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Kenzie's top picks at the show

With hundreds of new and old cars to choose from at the AutoShow and a limited number of hours to see them, which ones would I suggest you put at the top of your priority list?
Jim Kenzie

With hundreds of new and old cars to choose from at the AutoShow and a limited number of hours to see them, which ones would I suggest you put at the top of your priority list?

Other Wheels staffers have been given particular sub-sets of vehicles to recommend – performance cars, concept cars, “green” cars, SUVs, etc.

So I will stick with production vehicles that you might actually be able to buy without winning the lottery or marrying an old sick person.

2011 Ford Focus

The first-generation Focus (in 1999 as a 2000 model year car) was a terrific-handling car, but suffered from a lot of early recalls.

In 2005, the Rest of the World got the second-generation Focus, but because Ford’s North American assembly operations had barely figured out how to build the old one, we had to take a pass on the new one. Too bad; it was even better than the original.

We had to make do with a lame refresh in 2008, but for 2011 we’re back in step with an all-new car that promises to shake up the compact segment.

First, it’s very pretty.

Second, it will offer a new 2.0-litre, direct-injection, variable-cam-timing engine said to produce 155 horsepower, yet with outstanding fuel economy.

The key here is a lofty 12.0-to-1 compression ratio (higher means more efficiency) – a number more commonly seen in ultra-high performance cars.

Focus will also offer a dual-clutch six-speed transmission, another contributor to low fuel consumption — and high driving pleasure.

For technology fans, Focus will offer a new level of voice-activated connectivity options to this class.

Given Ford’s expertise in driving dynamics, at least in its European cars, this should be a great little car to drive – as long as they don’t “Americanize” it too much.

2010 Buick Regal

I once owned a Buick Regal. Adam Sandler once sang about that car, but I can’t repeat those lyrics in a family newspaper.

Suffice it to say that the name is the only thing that piece of, um, exhaust emissions shares with this new car.

For years, we wished General Motors could find a way to bring some of its excellent European technology to North America.

The Cadillac Catera was not it.

GM tried again with Saab, and later with Saturn. Both brands are no longer part of the GM family.

The new Regal is based on the Opel Insignia, no less than the European Car of the Year last year.

The plan is to build on the success of the big Enclave Crossover, and the positive critical response to the new LaCrosse, as Buick benefits from GM’s new marketing strategy of focusing on four main brands, allowing it to trumpet its virtues more loudly than ever.

2010 VW Golf Wagon TDI

I don’t know if this car will win the Canadian Car of the Year title – that will be announced at the start of the press day today.
All I know is I voted for it, and it did make the top three finalists.

Why should it win?

Because this is the car about 70 per cent of all Canadians should own.

What do you want in a car? Room? Comfort? Safety? Handling? Performance? Style? Fit and finish? Economy? Durability? Reasonable price?

Check, check, check, check, check, check, check, check, check and check, respectively.

Okay, so She Who Must Be Obeyed likes our 2003 Jetta Wagon TDI better because she thinks a VW wagon should look like the box it came in, not like a Corolla.

That – such a personal thing – and the inability to take eight passengers or tow a 5,000-pound trailer are about the only reasons for considering anything else.

Oh, one more drawback: apparently I am not the only person who thinks this way. A reader tells me his VW TDI will be delivered in four months …

2010 Mercedes-Benz

E-Class Cabriolet

Okay, so we’re getting close to lottery/sick old guy territory here. But this is such a lovely thing, and you should have goals in life.
Mercedes was a pioneer in folding hardtop convertibles, but perhaps that led the engineers and designers to recognize the drawbacks of that concept sooner than others.

The two biggest problems are luggage space with the roof down (if you’re going on a trip in beautiful weather and can’t stay for more than two days …) and the difficulty designing a car that looks truly attractive top up and down, given the necessary engineering compromises.

So a soft top it was.

Those same engineers also took it upon themselves to effectively reinvent the convertible.

Any convertible has a draft problem to one degree or another. The bigger the car, the windier it is inside, especially for rear-seat passengers.

So said engineers have come up with a spoiler that extends from the top of the windshield header to deflect the on-rushing air completely over the cabin of the car.

Combine that with the Air Scarf that wafts warmed air over the front passengers’ shoulders, and you have if not quite a four-season convertible, then at least a three-season one.

Because it is based on the brilliant E-class chassis I can tell you without having driven it yet that it will be a great road car too.

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