Valentine’s Day comes with a promise of infecting everyone with love but with no flowers, no chocolates and no candle light dinners, the effect of love seems a little bizarre. Well, I think love has no definition or boundaries and that is why my Valentine’s Day is without promises or candy. It is this boundless love that made me step in to Metro Toronto Convention Center, AGAIN this year, for the 2010 Canadian International Autoshow. I know that mid-February is usually a time for flowers, love and romance and not for car-nuts but this 10 day love for cars is a better definition of love than Valentine’s Day, for any car enthusiast.
The Auto show that ran from Feb 12-21 was a little disappointment this year. Rather than “concept cars flooding the exhibit” or “new model launch ceremonies”, the manufacturers rolled out more compacts and subcompacts in a push for better fuel efficiency and emissions reduction. The venue, this year was also dedicated to global economic recession, I guess. With shrinking floor of Canada’s biggest auto show the organizers said, they have shaved off about 130,000 square feet, or 15 percent of presentation space by confining the auto show to Metro Toronto Convention Center and eliminating the need for Rogers Center for the first time in several years. With absence of brands like Aston Martin, Bentley and Rolls-Royce it wasn’t the best exhibit this year.
In a whole day of wandering around Canadian International Auto show at the Convention Center, riding endless escalators and passing and re-passing exhibits, here is a subjective list of top ten without any order, that caught my eye:
AUTOSHOW TOP TEN
· Chevy Volt: Mark Your Calendar, the first Volt rolls out in November
I saw the volt last year at the Canadian International Autoshow. It is nothing new this year but the launch date is something that will get your attention. The brand that killed electric car is relying on an electric car for its revival, what an irony!
Volt is an electric car that can create its own electricity. Plug it in, let it charge overnight, and it’s ready to run on a pure electric charge for up to 40 miles — gas and emissions free. After that, Volt keeps going, even if you can’t plug it in. Volt uses a range-extending gas generator that produces enough energy to power it for hundreds of miles on a single tank of gas.
Chevy Volt is a true electric hybrid coming to Canadian market by the end of 2010. Some dealer reps have confirmed the launch of the volt at the auto show. One representative at the show said, “ Obviously, this is all preliminary but the great news is that it is in writing which marks a milestone to seeing first road version of Volt.” Well, official GM representatives were hedging GM’s bets and wouldn’t confirm the November 1 date. The exact date may fluctuate in preparation for launch but we will see that soon. There is still no word on price, and it still looks like the car will come in at around $40,000 before the $7,500 federal EV tax credit.
· Honda CR-Z: The intersection of Sport and Hybrid, REALLY!
CR-Z seems like an impressive little car from Honda. Honda is trying to bring a sporty image to the hybrids, a label that is usually associated with gas guzzling V8 coupes. A hybrid that’s more fun, really! Front end seems in sync with Mazda’s new philosophy of zoom zoom smiley face. I can see where the design is being copied for CR-Z. The estimated mileage of 36 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway is impressive.
One of the CR-Z’s more unique features is its 3-mode drive system: Sport, Normal and ECON. This allows the driver to tailor the driving experience to actual conditions or personal preference. Some drivers may prefer to conserve fuel at all times. Some drivers may prefer to have all of the CR-Z’s power on tap at all times, while other drivers may prefer to have a combination of the two but with the option to pick either, depending on the situation.
The CR-Z’s 1.5-liter i-VTEC® is estimated to generate 122 hp. Which won’t set any land speed records. The point of the CR-Z was never to produce outrageous horsepower numbers. Honda is more interested in squeezing every last ounce of performance out of a vehicle.
The CR-Z strikes a unique balance and will broaden the appeal of hybrids. It’s a hybrid for drivers who enjoy driving and are unwilling to sacrifice handling and exhilaration for mpg and environmental accountability.
· Lexus LF-Ch Concept: Lexus is in the lead of hybrid’s war
Detroit and Frankfurt auto show caught the first glimpse of this exotic hybrid concept. For Canada, Toronto Autoshow is the first showing of this advance hybrid propulsion technology built in to a premium compact car. Lexus is now a segment leader in the hybrid technology and with luxury manufacturers moving in to subcompacts, Lexus wants to put a reality to the real definition of subcompacts. It is hoped that Lexus will use this concept as the foundation of a new compact hybrid vehicle. I must say Lexus has done an amazing job with this concept, featuring blacked-out B-pillars, an integrated spoiler and rear door handles that blend into the C-pillar’s trim. Of course, the uniqueness of the LF-Ch comes from the latest generation of Lexus Hybrid Drive, which gives the driver full control as well as the choice between Normal, Eco, EV and Sport modes, the latter function improving throttle response. It is rumored that the same hybrid engine that powers the current HS 250h will be found in the Lexus LF-Ch. Even though this is a model that will most likely go in to production soon but the official title of the LF-Ch is a concept therefore we’ll have to arm ourselves with patience in the meantime and simply admire the vehicle’s spectacular style, reflecting the sportier lines of the more aggressive Lexus models.
· Infiniti Essence Concept: A hybrid least expected
Again, not a new launch at the Toronto auto show. The first official showing of the Essence in Canada took place at the Montreal Auto show last month. The Infiniti Essense concept served as the blue print for the new M designers and engineers which was also on hand at the show. Infiniti featured this stunning hybrid super car concept at the Toronto auto show in celebration of its 20th anniversary, the concept showcases the brand’s future styling direction and its dedication towards developing hybrid technology beyond its gracefully bizarre styling. The Essence features a powerful hybrid drivetrain, the heart of which is a 3.7-litre direct-injection V6 that develops 434 horsepower. On top of this, an electric motor adds 158 horsepower for a total just shy of 600 HP. Despite its performance credentials, Infiniti predicts that the Essence could achieve an average fuel consumption of about 8L/100 km. For now, there are no plans to produce the Essence, but if the public reacts positively, Infiniti might change its mind.
· Mini Beachcomber Concept: All about being cute, standing apart and having fun.
When it comes to being cute and glamorous, Mini owns the podium. The Mini Beach comber combines fun and retro styles and it is the ultimate expression of the beach bum’s car. The folks at BMW understand the definition of glamour perfectly fine and had it piloted by a Shark-boy and two bathing suit-clad beauties at the Canadian International Autoshow Launch. The Mini Beachcomber takes us back to the disco era of the original Mini Moke with this four seat, open body concept. Today’s Beachcomber pushes the 60’s Moke to the limits of contemporary design. It is of course equipped with a four-wheel-drive system that allows it to roam off the beaten track with that exhilarating wind-in-your-hair feeling. This is a dream car for Barbie and Ken generation, with the lack of doors and open roof, you sure will get a golden tan while Mini won’t produce an exact copy of the concept, it will be making a toned down road version called the Countryman. The concept’s removable doors and fabric roof won’t make it to the road version design table however the all-wheel-drive and turbocharged four-cylinder is most likely to make the cut.
· Mercedes SLS AMG: “I will be back……”
The new SLS AMG’s signature design element is its “gullwing” doors, a tribute to the original 1950s 300SL Like the previous SLR, the SLS is a front/mid-engine design, jammed with the latest high-tech goodies AMG could find in its well-stocked cupboard. Following its Canadian debut at the Montreal auto show, the new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG replaces the outgoing SLR McLaren (that debuted way back in 2003) as the German automaker’s flagship performance offering. The new SLS will offer AMG’s naturally-aspirated 6.2-litre V8 with 563 hp and 479 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox via a carbon-fiber driveshaft. Performance is SLR-like: 0-100 km/h in 3.8 seconds. Yet compared to the $500,000 SLR, the new SLS AMG looks like a deal at its expected $198,000 price tag when it goes on sale in Canada later this year.
· Mazda 2: Zoom Zoom Concentrated
Mazda 2 is featured as 2Evil and Mazda 2 Surf concept at the Canadian International Autoshow. The 2011 Mazda 2 which will roll out in to the showrooms somewhere this summer pushed the zoom-zoom philosophy a little bit further.
A more aggressive set of front bumpers sets the Mazda2 Surf apart. It’s also shod in Yokohama Advan tires fitted over 17-inch wheels and equipped with a roof rack (for your surf board) and an H&R suspension kit. It is indeed stunning.
The 2Evil concept is said to be a tribute to Mazda 787B racing car, winner of the 24 Hours of LeMans race back in 1991 (Mazda’s only victory there).
Building on what is essentially a subcompact world car for Mazda, the new Mazda 2 is a “watch out car” when it hits the showroom this summer.
· Ford Focus: Ford finally learns the compact car segment secret.
Even though the next generation of Focus is almost a year away from hitting the showrooms but it is definitely worth the wait. For 2012, Ford is making the Focus a world car, and what’s more Ford is promising that it will cross the Atlantic intact. Unlike the current model, which is a warmed-up version of the late ’90s original, the 2012 model is entirely new, designed and developed in Europe. The 2012 Focus will be available in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback body styles. This car is definitely worth the wait.
· Fiat 500: Sex and the City, this is the real deal…..
One of the most sexiest cars at the auto show is the Fiat 500. Chrysler Canada unveiled the Fiat 500 at the 2010 Canadian International AutoShow this year. Featured for the first time in Canada, this vehicle will provide Chrysler Canada with an expressive new entry into the small car segment.
The Fiat 500 offers a unique balance of style, youthfulness, and fun, combined with the outstanding fuel efficiency Canadian consumers demand. Named European Car of the Year in 2008, the Fiat 500 will arrive in Chrysler Canada showrooms within a year.
To tease the senses of the Canadian consumer, Chrysler Canada is displaying two European versions of the 500: a stylish white Fiat 500 model and a powerful black Abarth 500.
· Ford Fiesta: It’s Fiesta time ….
As the first new car in Ford’s global ‘One Vision’ strategy, the Fiesta has to accommodate the smallest 2.5 percentile female up to the lardiest 97.5 percentile male, everywhere from Beijing to Baton Rouge and all points in between. Displayed at the Canadian International autoshow, this is a must see car. For now the engine pick is the 1.6L Twin Independent Variable Cam Timing (Ti-VCT) I4 engine. This sporty power plant delivers an estimated 119 hp and 109 ft-lbs, mated to a 5-speed manual or an optional 6-speed automatic. I think all the basics are done neatly, it sure is a Fiesta for Ford. It’s a sweet little car. Not sweet in a cute way, but sweet in a crisp and sharp way. I think if good looks could kill then everyone is going to die.