Having enjoyed an experience comparing closely to Christmas in just the morning of the 2011 Canadian International Auto Show, I awaited what would be a high-energy afternoon at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC). Taking in a lunch break, members of the media were granted the distinct pleasure of eating within sight of freshly-minted automobiles. From where I sat, I overlooked the Hyundai Equus just ahead of the large, south end windows. Looking at the CBC building across the Toronto city street, the overcast day of this unseasonably warm February day was greatly contrasted by the bright lights of Canadian and regional premieres of new automobiles.
The first press conference following lunch was for the vibrant automotive group of Hyundai. Skewing into a higher class of motor vehicles including the Genesis and now the Equus, Hyundai has also devoted efforts to revitalizing their traditional small car roots. First time shown on Canadian soil, the 2012 Hyundai Veloster three-door was unwrapped. Along with the snappy Veloster, some attention was devoted to a redesigned Hyundai Accent. With small car being more in vogue North of the border, the Canadian automotive press were reacting to the Accent and the Veloster quite enthusiastically. The electrified Blue Will concept, first shown through last year’s auto show circuit completed the showmanship at the Hyundai exhibit as attention prepared to be shifted to Volkswagen.
Volkswagen and the later Chrysler presentations involved their pricey Super Bowl advertisements from just a few weeks prior. For Volkswagen, the little Darth Vader spot initiated the Canadian unveiling for the 2012 Volkswagen Passat. Overall forecasting to sell 50,000 vehicles in just Canada alone through 2011, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group Canada John White had optimism for their entire vehicle lineup which includes two awards from AJAC (Automotive Journalist Association of Canada). The 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel and Volkswagen Touareg both received commendations through the auto show. Mr White also informed press on a reworked Tiguan which will be brought light Geneva Motor Show and the 2012 Beetle.
Remaining on the German continent of motor vehicles, Mercedes-Benz provided a packed assortment of vehicles ranging from the Smart Fortwo to a Mercedes-Benz SLS. Unveiling two cars at the 2011 Canadian International Auto Show, the first car was an ultra-exclusive, Canada-only version of the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG called the Affalterbach Edition. Offering more universal appeal, the cover was removed from the second car, a red 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK roadster which includes a convertible hardtop featuring the Magic Sky Control glass roof.
Experiencing a sense of a renaissance spirit from the Chrysler display, heavily revised lineup shows a lot of personality. Centering their presentation around the Chrysler 200, 300 and the Dodge Charger sedans, their infusion of emotion into the American auto company is an impressive feat for Chrysler based on the reality they were evidently going to have the hardest time of the Detroit three automakers. Along the other vehicles being shown off in the Chrysler display was the Ram Power Wagon and the Dodge Challenger SRT8 392. The buzz-worthy vehicle for Chrysler Group at last year’s auto show, the Fiat 500 migrated into a separate exhibit just across the floor. A subcompact vehicle, the Fiat 500 strength came in shear numbers as a fleet lined a pathway inside of the convention center.
Showing off their future runner for an expanded Prius product line, Toyota gave Canadian a first look new at the 2012 Prius v hybrid. One the another side of the exhibit as well as on a vastly different vehicle category, an example of 500 Lexus LFA supercars provided some eye candy to what is often a rather dull product display from Toyota. In a relieve for 2011, the cars remained the largest focus of this auto show gather. Last year, much of talk from Toyota centered on calming worries of their products’ sudden and unpredictable acceleration problem.
Past three o’clock in the afternoon, the 2011 Canadian International Auto Show media day has entered the seven-hour mark with 13 auto manufacturers providing status updates. Of course, I’m not complaining during this day of automotive nirvana but I did need to load a third camera battery prior to final model introductions which included an anticipated conference with Audi on deck.
Unveiling the 2012 Audi A6 sedan to the Canadian public, flash bulbs illuminated the display once a new high-end edition of the TT sports car. Less than a week after its North American premiere at the Chicago Auto Show, the 340 horsepower Audi TT RS dazzled in a sharp red paint vividly against the white and silver. Also at the show but making a quiet first appearance inside the MTCC is the Audi A7. Introduced just six months ago, the A7’s rather humdrum reception is perhaps the result of rapidly-changing fashion of the premium luxury car category. However, I still find the Audi A7 a trendy number which makes much more sensible choice in a Canadian weather climate.
Having visited almost every automobile company’s exhibit, the Subaru exhibit presented the final concept car of the 2011 Canadian International Auto Show media day. With opening gull-wing doors, the Subaru Hybrid Tourer Concept features many innovations including EyeSight system as well as a 2-liter, turbocharged boxer engine connected in unison with an electric motor to all-wheel drive.
With Media Day drawing closer to the end, the last auto manufacturer to hold a press conference was Saab Automobiles. Occupying a small space on the lower convention center with only three vehicles, the Swedish automobile’s display is certainly not contending with the floor exhibits. For Saab, the simple presence of the car company at the Canadian International Auto Show demonstrated a hard effort exerted by the openly independent brand. Providing a narrated view into a bright window for Saab’s future, executive director of North American sales John Anderson gave encouragement to the Swedish auto maker’s cause of producing individualized premium vehicles.
As the Saab press conference concluded in a crowded hallway with over 100 members of the media, more room was afforded to press when the Canadian International Auto Show opened up a major display called Concorso Exotica. Showcasing the some of the finest exotic cars the world has to offer, past and present was well-represented. Modern Porsches, Lotus and Aston Martin models shared space with classic museum-quality pieces within Concorso Exotica which included a rare spectacle of seeing a total of five Lamborghinis in one place outside of a dealership. Lamborghini’s arch rival Ferrari had firm representation at Concorso Exotica. Providing a small snapshot of the Italian sports car builder’s history starting with a 1960 Ferrari 250 GT Series II Cabriolet. The progression of Ferrari’s high-performance lifestyle would continue to be told at Concorso Exotica through a Ferrari F40 and modern cars such as the 599 GTB Fiorano and the brand-new 458 Italia.
An adjacent room to Concorso Exotica contained the Auto Show’s annual Cruise Nationals exhibit of antique vehicles. Presenting 10 finalist from what was once 1,400 vehicles shown throughout Cruise Nationals regional events in Canada, this year’s ultimate winner was a yellow 1969 Chevy Nova SS.
After 9 hours of enjoying a worthwhile time between the greatest vehicles of 2011 and 2012, the media day of the 2011 Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto concluded with the knowledge that enthusiasm is back in the auto industry. Enduring factors including a world financial crisis, changing social attitudes and even the inclement weather of Canada, the automobile continues to adapt to the people who rely on this transportation.
Photo source: Chris Nagy