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toronto auto show

The Jaguar F-TYPE Project 7 shown at the Canadian International Auto Show on Feb. 12, 2014.Tom Maloney

We have entered a time of revolutionary engineering in the automotive sector, an era when advanced engine technologies, alternative fuels and lightweight vehicle construction are combining to create a perfect storm of performance. Supercars are lighter, faster and, incredibly, more eco-friendly and fuel-efficient than ever before.

But manufacturers are not searching for speed in the same way; this is why now is such an interesting time for high-performance cars. Here are examples of brand new and forthcoming cars that show the diversity of thinking; some are at the Canadian International Auto Show, others are closely related to what is on display.

Bare-knuckled bruisers

While a thundering gasoline engine with two fistfuls of cylinders is not necessarily the latest thinking on how to generate speed, there remain some fine examples – and more are on the horizon.

Last year saw the debut of the sixth-generation Ford Mustang; this year, the fleet will expand with the addition of the 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 and its more track-ready variant, the GT350R. Final output numbers for the 5.2-litre V-8 haven't been revealed yet, but it's expected to deliver north of 500 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque.

Another example of naturally aspirated aggression blasting into focus is the forthcoming Aston Martin Vantage GT3, a street-legal version of a purebred race car. The Aston has been labelled the most extreme version of the Vantage yet — this is saying something because the current V12 Vantage S is one of the best all-around supercars on the planet.

The similarly V-12-engined GT3, set to be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, is said to have more power and less weight, setting the stage for what could be a mythical combination. Nothing can replace the visceral thrill of a 6.0-litre V-12 that cranks out more than 500 horsepower and roars like the world is coming to an end.

  • Thrill factor: 205 beats per minute
  • Innovation factor: 7,000 rpm
  • CIAS link: The Vantage GT3 is a no-show, but the visually similar Vantage GT is here. The Mustang fleet, including the Shelby GT350 and GT350R is under the klieg lights.

Unabashed turbo-charmers

Traditionalists may well veer towards a screaming V-8, V-10 or V-12 that has been fine-tuned to a near-impossible degree, but there may be limits to how far that tuning can take a given car. Later this year, we will collectively witness a watershed moment – the last naturally aspirated Porsche 911 variant, the GT3 RS will make its debut.

Ferrari has just taken a similar step, announcing that the replacement for the 458 and its naturally aspirated 4.5-litre V-8 will be the 488 GTB, a car powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.9-litre V-8. Despite the reduction in engine displacement, the new V-8 is expected to develop 661 horsepower and 561 lb-ft of torque, numbers that comfortably out-distance those for the 458. The new Ferrari is expected to have a 0-100 km/h sprint time of three seconds flat and a top speed of 330 km/h.

Turbocharging is also the secret to the success of the forthcoming Bentley Continental GT3-R. Based on the Continental V8 S but visual cues and a weight-loss regimen inspired by the GT3 racecar, the GT3-R utilizes a 4.0L twin-turbo V8 that produces 572 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque.

Finally, the surprise debut at this year's North American International Auto Show was the 2016 Ford GT, the spiritual successor to the legendary GT40 (1964-69) and the GT (2005-06). The bigger surprise was that the soon-to-be supercar will be powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.5-litre V-6 – and the engineers at Ford are targeting more than 600 horsepower.

  • Thrill factor: 190 beats per minute
  • Innovation factor: 8,500 rpm
  • CIAS link: The Ferrari is not in Toronto, a flotilla of non-RS Porsche 911 variants are here and the Ford GT is arguably the star of the show.

High-powered hybrids

Last year was a banner one for the hybrid supercar. We saw the debut of three cars with scintillating performance – the Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 – and one that was marginally less extreme and far less expensive, the BMW i8.

This year, another hotly anticipated hybrid supercar, the Acura NSX, makes its appearance. Unveiled in Detroit, the production version of the 2016 Acura NSX features a hybrid powertrain consisting of three electric motors linked to a twin-turbocharged V-6 gas engine.

Two of the motors send power to the front wheels directly, while the other motor helps direct power to the rear wheels, giving the Acura true all-wheel drive. While doubts remain over the displacement of the gas engine, Acura has distracted observers with promises of more than 550 horsepower.

Finally, the second-generation Audi R8, which is expected to bow at the Geneva Motor Show, looks to be an interesting example because it may transcend two categories.

The R8 is expected to feature uprated versions of the naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V-8 and 5.2-litre V-10 that power the current supercar. But company insiders say that the new R8 has been developed to accommodate a plug-in hybrid powertrain – they even hint at the possibility of an Audi R8 e-tron, an all-electric version.

  • Thrill factor: 215 beats per minute
  • Innovation factor: 10,000 rpm
  • CIAS link: The Acura NSX is on the show floor, but fans have to make do with the “old” Audi R8.

The outsider

Superchargers have been bolted on to internal combustion engines for almost as long as the internal combustion engine has existed. Generally speaking, manufacturers have moved away from supercharging and towards turbocharging for their forced induction requirements; turbocharged engines can produce more power and better fuel efficiency if engineered properly.

But every so often, supercharging experiences a renaissance and that's what is happening now. Last year, we witnessed the introduction of the audacious Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, which showcases a supercharged 6.2L V-8 and a mammoth 707 horsepower. This year, we have another supercharged supercar to covet — the Jaguar F-TYPE Project 7.

Based on the scintillating Jaguar F-TYPE and limited to just 250 examples for the entire world — yes, the production run is sold out already — this two-seat roadster is powered by a supercharged 5.0L V-8. The car's performance is expected to be very good: the 575-horsepower engine will generate sub-4 second 0-100 km/h times and a cool windblown effect for your hair.

  • Thrill factor: 220 BPM
  • Innovation factor: 7500 RPM
  • CIAS link: The Project 7 is on display at the Jaguar stand; the SRT cars are also in the north building of the MTCC.

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