Toronto is always on the cusp of getting something – world-class status, "Manhattanization," great coffee, a decent hockey team, subways, LRTs, pop-up shops and food trucks. Name a trend and the city's almost on top of it.
Naturally, because all the great cities have an auto show – Paris, Geneva, Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles – Toronto has one, too. It's a uniquely unpretentious, unflashy affair that nevertheless delivers the goods.
The 2016 Toronto auto show – officially the Canadian International Auto Show, sorry Montreal and Vancouver – will be overflowing with new machinery, reflecting the fact Canada is coming off three years of record-setting new vehicle sales.
The concepts and stars from CES and the Detroit motor show, which take place a few weeks earlier, generally don't make the trip north to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. But what the Toronto show does have is metal: lots of shiny new cars, many of which will be seen in Canada for the first time.
Here are some highlights to watch for at CIAS 2016, including some big Canadian debuts from auto makers – including Jaguar, Mercedes, Porsche Cadillac, and Hyundai's new luxury brand Genesis.
The F-Pace is the first SUV from Jaguar, and our pick for the most interesting new 'ute slated to make an appearance at the show. It's an odd product for the British brand – the one who gave us the E-Type and the XJ – until you realize it was SUVs and crossovers that drove vehicles sales up to record heights in Canada last year. Jaguar is keen for a piece of that action, and while brand purists might scoff, the F-Pace looks even better in person than in photos. Shame about the name though.
"Consumers were veering away from cars – still a major force in the market, just not as major as before – toward SUVs and crossovers," said Tim Cain, analyst at GoodCarBadCar. "Sales of that group of vehicles shot up 13 per cent in 2015, far exceeding the 2.5 per cent growth rate of the industry as a whole."
The F-Pace is far from the only new SUV or truck on display this year; there will be roughly 15 new models and concepts from Audi, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota and Volkswagen, if you count the Beetle Dune.
"I don't think the SUV/CUV trend is merely a trend," said Cain. "The fuel economy disadvantage has been mostly stripped away. Thus, a buyer who can opt for greater flexibility will likely do so."
That said, CIAS isn't just an SUV show. Not yet, anyway. Subaru is among the few brands bucking the trend, showing a sedan concept, one it say previews the next-generation Impreza.
Hyundai won't only have a new car making a Canadian debut this year, but a whole new luxury brand named Genesis. Prog rock only in the booth? Phil Collins as spokesmodel? We can only hope.
Genesis's first all-new car, the G90, will be the centrepiece of the stand. The South Korean company wants a piece of the tasty profit margins and prestige up for grabs in the luxury segment, and consumers can expect high-end features and space at a sub-Lexus price point. Bargain of the century or punchline waiting to happen? The G90 will be a good litmus test. We're as curious as Hyundai to see what Canadians think of the new company.
For the fantasists, there will be plenty of exotics and sports cars on display. Short of taking a trip to Goodwood in England, you're not going to see a Pagani Huayra next to a legendary McLaren F1 GTR racer. The latter comes straight out of BMW North America's private collection. Find both at the Pfaff stand. Meanwhile, Grand Touring will have everything from Lamborghini's pretty Huracan, to the big Rolls-Royce Wraith coupe, to the sublime Aston Martin DB9 GT.
Porsche is in the midst of updating the 20-plus cars in its 911 range, giving them all new turbocharged engines. The latest of these new 911s will be at the show, but if you want to see the revised 718 Boxster and Cayman, you're out of luck. They won't make their auto show debut until Geneva in March.
Most anticipated new car of 2016? For gearheads, it's probably a toss up between the BMW M2 and Ford Focus RS. Both offer monster engines, road and track potential and the promise of giddy-grin-inducing handling at prices that seem almost affordable. So tempting.
Audi is pushing its futuristic technology, showing a scary-fast autonomous car by name of the RS7 Piloted Drive demonstrator – but you can call it HAL. One of Audi's Le Mans-winning R18 E-Tron Quattro race cars will also be on display. In terms of cars you could actually buy, there will be the V10-powered R8 and a new "Performance" package that makes the already ballistic RS7 even more powerful. A 605-horsepower luxury hatchback? Nobody asked for it, but nobody's complaining, either.
Mercedes has more new Canadian debuts than any other brand. New models from AMG include a four-seat convertible, the S 63 Cabriolet, a big two-seat convertible, the SL 63, a compact two-seat convertible, the SLC 43 (formerly SLK), and the S 550e, a plug-in hybrid. Got that? And there will also be a new full-size GLS SUV and pint-sized Smart fortwo Cabriolet.
Families looking to replace an old wagon will want to look at the compact Mercedes C-Class wagon. It's one of the few wagons offered in Canada, and a welcome addition to the market.
Lexus will show off the LF-C2 Roadster concept seen previous at the Los Angeles Auto Show. We can all but promise it's a preview of an upcoming Lexus RC convertible.
Buick won't be showing the Avista coupe concept that stunned everyone at last month's Detroit auto show, but it will have last year's Avenir sedan concept and the production car it inspired: the 2017 LaCrosse.
Cadillac, GM's other luxury brand, has its CT6 flagship sedan making a Canadian debut. Will it be good enough to catapult the brand back to its post-war glory days?
There will be one North American debut at the show, from Mitsubishi. Poor Mitsubishi. The company is in need of new products to update its range, but is a new sedan version of the sub-compact Mirage hatchback really the vehicle to rebuild the brand?
And then there's Fiat, to remind us that spring isn't that far away. Nope, it's not another version of the 500, it's a proper little Italian sports car called the Fiat 124 Spyder. Sure, it's built by Mazda on the MX-5 chassis, but the Italian styling and tiny turbocharged engine is enough to make anyone yearn for sunshine.
The Tesla Model X – the all-electric SUV officially unveiled last September near the company's California factory – will be featured among more than 25 electric, hydrogen and hybrid eco vehicles on display. It is the first time it will be displayed at any auto show, CIAS officials said in a press release.
If we're being honest, the Canadian International Auto Show isn't really on the cusp of world-class status. But it's not like Toronto to care what other people think. This is our auto show. It's a show for the people, not the press, and that's a good thing. It runs from February 12-21 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
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