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."
If you've been living in a deep, dark cave you might have missed new about the 2012 Chevrolet Volt. Otherwise, the Volt electric vehicle with extended range seems pretty familiar, even if it has not yet gone on sale in Canada and won't until this summer. Chevy will have it on hand at the show, with information about the two options packages to be offered: Premium Trim and a Rear Camera and Park Assist Package.
2012 Orlando: This multi-purpose wagon had its world debut at the 2010 Paris Motor Show and that European concept model will be on display at the Canadian International Auto Show. The Orlando "combines seven-seater practicality and interior flexibility with striking crossover style design." The Orlando will be available at Chevrolet Dealers across Canada later this year.
The 2012 Sonic is a "youthful, aggressive design is backed by turbocharged performance and agile ride and handling, combining to deliver an efficient, fun-to-drive small car." It's also the replacement for the current Chevy Aveo. Chevy will sell two body styles: four-door sedan and five-door later this year.
The 2011 Camaro Convertible is built in Oshawa, Ont., and will go on sale in February. It includes "an enhanced body structure and well-tailored top mechanism - a combination designed to deliver sports coupe-like driving fun and precise quality."
Engines: a 312-horsepower direct injection V-6 (6.9 litres/100 km) and a 6.2-litre V-8 producing 426-horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission will be standard, with an optional six-speed automatic.
The 2011 Chrysler 300C is getting its first styling change since 2005. Every piece of sheet metal is new and the interior is a solid winner. Chrysler will offer a new eight-speed transmission in this rear-wheel drive car with "elegantly sculptured body."
The 2011 Charger has been given a new design, one Dodge types say was inspired by the "iconic" second generation Charger. There is more power, too, for the V-6: 292 horsepower from the Pentastar engine. The Charger is available with all-wheel drive, as well.
The 2011 Durango offers "standard seven-passenger seating, AWD, premium interior soft-touch materials amenities, and unmistakable styling," says Dodge. The engine is a 3.6-litre, 290 horsepower Pentastar V-6 with a 1,000 km driving range.
The all-new Ford Focus Electric is the first fuel-free, rechargeable passenger car from Ford. Ford says the zero-CO2-emissions, gasoline-free small car is the flagship of the company's growing fleet of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles coming to North America and Europe by 2013. A full recharge is expected to take three to four hours at home with the 240-volt charge station.
C-MAX: This is an multi-purpose wagon "flexible seating and interior space, sporty performance and best-in-class fuel economy. Based on the new Ford Focus platform, the seven-seat C-MAX is aimed at family buyers.
2012 Focus: The design is eye-catching and inside buyers will find an array of smart new technologies. Ford insists the ride and handling will be as sporty in North America as in Europe.
The 2012 Mustang Boss 302 is back. Baby boomers looking to relive their youth will find this a performance car equal to their memories of the 1960s and '70s. Ford says the Boss 302 "is set to become the quickest, best-handling straight-production Mustang ever offered by Ford."
The all-new 2011 Explorer has been reinvented with "best-in-class fuel economy, improved driving dynamics and terrain management system, all wrapped in a modern, weight-saving design," says Ford. For safety, the Explorer has an array of air bags, including industry-first inflatable rear seat belts. Mindful of the tall ride height, this Explorer has something called AdvanceTrac with RSC (Roll Stability Control) and Curve Control functionality.
The 2011 Honda Civic Si Coupe concept is the companion vehicle to the Civic Concept sedan which had its Canadian debut at the Montreal auto show last month. Honda says these are concepts hinting at what the ninth-generation and all-new Civic will look like when it arrives in the spring.
But let's not kid anyone. The Civic Sedan and Civic Si coupe "concepts" will arrive in showrooms looking almost identical to the "concepts" offered here - cars that look nearly luxurious, to be truthful. Honda says the new gasoline power trains will offer improved fuel efficiency and the hybrid will be Honda's first with advanced lithium-ion batteries.
The 2012 Veloster is, according to Hyundai, a very stylish, sporty hatchback with an asymmetrical approach to its design. The car has three doors, with a wide door located on the driver's side and two conventional doors on the passenger side. Thus, from the driver's side it looks like a coupe and from the passenger side it looks like a sedan.
The smallish three-door crossover is aimed at Gen-Y owners who want to personalize their rides with electronics, including social networking and location sharing, says the company. A 1.6-litre direct-injection engine is the only power plant offered, coupled with the paddle-shifted dual-clutch tranny.
The 2011 Sonata Hybrid has an industry-first Lithium Polymer battery pack. This is a full parallel hybrid drive system with six-speed automatic transmission. The Sonata Hybrid can accelerate up to 100 km/h on battery power alone.
Other Hyundai models to look for: the all-new 2012 Hyundai Accent sub-compact; the completely redesigned 2011 Hyundai Elantra; the 2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T which delivers V-6 performance while achieving four-cylinder fuel efficiency; and the 2011 Hyundai Equus luxury sedan.
The 2012 Infiniti M35h is the first hybrid from Nissan's luxury brand. It is, says Infiniti, "the first hybrid ever to offer 360 horsepower and 40 miles-per-gallon (6.9 litre/100 km) fuel economy." The M Hybrid can drive on electric power alone at speeds up to 100 km/h and can travel on electric propulsion for up to 1.9 km. Infiniti says that in mixed diving, the Infiniti M35h is able to drive in electric only mode for as much as 50% of the time.
Infiniti will also showcase its 2011 Infiniti Performance Line (IPL) G Coupe. A full range of IPL vehicles is planned.
The 2011 Optima Hybrid is Kia's first hybrid vehicle. It has a parallel drive system, "using a state-of-the-art lithium polymer battery that is lighter and smaller than those used by 2010 Toyota, Ford and Nissan mid-size hybrid sedans," says Kia.
Meanwhile, the 2011 Optima mid-size sedan is a new model, combing "standout exterior styling with a comfortable, luxurious interior," says Kia. The Optima is a sister car to the Hyundai Sonata, which means like the Sonata the base engine is a 2.4-litre Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) engine with 198 horsepower and fuel economy rated at 5.7 litres/100 km highway and 8.7 litres/100 km in the city.
A 2.0-litre turbo has more horsepower than the Honda Accord V-6, Nissan Altima V-6, Ford Fusion V-6 and Toyota Camry V-6, says Kia. Yet this turbo, driven properly, has the fuel efficiency of a four-cylinder engine (5.8 L/100 km highway, 9.2 L/100 km city).
The 2012 Range Rover Evoque five-door is, says Land Rover, "the smallest, lightest, most fuel-efficient Range Rover ever. The five-door will join the coupe model to round out the Evoque lineup.
The Evoque represents Land Rover's environmental play. It is the smallest, lightest, most fuel-efficient Range Rover ever. Under the hood is a new gasoline engine with direct injection.
The 2012 Lexus LFA is a V-10 super car. It, says Lexus, "is a showcase for innovative technology, including the world's first SRS seatbelt-mounted airbag and more.
The 2011 CT 200h and IS 350 AWD are also new entries from Lexus.
"The CT 200h luxury compact hybrid is designed to appeal to an emerging type of luxury driver. It is an all-new, fun-to-drive model with a sporty style that doesn't compromise on versatility and innovation," says Larry Hutchinson, Director of Lexus in Canada. The CT 200h delivers the best combined fuel economy in the luxury segment, at just 4.6 litres/100 km.
The 2012 Mazda3 represents an updated version of Canada's second best-selling car in 2010. In addition to receiving a facelift, the Mazda3 is the first Mazda to the new SKYACTIV gasoline engine and SKYACTIV automatic transmission.
After many promises, the new SKYACTIV family of gasoline and diesel engines are starting to roll into dealer showrooms. The "Sky" approach combines gas and diesel engine refinements with weight reduction and chassis improvements. Mazda is also planning to introduce stop-start technology and even regenerative braking. The goal is to improve fleet-wide fuel efficiency by 30 per cent by 2015, above 2008 levels.
The 2012 Mazda5 wagon is also being featured at Mazda. It looks great and seats up to six in three rows of seating. And unlike minivans such as Dodge Grand Caravan, Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey, the 5 is really and truly a minivan for a mini price.
The 2012 iMiEV battery-powered car is based on a gasoline-powered "i" car in the Japanese market. Mitsubishi says the zero tailpipe emission i-MiEV will be the first North American production vehicle to be powered by Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle (MiEV) technology. The car is already in fleet testing and will go on sale at a later date.
The 2011 Quest is all new and represents Nissan's latest take on the minivan. Nissan is touting the "bold styling" and the Quest's "extensive list of family-friendly innovations and amenities" - including one-touch power sliding doors, quick release fold-flat seats, an Advanced Climate Control System and rear storage.
Also being shown at the Nissan stand: the 2011 Nissan LEAF, an all-electric car available in Canada in the second half of 2011; the 2012 GT-R, known in Nissan circles as "Godzilla", which has a new look, new colours, new wheel design and more power (530-hp); 2012 Nissan Nismo 370Z Coupe, the most powerful production Z ever offered with 350 horsepower.
The 2012 iQ is, says Scion, "the world's smallest four-seater. This vehicle is the ultimate small, urban friendly, fuel efficient vehicle that's big on style, features and safety. Packed with 10 airbags, including the world's first rear-window curtain airbag, the Scion iQ defines a new, premium micro-subcompact segment in Canada when it rolls into Scion dealerships later this year."
The 2012 Prius v is, says Toyota, "an all-new crossover addition to the Prius family." It has cargo space "to meet the needs of families with active lifestyles while providing class-leading fuel economy. Toyota is creating a complete Prius brand. That is, the Prius v is one of several Prius models, including the original hatchback and a coming plug-in Prius.
The 2012 Volkswagen Passat is all-new and American-built. The seventh generation Passat is different than the European Passat which was shown last year in Paris. The North American Passat, a completely different car, is larger than the outgoing Passat, and will feature three engines when launched in the summer of 2011. These are the 2.5-litre inline five-cylinder, the 2.0-litre TDI clean diesel and the 3.6-litre V-6.
In Pictures: 12 must-see cars on display at the Toronto auto show