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Top 5 performance cars at the Toronto auto show

Hidden behind the hybrids and electric cars at this yea's Toronto auto show, we've found the top five performance vehicles high-octane car fans need to check out.

Environmentalists and politicians may attack high-performance automobiles as the cause of most of the planet’s problems, but there’s still a market for vehicles that can speed the pulse of those luck enough to remember that cars can be fun to drive.

Photos: LeBlanc’s Top 5 Performance cars

Hidden behind the hybrids and electric cars at this year’s Toronto auto show, we’ve found the top five performance vehicles high-octane car fans need to check out:

Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

Depending on how you define “performance,” Ford’s new F-150 SVT Raptor could be the best new debut at this year’s show.

Created to take on the most challenging off-road adventures (like the famous Baja 1000 off-road race) as well as the everyday potholed commute, the Raptor – 178 mm wider than the F-150 it’s based on but with its own distinctive styling – is Ford’s “ultimate off-road performance truck.”

Under the Raptor’s hood is the ubiquitous 5.4-litre V8 with 310 hp (a 6.2-litre eight will be available after launch). But where the Raptor goes rogue compared to other production pickups is in its sophisticated off-road suspension setup.

In addition to 340 mm of usable travel in the rear suspension and 284 in the front, the Raptor employs industry-first internal bypass shocks by Fox Racing Shox. These apparently help provide a smooth ride and a lower, wider suspension design–something Ford says makes the Raptor the first stock pickup that’s fully off-road capable.

The Raptor will be available late summer to early fall in Canadian SVT dealerships only. Pricing will be available closer to launch.

Dodge Challenger Targa Edition

Okay, full journalistic disclosure here: You won’t find the race-ready Targa Edition of the Dodge Challenger at your local Dodge dealer “as is,” ready to be driven off the lot.

How much would it cost to replicate a Challenger Targa? Chrysler isn’t saying.

But with “only a few exceptions” – and some elbow grease – Chrysler Canada says anyone can replicate the rear-drive coupe that Chrysler head pen Ralph Gilles piloted in last fall’s five-day, 2,200-km Targa Newfoundland rally simply by cracking open a Mopar catalogue.

Gilles’ car started out as a Mopar Challenger drag race package car. In addition to all the safety-related interior bits and bolts, under the (Mopar) hood scoop is a 540 hp and 490 lb.-ft. of torque (Mopar) Hemi V8 crate motor.

Hooked up to a Tremec six-speed manual gearbox, the big eight powers the rear wheels through a production 2009 modified gear ratio in the rear end.

Developed by the aftermarket firm KW, the Challenger Targa Edition’s race suspension and brake upgrades came from the Dodge Viper ACR. (You know, the Viper that just broke the production car lap record at the world-famous Nürburgring in Germany.)

Reining in all this Hemi power are aftermarket Stop-Tech brakes up front, with six-piston calipers chomping down on 380 mm rotors. Out back, four-pot calipers work with 355mm rotors.

2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe

While the current Hyundai Genesis luxury sedan has garnered plenty of critical acclaim for its outstanding value – North American car of the Year, Canadian Car of the Year finalist, to name a few – the two-door 2+2 Genesis Coupe is expected to earn praise similar to that heaped on the Infiniti G37.

Scheduled to join the Hyundai lineup this spring, the coupe will come with either a 212 hp 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine or a more luxury-oriented 306 hp 3.8-litre V6 engine first seen in the Genesis sedan.

Both engines can be had with a six-speed manual transmission as standard kit. The 2.0-litre unit offers an optional five-speed automatic, while the available autobox on the 3.8 model gets an additional gear.

Whatever’s under the hood, Hyundai Canada will offer a performance package that includes improved suspension.

Expect the coupe to be aggressively priced, starting in the mid-$25,000 range for the four and the low-$30,000 range for the V6.

2010 Chevrolet Camaro

History is repeating itself as the 2010 Camaro – born more than 40 years ago as Chevrolet’s reply to the Ford Mustang – ends an eight-year retirement.

With an external design faithful to the original 2006 concept, GM says the production version Camaro is a “21st century sports car that acknowledges its heritage.”

Inside, a pair of deeply recessed instrument binnacles that feature round gauges in square housings is a “nod to classic Camaros.”

As in the 1960s, the new Camaro 2+2 rear-wheel-drive coupe will debut with V6 and V8 models.

A 3.6-litre 300 hp and 273 lb.-ft. six will be under the hood of LS and LT Camaros. SS models get a 6.2-litre eight with either 422 hp or 408 lb.-ft. when equipped with a six-speed manual, or 400 hp and 395 lb.-ft. when equipped with the optional six-speed automatic.

Unlike the ’60s, the 2010 Camaro will be assembled in Oshawa and is derived from General Motors’ sophisticated global rear-drive platform, originally developed in Australia, which also forms the chassis for Pontiac’s G8 sedan.

While U.S. pricing has been announced at $22,995 for base model V6s and $30,995 for V8s, Canadian pricing will be announced closer to the 2010 Camaro’s on-sale date later this spring.

Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series

As the new flagship for Mercedes’ AMG in-house hot-rod shop, the SL65 AMG Black Series not only outperforms every other Canadian performance debut at this year’s Toronto auto show, it smokes every other AMG SL extant.

The previous prima donna AMG SL was the run-of-the-mill $238,500 SL AMG 65. But its 604 hp looks rather meek compared to the Black Series’ 6.0-litre bi-turbo V12, which makes a ground pounding 661 hp and 738 lb.-ft. of torque.

Need more evidence? Mercedes says the Black Series can get from zero to 100 km/h in just 3.8 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to “only” 320 km/h. And with its distinctive wide wheel arches and fenders, extendable spoiler and rear apron with diffuser fins, the SL65 AMG Black Series is the epitome of that automotive cliché of “looking fast standing still.”

Estimated to cost around $300,000 (U.S.), the SL65 MG Black Series isn’t cheap. But the best never is, is it?

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