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The M Next, pictured here at the 2019 Frankfurt Auto Show, is BMW's best guess at what future customers still interested in driving themselves will be looking for.

WOLFGANG RATTAY/Reuters

Given that the traditional models of car ownership are changing, it’s no wonder that the Canadian International AutoShow (CIAS) has made considerable efforts to widen its appeal to more than just traditional gearheads. Now in it’s 47th year, this year’s exhibits will range from child-friendly, remote-control car demonstration test tracks to exclusive supercars. For those planning to head to the show over the Family Day weekend, we’ve rounded up the key exhibits and features to check out.

Event details

Dates: Feb. 14-23, 2020

Location: Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 222 Bremner Blvd., Toronto.

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Hours: Feb. 14, noon to 10 p.m.; other days, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Closes at 6 p.m., Feb. 23.

Tickets: $25 for adults at the door, 10-per-cent discount online; $19 after 6 p.m., $14 on Feb. 18; $45 for a family pass, other discounts available at the Canadian International AutoShow’s website.

Parking: $32 or less in the Convention Centre. Many options near the buildings.

Coat check: North and South buildings, $4/item.

Special exhibits and events:
  • Tribute to McLaren Racing: An exhibit dedicated to this year’s international inductee into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame.
  • Celebrating cars from the 1980s and 90s: A partnership with the Oblivion Car Show will see a collection of the “newest” group of classic cars hit the floor.
  • ONWARD (and a bit backwards): The Pixar Vehicle Experience: Targeted at families with young children, a life-size replica of the vehicle from the film will be on display.
  • The world’s most exclusive Bugatti: La Voiture Noire, the most expensive new car ever built, makes an appearance.
  • Canadian-made supercar: The Felino cB7, the second supercar ever made in Canada, makes its Ontario debut.
  • Electric-vehicle test drive, sponsored by The Globe and Mail.

Our must-see models

Audi E-tron Sportback

Courtesy of manufacturer

With all-electric Audi e-trons already beginning to show up parked in Canadian driveways, the company is continuing to expand its electric-vehicle lineup. The new Sportback aims to bring a little more style while slightly refining the drive of the e-tron.

Think of the Sportback as an electrified A7, and you've got the general idea. It's lower and sleeker than the standard e-tron, at the expense of a little cargo space, with a more polished look for urban life.

Under the sheet metal, the Sportback gets the same 95 kilowatt hour battery back and dual motors as the current e-tron. As you’d expect in an Audi product, all-wheel-drive is standard, with 355 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque on offer. An eight-second burst of power available in Sport mode pumps up that instantly available torque to 489 lb-ft.

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However, Audi has positioned the e-tron Sportback as a premium experience, rather than a performance vehicle. Twin touchscreens, a virtual cockpit, and luxurious appointments combine with one of the quietest cabins on the market to make the e-tron a truly relaxing drive. A more streamlined shape should make the drive all the more peaceful.

BMW M Next

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

What does the future of BMW's M division look like? That's the question the company's aptly-named Vision M Next concept hopes to answer, as the central feature of this year's BMW display.

A futuristic hybrid-electric that incorporates elements of the outgoing i8 and the M1 of the late 1970s, the M Next combines wedgy supercar styling with a highly efficient powertrain. Details are a little thin on the four-cylinder engine's specifications but total power is a Lamborghini-like 591 hp. BMW claims a sprint to 100 km/h in just three seconds.

However, the M Next is about feel, rather than power and specifications. The acoustics of the electric engine are tuned for more audible appeal by the blockbuster composer Hans Zimmerman. The drivetrain can be switched to all-wheel-drive for greater grip, or rear-drive only for a purer, more enthusiast-oriented dynamics.

Instead of door handles, the gullwing doors swing open when cameras recognize your face. A heads-up display incorporates augmented reality, feeding the driver added information.

And note that the M Next is designed around a driver. There are next-to-no autonomous features here. Instead, this is BMW’s best guess as to a car tailored to those customers who are still interested in driving themselves.

Cadillac Escalade

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade is unveiled during Oscar week in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 4, 2020. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon

PATRICK T. FALLON/Reuters

Look out for the 2021 Escalade, which is making is making its global auto show premier. The 2021 is the most significant do-over in the history of Cadillac’s nothing-succeeds-like-excess status symbol, not least because finally (and 18 years after the rival Lincoln Navigator) it gets independent rear suspension (IRS). “So what?” you ask? Well, IRS isn’t just an engineering nicety: it has huge customer pay-offs in terms of superior ride and handling; and, because IRS takes up less space than the old beam axle, it enables a lower rear floor for increased interior space. Combined with a longer wheelbase, this gives the regular 2021 Escalade 26 cm more third-row legroom than the 2020, and a staggering 67 per cent more cargo room behind the third-row seats. Other highlights include available height-adjustable air suspension, and a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo-diesel engine alternative to the 6.2-litre gas V8. Inside you’ll find an industry-first curved OLED screen with a more-than 38-inch diagonal of total display, and twice the pixel density of a 4K TV.

Chevrolet TrailBlazer

LUCY NICHOLSON/Reuters

Chevrolet is leaving no niche unturned with the new 2021 TrailBlazer. An in-between sized crossover that slots twixt the subcompact Trax and the compact Equinox, the baby Blazer brings to seven the number of SUVs in Chevrolet’s portfolio – truly something for everyone. Although it’s sized for the city, the TrailBlazer – unlike some Asian rivals that also offer two-tone roofs – will be available with all-wheel drive. Not only that: an Activ trim grade will include rugged-terrain tires, suspension tuned for off-pavement driving, and a revised front fascia less likely to “take it on the chin” on rough terrain. Propulsion is provided by a choice of 1.2- or 1.3-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engines, the latter good for 155 horsepower. Transmissions will be continuously-variable automatic with front-wheel drive, or a nine-speed automatic with the 1.3-litre AWD. The AWD system can be deactivated for better fuel economy. Many active-safety aids will be standard, include automatic emergency and pedestrian braking, and lane keep assist, while upgrades will include adaptive cruise and rear cross-traffic alert. Also expect GM’s usual generous array of connectivity and infotainment features, including SiriusXM 360L. The TrailBlazer goes on sale this spring.

Ford Escape PHEV

Courtesy of manufacturer

Ford was actually the first automaker to put a hybrid powertrain into an SUV, with the 2005 Escape. But that option was back-burnered when the third-generation Escape was launched in 2012. Now the Hybrid is back -- and then some. Not only does the all-new 2020 Escape offer a conventional self-charging hybrid version, already on sale with much better fuel economy than its predecessors, there’s also a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) coming in the spring. The PHEV will be available only in front-wheel drive, as the under-floor battery pack leaves no room for a driveshaft, and Ford chose not to put an electric motor in the rear as an alternative form of AWD. Projected electric-only range on a full charge is 48 km, but you don’t have to use it all up at once. You can choose between four modes: EV Auto (gas and/or electric as appropriate); EV Now (“forced” electric-only drive while the charge lasts); EV Later (forced gasoline driving to save the battery for later use); and EV Charge (gas engine recharges a depleted battery while driving). The 2.5-litre gas engine and electric motor are rated at a combined 221 horsepower in the PHEV so you also get a performance upgrade over the base 1.5 gas engine.

Ford Mustang Mach-E

The Associated Press

It’s an SUV that looks and performs like a Mustang and it’s 100 per cent electric – no wonder Ford’s first dedicated electric vehicle set the industry abuzz when it was revealed last fall.

What you’ll see there is best described as a low-rider compact SUV coupe, closest in height (160 cm) and length (472 cm) to a Mercedes GLC Coupe but with ride height more typical of a sports car than an off-roader.

Five models will be offered in various combinations of rear- or all-wheel-drive, 76-kWh or 99-kWh batteries, and four different motor outputs ranging from 255 to 459 horsepower.

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However, when the Ford Mustang Mach-E completes its sales rollout in Canada by mid 2021, the high-performance GT model with its projected sub-4-seconds 0-60-mph time won’t be available to Canadian buyers.

But fear not, we’re not being shafted. Canadians who want the macho-est Mach-E will be able to buy the even-faster GT Performance.

“We know that, in the case of our vehicles at the top end of the spectrum, our customers here in Canada tend to get the very top end of those vehicles. So because it’s a smaller market we chose to simplify our offerings for now,” explains Akbar Sheikh, Ford of Canada vehicle line manager for electrified vehicles.

“We’ll reconsider if the U.S. does really well with the GT in their market,” he added. “We might bring it in in the future.”

The GT Performance is the ultimate Mach-E model that Ford has been publicizing, with its mid-3-seconds 0-60-mph time and range up to 375 km. It will also feature MagneRide suspension for a superior ride and handling compromise.

Mach-E deliveries will start late this year with the Premium and (already-sold-out) First Edition models having a targeted EPA driving range from 338 km to 483 km, depending on the particular battery/motor(s)/drive combination. Fast-charge capability will be 115 kW on the base model, 150 on all others. The base Select trim and California Route 1 will arrive early next year, followed by the GT Performance in the second quarter. Order books are open now.

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Only Ford dealers who are certified electric will be able to sell the Mach-E, but most of them already are (about 318 of 420 in total) and more will be added.

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Genesis GV80

Courtesy of manufacturer

Genesis is a new brand for Canada, and the premium brand for Hyundai Motors. Over its last few years of existence, it’s only sold a pair of sedans and a coupe – though the G70 coupe was named 2019 North American Car of the Year.

The serious North American money is in SUVs, however, and the full-size GV80 is the first SUV for the Korean maker. It was revealed in photos on January 1, and this is Toronto’s first look at the actual vehicle, which will come on sale later this year.

Courtesy of manufacturer

The “V” in GV80 is supposed to stand for “versatile,” and like most other three-row SUVs, all-wheel drive will be standard in Canada. The cabin has a minimalist feel, with a large central touch screen and only a few physical buttons. The transmission is controlled through a rotating electronic gear selector, saving further on interior space.

“With the launch of GV80, Genesis will elevate expectations for excellence within the luxury SUV market,” says William Lee, global head of the Genesis Brand. Does it succeed? It will compete directly against the premium German brands, as well as Cadillac, Lincoln, Jaguar, and others. They’ll all be on display at the auto show for you to decide for yourself.

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Hyundai 45 concept

Courtesy of manufacturer

One of the most striking vehicles at the CIAS will be Hyundai’s idea of its electrified future, with a concept based on the original Pony coupe.

It’s called “45” partly because the Pony’s first concept was introduced 45 years ago, but also for the 45-degree angles of the windshield and rear hatch, and the sharp slash across the doors. Hyundai calls it a very simple design but those wheels aren’t simple – you can gaze into their whirlpool for hours.

Hyundai says its future electric vehicles will look a lot like the 45. Their batteries and drive technology will be underfoot in the “skateboard floor,” while the cabin itself includes seats that can turn to face each other, for when fully-autonomous driving becomes possible.

Inside the cabin, occupants can control the infotainment and climate through a “projection-beam interface;” it replaces the central display screen by turning the entire dashboard into a series of interactive displays.

Don’t expect the 45 to be on Canadian roads anytime soon, but do expect something that looks a bit like it within the next five years or so.

Infiniti Qs Inspiration concept

INFINITI/Courtesy of manufacturer

The sleek Infiniti Qs Inspiration concept has only been seen in public once before, at last year’s Shanghai auto show, and it gives an idea of what a soon-to-be-released electric Infiniti will look like.

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It “signals the future of Infiniti design for our imminent, electrified portfolio,” says Adam Paterson, Infiniti Canada’s Managing Director. “It previews a product that will offer a new perspective on the sports sedan format, with an elevated driving position and high-performance electrified all-wheel drive power.”

Electric cars aren’t restricted by having to have a motor at the front, or gas tank at the rear, or even a drive-shaft running through the bottom of the cabin. Designers can almost literally do anything they want to create a new vehicle, but auto makers want to know if their approach will be successful. This is one reason why they create concepts: to gauge public opinion.

The Qs is a sportier sedan version of the QX Inspiration mid-sized SUV concept that we saw at last year’s Toronto auto show. The driver’s seat is still raised, for better visibility, and the cockpit itself is very much focused on the driver, but the rest of the cabin is a more relaxed area for people who don’t care about the drive. Does it all work? Go see for yourself, and don’t forget to share your opinion.

Jeep Wrangler Eco-Diesel

Courtesy of manufacturer

No matter how much you’d love to drive a Wrangler, you have to admit it doesn’t exactly tread lightly – neither literally nor figuratively. Depending on the powertrain, combined fuel consumption ranges between 17 and 23 mpg while other-brand crossover SUVs get in the mid to high 20s. But hey, the Wrangler is the all-terrain real deal, not some soft-roader SUV wannabe. Higher gas bills are a small price to pay. Except maybe now you won’t have to: for the first time in Canada, you can get a diesel Wrangler. The 3.0-litre turbo V6 generates 260 horsepower (a little less than the alternative gas engines) and 442 lb.-ft. of torque (50 per cent more than the next-torquiest gas engine). More to the point, it’s at least 13 per cent lighter on gas than the next-most-frugal gas model, based on official government lab tests, which tend to under-state the fuel efficiency of diesels. Even as it stands, the combined figure of 9.5 L/100 km is comparable with the most economical SUV-wannabes (not counting hybrids). The bad news: the diesel is available only on the pricier four-door models; it’s a spendy $7,395 extra over the gas V6; plus you’ll pay another $1,795 for the mandatory automatic transmission.

Kia Seltos

Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

Expect the Kia stand to be busy – this will be the first time for most Torontonians to see the new Seltos, and many of them are probably waiting to put down their deposits. It’s Kia’s answer to the Hyundai Kona, finally filling the space in the line-up between the small and funky Soul and the larger, more staid Sportage.

Like the Kona, it’s powered by the same choice of naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre or turbocharged 1.6-litre engines, and AWD is an option. It’s slightly larger though, with more space in the back seats and more cargo capacity. The Seltos will start arriving in dealerships this month, but those people waiting to put down deposits will be walking back and forth between the Hyundai and Kia exhibits to try out all the seats, while maybe stopping off at the other makers’ stands along the way.

Wondering about the name? It comes from “Celtos,” who was the son of Hercules in Greek mythology. It seems like Kia has some seriously strong aspirations for the newest member of its family.

Land Rover Defender

Courtesy of manufacturer

This year, all the attention at the Land Rover display will be on the company's new Defender. Considered by many Land Rover fans as the true ancestor of the go-anywhere, do-anything Land Rovers of the past, the previous Defender was a square-jawed hero to many.

This new, more polished model has a lot to live up to. Breaking with tradition, it's fare more complex than its slab-sided predecessor, and features unibody construction instead of an old-fashioned – but highly durable – body-on-frame layout. Land Rover purists aren't usually a fan of change.

However, this new Defender represents progress. For greater offroad prowess, it features adjustable air suspension and clever, computerized terrain management systems. Land Rover claims the new Defender can climb or traverse a 45 degree hill, or wade through up to 900 millimetres of water. Powerful four- or six-cylinder engines provide up to 395 hp.

Old school Land Rover charms remain, such as a foldaway jump seat to accommodate three passengers up front, and plenty of space in back for a brace of border collies. There will be both a two-door variant, the 90, as well as the four-door 110, which will arrive first to the Canadian market.

Prices start at $65,300, making the Defender a more expensive alternative to the more rough-and-tumble Jeep Wrangler. However, the new Defender aims to be a little more refined than its American cousin, paying tribute to its boxy past, while still moving forward into the future.

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Mini John Cooper Works GP

Bernhard Filser/Courtesy of manufacturer

Fresh off celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, Mini is throwing everything it can into its smallest offering, creating the Tasmanian Devil that is the Mini John Cooper Works GP. Power is up a whopping 75 over the regular Cooper S, making for the most powerful Mini ever.

This isn't the first time Mini has built a GP model. The previous version, launched in 2012, has become something of a collectors item. The new version is certainly a lot of money for a Mini, at $51,990, but as a limited edition, top-of-the-range model, this new GP should catch the eye of Mini fans for years to come.

The headline is the horsepower, now up to 302 from the BMW-sourced, turbocharged, 2.0L four-cylinder engine. However, the GP gets a host of other upgrades, including a wider track for greater road-holding grip, and a special GP mode for the stability control that should allow more rotation in a corner. If you were wondering, more rotation means more fun – right up until the point the stability control steps in to save your bacon.

In a surprise move, a manual transmission isn't available. Neither is all-wheel-drive present to get the power down. Instead, the GP uses an eight-speed automatic and relies on a limited-slip differential to help acceleration out of corners.

As the ultimate evolution of the Mini’s pocket rocket ethos, the GP looks like all the fun you can handle. Only 59 examples will be sold in the Canadian market, so you’d best be as quick as it is.

Porsche 718 GT4

Rossen Gargolov/Handout

Porsche is a company that sells dreams. At the high end of their range, cars like the 911 GT2 RS, or the retro-styled 935 are stuff you might have to win the lottery twice to park in your garage. However, the best Porsches might be the ones that are just about within reach.

The 718 Cayman GT4 is hardly inexpensive, at 113,000, but it isn't quite the flight of fancy that the nearly ten times more expensive 935 (also on display here) is. And what more could you want in your Porsche? Where other Cayman's have moved to a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the GT4 gets a naturally-aspirated flat-six.

In fact, everything about the GT4 sounds like a Porsche fanatic's dream. The only transmission available is a six-speed manual. The 414 hp, 4.0L engine is in the middle, and the car is shorter, narrower, and more nimble than a 911. The suspension is tuned to be sharp enough for the track, but could just about work as a daily driver if you've done your weekly yoga.

In short, the Cayman GT4 is a highly-focused, enthusiast-pleasing performance machine for around the same price as the entry-level 911. Even if Porsche’s sales charts are all about the Macan and Cayenne crossovers these days, there’s still room in the showroom for a bit of dreaming.

Toyota RAV4 Prime

Courtesy of manufacturer

For Toyota, “Prime” means a plug-in hybrid, and so the RAV4 Prime is a plug-in vehicle with more electrification than the new RAV4 Hybrid that went on sale last year. It will be sold in Canada later this year.

The RAV4 Prime can drive in completely electric mode for up to 60 kilometres, which means you can charge from your household plug overnight and then drive around town for an hour or so without using any gas. If you have a longer commute, you can switch to electric for the final drive into the more congested city. If you’re on a road trip, you can drive with just the gas engine, just like a conventional car.

The other big difference is that the RAV4 Prime has up to an estimated 302 hp available, which makes it easily the most powerful non-premium compact SUV on the market.

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It’ll accelerate from zero-to-100 km/h in 5.8 seconds. Do you really need that? That’s for you to decide, but because the RAV4 is Toyota’s best-selling vehicle, there’ll be plenty of potential buyers to make that choice. In fact, the only production Toyota that’s quicker is the GR Supra sports car, which will be on display nearby.

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