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The new 2012 BMW 3 Series sedan.

BMW is following an emerging trend to downsized but up-powered vehicles; the next-generation BMW 3-Series will offer a four-cylinder engine in North America for the first time in a (non-automotive) generation.

The new 3-Series will arrive as a tardy 2012 model in February, using the same 240-hp-plus four-cylinder engine used in the X1 crossover, a turbocharged four that will also be introduced in the Z4 two-seat sports car at the same time. A turbo 3.0-litre inline-six will continue to be the up-level engine, and will remain at 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque, but the retuned engine will use less fuel than before, according to BMW.

The company will roll out enhancements to the 3-Series soon after. A detuned four-cylinder, the 320i, will be added in Canada in the spring. All-wheel-drive versions of all three models (320i, 328i and 335i) will be available in the summer. It will be the first time that BMW's AWD system, or xDrive in BMW-speak, will be available on the base 3-Series.

A hybrid version called the ActiveHybrid 3 arrives in the fall of 2012, generating 335 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, likely pushing the Infiniti M35h hybrid for quickest luxury hybrid sport sedan title. European tests suggest this hybrid achieves an overall average of 6.4 litres/100 km, 12.5 per cent less than BMW's similarly powerful gasoline models, which isn't as much of a difference as one might expect in a full hybrid, though it also speaks to how fuel-efficient BMW's current turbo six is.

New technologies coming for the latest 3-Series include a stop-start system on its available eight-speed automatic, a full-colour Head Up display, blind spot detection, a hands-free trunk-opening feature and an all-around display when the car is in reverse.

An ambitious program to seek out and highlight top emerging Canadian fashion designers reached its zenith this week when five finalists of the new Mercedes-Benz Start Up program had a runway "show off" at the cumbersomely named LG Fashion Week Beauty by L'Oreal Paris.

Canadian supermodel Jessica Stam announced the winner this week, Montreal-based duo Martin Lim, made up of husband and wife team Danielle Martin and Pao Lim.

Mercedes-Benz Canada worked with fashion and sports power agency IMGand the Fashion Design Council of Canada to put together a program that sought out up-and-coming fashion designers around the country – not necessarily young, but those with less than five years of experience. Once a short list of 20 designers was established, a semi-final round of fashion mini-shows were put on in the Vancouver and Montreal areas, in front of fashion buyers, media and industry types.

From those two semis came five finalists, who all competed at this week's fashion-fest in Toronto for the grand prize: mentoring from fashion and business industry experts, an editorial feature in Fashion magazine, and their own, fully produced runway show during the Fall 2012 Collections in March.

The other finalists included Cassie Dee and Triarchy (Adam Taubenfligel) representing Vancouver, as well as Unttld (José Manuel St-Jacques and Simon Bélanger), and Travis Taddeo, all out of Montreal.

A number of electric and plug-in vehicles will be available for public test drives at EV Fest in Toronto this Sunday, including a Nissan Leaf that's part of the Autoshare car-sharing services fleet and a 2012 Toyota Prius PHV plug-in hybrid vehicle.

A Chevrolet Volt from GM, an electric Smart from Toronto Hydro and a Tesla Roadster will also be on display at the show, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 23. The show takes place at the Evergreen Brick Works on Bayview Avenue, near the headquarters of Better Place Ontario, which has also set up a public EV demonstration centre at the site since March ( that will also be open this weekend, complete with public charger.

The show was born out of annual gatherings of the Electric Vehicle Society of Canada, which has long focused on converting cars to electric power, said show organizer Robert Weekley.

"Auto makers were doing nothing with EVs – now they're doing something, so we have to support them," he said, while finalizing last-minute details on which EVs, eBikes, conversion and EV parts makers would appear for the show's website,

An extra-powerful Volkswagen Golf R has finally been confirmed for the Canadian market, and is set to arrive in the spring.

To be available as a five-door only, the 256-hp Golf R will use a turbocharged four, a version of the 2.0-litre engine in the Audi TT-S coupe that makes 265 hp. The Golf R will start at $39,650 in Canada, and will be available in April 2012.

It will be the most powerful factory Golf available in North America, leap-frogging the current 200-hp GTI in both engine output and suspension aggressiveness, and will come standard with a Haldex all-wheel-drive system. The performance-focused AWD system can send up to 100 per cent of the power to the rear wheels, all models coming only with a six-speed manual.

Previous limited-edition R versions of the Golf have been available in the United States, in 2004 and 2008, but never officially made it to Canada.