The stars of auto shows worldwide come to Toronto



Some of the concepts you will see at this year’s Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto include (from top) the Volkswagen Tiguan, a compact crossover/SUV, the Nissan Urge, which features a youthful design, and the Mazda Nagare, which reveals a styling theme of the future.


They’re eye-catchers, the stars of auto shows worldwide. And this month, they’ll take their places under the spotlights at Toronto’s Canadian International AutoShow.


Concept vehicles are hand-built by automakers to offer a glimpse into the sort of thinking that’s underway behind the gates and walls that surround the auto industry’s styling studios, engineering labs and test tracks.

Some of these concepts are simply a chance to show off wildly creative design fantasies. Others serve as rolling showcases of future technology, which may debut in production vehicles over the next few years. Others offer an advance look at cars, trucks or crossovers that are barely months away from arriving in dealer showrooms.

Sneak previews like these allow automakers to gauge public reaction to their new designs and often serve as a last chance to fine-tune the details.

Also, more than at any previous Canadian auto show, this year’s concept displays will include vehicles boasting “green” powerplants. They’ll range from new-generation, clean-burn, high-power diesels to gas-electric hybrids. Almost unnoticed, many of the cars with conventional internal combustion engines continue to undergo dramatic refinements in terms of fuel efficiency and tailpipe emissions.

Acura’s Advanced Sports Car Concept reportedly offers the first hint of an exotic sports coupe, which will succeed the handsome, mid-engined, and technically advanced NSX. This new concept coupe can accommodate a V10 engine, rear-drive and Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system.

Audi’s R8 is being sneak-previewed at this month’s show in advance of its arrival in Canadian showrooms later this year. The R8 is an aggressively handsome, mid-engined sports coupe with a lengthy motorsports pedigree. Prototype R8s scored class-victories at the 24-hour endurance race at Le Mans in 2001 and 2002, 2004 and 2005.

DaimlerChrysler will exhibit three concepts:

  • Challenger Concept: Despite its familiar name, this new mid-size car is reworked, re-proportioned and redesigned compared to previous Challengers. Chrysler’s HEMI V8 powers this concept exercise.

  • Avenger: Daimler-Chrysler plans to expand globally, and as part of that initiative the company has been developing more compact and fuel efficient vehicles that are likely to appeal to overseas customers. The Avenger is an example of this; but first, it will debut in Canadian dealerships within weeks.

  • Sebring Convertible: For years, Chrysler has dominated a niche for four seat convertibles. This is an entirely new design with a powered hardtop roof. It arrives in showrooms this spring.

Ford will also display three feature vehicles, all of them actual concepts:

  • The F-250 Super Chief concept reveals the sort of large, macho pickup truck that Ford might create for the future.

  • SynUS is a styling exercise inspired by the supposition that car-owners may some day use their vehicles as a refuge from world turmoil. SynUS is diesel-powered, subcompact in size and based on the platform of Ford’s European Fiesta subcompact.

  • Ford Shelby GR-1 is a sexy two-seat sports car with a V10 engine. The car’s exterior is a true eye-catcher. The body is entirely clad in bare, mirror-like polished aluminum.

General Motors will bring three concept vehicles:

  • Top Tuner Solstice reveals what can be obtained when 30 of Canada’s vehicle customizers and tuner parts suppliers take up the challenge to transform an already good-looking sports car into a wild thing on wheels.

  • Saab Aero X shows off the Swedish company’s dual roots in aviation and car making. The result is a two-seat performance car that dispenses with conventional doors, roof and windscreen in favour of a cockpit capped by a jet-fighter-style domed canopy.

  • Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell is among the first of 100 such experimental SUVs to be made available this fall to selected drivers in California, greater New York and Washington, D.C.

Mazda’s Nagare is not intended as the design for any specific sports car or sedan. Rather, it is meant to reveal an overall styling theme Mazda may follow between now and 2020.

Mitsubishi’s Concept-X hints at the sexy new looks being considered for the automaker’s Evo — the rip snorting, World Rally Championship winning Lancer Evolution sedan.

The Nissan Urge is a unique concept designed to appeal to young buyers. It fuses a youthful car design with Xbox 360 gaming capability. Games can be played only when the Urge is stationary. Its game controls include the Urge’s own steering wheel, gas and brake pedals.

Toyota’s Triathlon suggests how a performance car might tackle a variety of terrains. It’s a “green” car, driven by electric hub motors powered by fuel cells.

Volkswagen’s Tiguan is a compact crossover/SUV, a smaller sibling of the Touareg, scheduled to arrive in Canadian showrooms very shortly, powered by a clean-burn “Bluetec” diesel engine.