you both option groups.
Why not just buy a G37? Because let’s be real. It is infinitely more interesting to drive around with “Skyline” written on your car than it is “G37”. And having the steering wheel on the wrong side is nothing if not a conversation starter.
Incidentally, you can also now import the earliest R35 GT-R models from Japan.
Suzuki Jimny Sierra (2008)
Imagine if somebody took a Toyota FJ cruiser and hit it with a shrink ray. That’s a Jimny.
The Jimny is actually a badge that would be more recognized globally than in North America. It’s been around internationally since 1970 in Asia, Australia and Europe. It wasn’t until the mid-80s that Suzuki introduced the car to North American buyers as the Samurai.
North American sales of the Samurai ceased in 1995, but the Jimny has lived on across the globe. Mazda even once offered a re-badged version under their AZ brand.
The 2008 model may still only have 83 horsepower produced by the 1.3-litre engine, but it still features proper 4x4 and has received high praise globally for its surprising off-road capabilities.
If you ask me, I think this may just be the perfect city car.
VW Golf MK5 R32 (2007 - 2008)
The MK4 and MK5 VW Golf R32’s both feature the beloved and coveted VR6 engine. However, neither were sold in Canada. What’s worse is that this was not a case of the Europeans keeping the good stuff for their domestic market. Oh no. The States got the R32. But not Canada.
It’s not exactly clear why. VW was apparently always skeptical of selling the car in America and the rumor goes that they were only motivated into doing so at the behest of a journalist who assured them the car would go over very well in the States.
Whatever the reason, Canadian “dubbers” were angry, to say the least. There are still forum threads from the mid ‘00s of VW fans dreaming up elaborate plans to get their R32 north of the border. Seriously, some of them read like a scheme from Better Call Saul
. Talks of vin and badge swapping, trying to import one as “salvage”, asking relatives in the States to purchase the car in their name.
I mean, yeah, the 3.2-litre 24V VR6 has that nice, beefy torque and really sweet engine note, but, all that
for a VW?
15 years later, you can import and register an R32 without all the fuss. And as an inexpensive and conversation-worthy alternative to a brand new hot hatch, the 250-horsepower Golf is actually quite appealing.