When all is said and done, after more than 25 Canadian premieres, when the quarter million-plus visitors have finished with the largest consumer show of any kind in Canada, what will we have learned at the Canadian International Auto Show?
A few things.
1. Small cars are in fashion again. The Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus, Fiat 500, Chevrolet Cruze, Buick Verano and their ilk deliver style, functionality and fuel economy. Size may not matter, after all.
2. Consumers can expect to interface much more easily with all the new technology being loaded into the latest models. Voice and touch controls are rapidly making their way into even the least expensive rides. Case in point: The 2011 Optima also has a long list of technologically advanced features, including the optional UVO "Your Voice" infotainment system, which can take voice commands.
3. Design matters. It doesn't cost any more to make a pretty car than it does an ugly one. Regardless of price point, buyers can find plenty of attractive offerings.
4. Interiors are the new frontier of the industry. Chrysler, for instance, has remade more than a dozen models with soft-touch materials lining each and every cabin. Chrysler is not alone.
5. There's no turning back from alternative technologies. Here at the show there are electric cars, clean diesels, various hybrids and a list of approaches to squeezing out more fuel economy without compromising the performance buyers insist on having. Direct fuel injection, for instance, used to be exotic. Now it's becoming mainstream on the most affordable cars.
The show opens Feb. 18 at the North and South Metro Toronto Convention Centre, closing Feb. 27. Here are highlights of what you'll find there.
The 2012 Audi TT RS has a newly-developed five-cylinder engine. It combines a turbocharger with FSI direct gasoline injection. Audi says the Quattro all-wheel-drive TT RS is a "purist driving machine."
Then there is the 2012 Audi A6. Audi has redesigned its flagship mid-size sedan, giving it a lighter body, a tighter chassis and a wide array of new electronic gizmos. The engine first available this fall will be a 3.0-litre TFSI supercharged V-6. Also coming is a four-cylinder version and an A6 hybrid.
The 2012 BMW 6-Series Cabriolet is the brand's new flagship premium convertible. It has a classic soft-top roof with what BMW calls a "flying buttress design." Whatever one calls it, this is one gorgeous car. The engine is a 4.4-litre V-8 (400 horsepower) mated to an eight-speed Sport Automatic transmission. The 650i Cabriolet can do 0-100 km/hour in 4.9 seconds.
The BMW 1-Series M Coupe will be seen in Canada for the first time. All new, it will be available in limited quantities in spring this year. BMW says this car "combines the raw capabilities of a race car with the agility, versatility, and seating position of the compact BMW Coupe."
The 2012 Buick Verano is "a compact luxury sedan representing the brand's third new model in the past two years and the first in the compact luxury segment," says GM's upscale brand. The engine here is an Ecotec 2.4-litre four with a six-speed automatic transmission (177 hp). Fuel economy: an estimated 6.4 litres/100 km. A 2.0-litre turbo engine will be offered in the future.
2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist: The eAssist technology is designed to improve fuel economy by up to 24 per cent compared to the four-cylinder/six-speed power train in the 2011 LaCrosse, says Buick. The eAssist technology is estimated to provide a class-leading highway fuel consumption rating of 5.4L/100 km without compromising performance.
The eAssist system will be available this summer. Buick says it "uses a state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery system and electric motor-generator to enable regenerative braking capability."