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New age dawns in T.O.

The future’s on hyperdrive at this year’s Toronto auto show

Despite a challenging economy and a reduced market outlook for 2009, the Canadian International Auto Show (CIAS) makes its return to Toronto Friday. And while the weather might be cold and gloomy, the show itself will feature some of the hottest new models and technology influencing the sector today.

Spread over the North and South buildings of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre along with virtually the entire Rogers Centre, the show features over 79,000 square metres of exhibitor space, and every major manufacturer that sells vehicles in Canada will be ably represented. About 400 workers have been preparing for two weeks, unloading 375 transport trucks worth of vehicles and displays and installing nearly 48,063 square metres of carpeting, all in anticipation of hosting the largest consumer show of any kind in Canada.

The event’s theme for 2009 is “The New Era,” a way to show the public that offerings are changing rapidly given the economic and environmental challenges facing the auto industry today. David McClean, CIAS director of marketing services, thinks the show is evolving with consumer tastes and demands.

“We used ‘The Turning Point’ in 2008, and it was clear the industry was evolving in a new direction, but there wasn’t much in the way of tangible evidence yet. It was almost too early. This year, ‘The New Era’ reflects all of these global issues we’re facing.”

McClean is very enthusiastic about the new technology on display at this year’s CIAS, including hybrids, diesels and electrics. “The public will get to see all the alternatives to the gasoline engine. And we have the new ‘GTA in Motion — The Future is Electric’ showcase, where they can see some first-generation electric vehicles on display.”

Also, students from Humber College will participate in the show, and will “create and demonstrate electric mobility solutions that embrace the viability of the all-electric future.”

Away from the ‘green’ theme, some of the desirable machinery introduced will focus on high-end Canadian debuts, including the new Audi S4 and V10-powered R8, the BMW Z4, Lincoln MKT, Cadillac SRX and Jaguar XFR, while others are aimed at a more entry-level market, like the attractive Kia Forte and Chevrolet Equinox. And while they debuted at the Montreal Auto Show in January, funky vehicles like the Kia Soul, Nissan Cube and Honda’s new Insight hybrid will surely attract plenty of crowds.

For those who are more interested in the automotive lifestyle, CIAS also features its Red Zone which McClean called an ensemble of music, fashion and culture. Some old favourites continue, including the Sport Compact Revolution area where there are plenty of modified show and race vehicles, and a marketplace with 125 vendors selling everything from old vehicle brochures to new wheels and tires.

If you go
• What: 2009 Canadian International Auto Show.
• When: Friday, Feb. 13 to Sunday, Feb. 22.
• Hours: Daily from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Final show from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
• WHERE: Metro Toronto Convention Centre and Rogers Centre.
• TICKETS: $20 for adults, $7 for children aged 7-12, children 6 and under free. Multi-day pass $20. Family Pass $40 (2 adults, 2 children 12 and under).
• Closest Subway: Union Station, then Skywalk west toward Rogers Centre.
• Parking: Free Parking at Harbourfront Centre on Queen’s Quay and Lower Simcoe. Shuttle bus service runs entire length of show.

Top 5 debuts
Nissan NV 2500: This is a world debut of Nissan’s first in a new line of commercial vehicles that’s set to challenge the likes of Ford and General Motors. Expect something similar to the Dodge Sprinter in concept, meaning smaller engines and flexible sizing.

Toyota Prius/Lexus HS250: Canadian debuts of Toyota’s latest pair of hybrid sedans. Prius hasn’t altered its look too much from last generation, but power and fuel economy are both improved. Upscale Lexus HS250 will be the first dedicated luxury hybrid model.

Volkswagen Golf: Latest generation of VW’s venerable hatchback has been on sale in Europe for a few months, but this will be our first up-close look. More a facelift than a complete redesign, no word yet on what engines will be available for Canada.

Chrysler Town & Country EV: Perhaps a little wishful thinking on Chrysler’s part, but a plug-in hybrid version of the legendary Windsor, Ont.-built minivans would make sense in Canada.

Ford Taurus: From staid to stunning, the new Ford Taurus is the result of Ford’s promise to improve its car-based offerings. Will offer the company’s new EcoBoost engines, and is said to revive the SHO badge of the late ’80s.

 
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