It’s been two years since I went to the Canadian International Autoshow. The show has seen a downsize since its peak and was still missing several key players this year, although mostly on the exotic side of things. My approach to the show this year was different than years past, certainly the eye through which I saw things was different. While the allure for the shiny and expensive did catch the fancy of my inner boy I found myself drawn more to the daily practical cars. The thing that immediately jumped out was the lack of such “basic black” show models. Almost every single manufacturer displayed the spec’d out, leather filled and toy trimmed versions of their offerings; even the most basic of models. Pleasant to experience but doesn’t really give you a chance to see the “real life” vehicle. Here are some thoughts from the show.
Audi is one of those companies that I adore. As an avid Porsche fan it makes sense that my practical “dream car” is an Audi. Most automobile enthusiasts will agree there is little to say when it comes to Audi. Their all wheel drive system is among the best. Tastefully designed and built with top notch quality it’s a pleasure just to sit in one. The R8 is their Lamborghini inspired sports car that was lauded several times by Top Gear. It’s a favorite of mine but not as much as the S8. As a lover of all things big and luxurious the long body S8 tops the list. Sadly so does it’s price tag.
There were a couple beemers that we wanted to see. Myself personally have long had an affair with a certain diesel X5. Since driving one around three years ago while volunteering at the RBC Canadian Open I formed an emotional bond with one. Since then the BMW X5 35d has always been a favourite of mine. While there we noted a redesign of the 5 series. It looked good. We usually have a fleet of the 5 series at the RBC Canadian Open so I look forward to riding in one later this summer. The larger 7 series cars remain relatively unchanged compared to years past, as do the 3 and 1 series. We came to learn this year what differentiates a 1 series from a 3 series; A pair of doors. We also learned that this is the final year for those two cars as BMW will be switching them out for the 2 and 4 series. Makes more sense from a door perspective. Thoughts on the X3 remained the same as earlier this summer when we had one for a few days. Very well built and fun to drive but no good for families. This design also saw no changes this year.
The M series were beautiful cars all around. They featured the new M6 Gran Coupe at their display. This is a magnificent car. For some inexplicable reason I didn’t grab a snap of the car to show you. Insanity!
Not much of interest on the Buick lot this year. They have upper model versions of Chevy vehicles. The biggest design “feature” is chrome “air inlets” on the hoods of their vehicles. While non functioning and tacky to my generation they serve a heaping dose of nostalgia to those who remember Buicks from the 50’s and 60’s; essentially their target demographic. Quality was surprisingly low considering the price jump from their Chevy versions.
The Chevy pavilion dominated the GM section this year. It’s clear this is the product that GM wants to push as their mainstay. There was a lot of stuff on display here; something for everyone. Chevy really wasn’t high on my “to see” list. It was, however, high on my father’s. He had desire to see the new Trax as well as the new Malibu and Impala. As usual his interest was the smaller cars on offer with the Spark drawing his eye as well. Of the cars listed the Impala stood out most. The redesign had a European feel to it. The LTZ model on display had a lot of toys with great comforts abound. It was roomy and comfortable to sit in. It reminded me of my old Chrysler 300M. A pleasant surprise for sure.
My goal was to see the new 2014 Silverado in the flesh. I had previously watched and written a review of the unveiling and wanted to see if the live model stood up to the hype. I was pleasantly surprised to see it did. The GM Sierra was better from an interior perspective but both featured pre-production dashes. Things could change. The truck looked great in person. Its cab and basic shape are similar to the current Silverado but the dash and front are not. Another great feature is the hydraulics in the rear tailgate. Gone are the days when they slammed down. My future brother in law was impressed by this feature most. The refreshed look stands out and its interior does not disappoint. It’s a great truck for certain and I hope to get one out on a twitter test drive when they hit the showroom floor.
Dodge is an old lover of mine. Growing up there were few things I loved more than the Dodge Ram. I was and still am a Mopar guy at heart. I have a soft spot for Mopars in my heart. It was hard to watch them go through the awkward stage of poor products during the recession. Their offerings then reflected what they had become: a bean counter’s company. As of 2011 that’s all changed and many of their products have seen a massive redesign. There were several models I was keen to see this year. The Ram and I have enjoyed a long on again/off again relationship. Sadly it’s been pretty off lately.
Both Ford and GM have served up some great trucks, the latter being a long running favourite. This year I got to see what the new Ram had to offer. The interiors were well designed but lacking in many of the techie toys the competitors had on offer, even at the “longhorn” level. The seating and cabin was very comfortable. Belt buckle style clasps on the seat pockets may be a bit gimmicky to some. The Ram excels in its exterior design. I really am a sucker for the look of the truck. Dual exhausts on the back? Love it. There may be a lot of nostalgia playing in here too. The Dodge Ram was, after all, my first love.
Another car on my radar was the Dodge Dart. This one is a byproduct of a Fiat import. It’s a flashy and attractive small car that drew me in. Sadly the only version they had on display was a spec’d out sporty version. On the plus side it still came in at under $28,000. The seats were comfortable for sport seats. An attractive dash puts all easily at eye level. There are plenty of toys which seem to be well executed in the Dart. Fuel mileage was competitive as well causing my father to use the words “commuter car”.
It was the Dodge Caravan that surprised the most. I had the opportunity to do a lot of driving with the 2011 SXT version while volunteering at the RBC Canadian Open. I was struck immediately by the build quality and overall improvement over the 2010 generation. The cloth stow and go seats were surprisingly comfortable. The vans were packed with great options and, quite frankly, are at a price you can’t beat. As a minivan owner myself there is one key thing I look for: third row comfort. The Caravan didn’t shine here. On display was the “crew” level loaded to the nines. There were multi-media inputs everywhere and the same functional yet attractive dash from before. However, the front USB input hides under a rather flimsy plastic cap that my toddlers would make quick work of breaking. All in all the van didn’t leave me feeling quite as impressed as it had in the past. Perhaps the wear of the car show had taken its toll. Extreme wear is a fair test for any minivan, however, as any parent knows.
Oh, and the new viper was there. Another old favourite that looked absolutely stunning. You’ll have to take my word for it because my cell had killed itself by then. Sorry.
Ahh Ford. The pavilion I looked forward to the most. They have such a great offering of cars and their displays didn’t disappoint.
The mustangs were a fast draw for me. I’m a sucker for their retro design which only continues to improve with each generation. These are great cheap man’s sports cars and a cheap man I am. Despite what Jeremy Clarkson may say these cars have a lot to offer for the price tag. Another standout was the hybrid Fusion. I’ll be frank when I say I’m not a fan of hybrids. A tiny gas engine doing all the work of a full one just to squeeze an electric in to improve mileage. A system similar to the Chevrolet Volt is the way to go in my opinion. What surprised me most about the Fusion was not only the mileage it got but the comfort in which it did it. Usually hybrids that are sizable make trade offs. The Fusion didn’t. This was a comfortable medium sized car in which I could commute to work sipping fuel at 4L/100Km. What the real life numbers are like most interests me. Another big push from our friends at Ford is their EcoBoost engines. Say what you will but there is a lot of potential riding on these engines. You can get big engine power from small efficiency. At today’s prices that’s an appealing draw. The new Taurus was also very attractive to me. Anyone who knows me knows how hard those words are for me to say.
Now we get to the fun stuff. Ford is synonymous in my world with one thing: Trucks. My future brother in law was in firm agreement. As a man of the trades I leaned heavily on his real life experiences when judging these trucks. Coming into the Ford display we both agreed the 2014 GMC Sierra to be the clear front runner. Sadly that did not last. Each Ford truck on display was just pure joy to sit in. Their 2013 redesign puts them firmly in tight competition with the 2014 GM models. Both he and I found our perfect trucks at that point; his an F150 Platinum and mine a beautiful F350 Larait. The little boys in us came out to play. My Father thoroughly enjoyed the pop-out stair at the rear of the Ford tailgate.
We quickly browsed through the other Ford products as we came down from our high.
GM was surprisingly small this year. As mentioned above in Buick their model concentration was on Chevrolet. You can actually see the full GM display in the panoramic above. Front and center was a very pretty truck. In fact the truck I would buy right now if I was buying a GMC.
A wonderful truck. Credit where credit is due. After my test drive of the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado, essentially the same, I had a huge increase in respect and adoration of the GM truck lineup. While my top choice is Ford it is only by a slim margin.
2014 brings with it a new Sierra and a redesign of the truck. A bolder look is striking to look at. Hydraulics in the tailgate ensure there is never any loud crashes again. Side steps in the bumpers are advantageous for getting in and out without opening the tail. Even the inside is redone. All the current tech toys are front and center on the dash. It’s large and practical. It feels like a work truck. A full cabin is great for hauling supplies as well as family. Having to choose between an F150 and the 2014 Sierra, money in hand, would be a VERY difficult decision. Expect to see some great things from this truck.
Civic nation. These ever popular cars clogged up half of their display. Really have no interest in these cars no matter how reliable or efficient they are. I can report that they are still slightly more than the competition but still an excellent simple car. Moving on to why I stopped at Honda: the Odyssey. The Odyssey and Sienna top my list of dream replacements for our current minivan. After a disappointing visit to Toyota and Dodge I was becoming skeptical of the Odyssey too. A friend of mine owns one of the 8 passenger versions and only has high praise for it. I can see why. While the version on display was a Limited (sans leather, thankfully) I can say it ticked all the boxes I was keen to have. The seats were roomy and very comfortable. A third row that welcomed you and almost felt like being in a lounge. It even featured an HDMI port in the rear, something I hadn’t seen up until that point. All around a great van and certainly the next one in our family should budget allow.
Only one thing really stood out for me at Hyundai. Take a look at that Genesis concept. Looks like one of the Jaguar designers got lost on their way to work and did some sketches for them while he was there. That or Hyundai got confused for the briefest of moments.
Jaguars are always pretty to look at. Here’s a couple.
A quick look at the current Mazda 3 showed no notable improvements in the lineup. Mazda 5s still suffered from the thin upholstery and poor build quality that we noted in 2011. No changes in the design either. What Mazda did show off was the new Mazda 6. This car is a stark contrast from the rest of Mazda’s current offerings in Canada. A large, comfortable, well built car. The steering wheel and dash are vaguely Mazda but the similarities end there. A pleasant and room interior compliments a classy and European exterior. Certainly a diamond in the rough.
Mercedes actually has a contender on this list. Really. Not just because they had free wifi. That was a plus. Two years ago my father and I were introduced to the Mercedes B class. It was a Mercedes the average man could afford to buy and drive. It was small but stylish and had great gas mileage. One of the dealership folks told us then that the B class was on its final production run and a redesign was on the way. We missed seeing it last year so we made a point of it this year.
It actually caught us by surprise. Not because of how poor the changes were but because of how much it had changed. They had taken many of the design cues from the larger E class wagon and applied them to the B class. It didn’t look anything like the previous version and that is a very good thing. The interior is still painfully practical and full of great Mercedes quality and tech. An efficient 2L engine still powers the car. I was pleased to see our everyday man’s Mercedes now looked nothing like an everyday man’s car.
There was a brief stop at Nissan this year. My father was curious to check out the new Pathfinder and my brother and I wanted to take a quick look at the Titan. A newly redesigned Pathfinder is pleasant to look at. Its interior cabin, however, seemed cramped. In the classic function verses fashion the interior definitely lost out. Considering the price tag there are better, more efficient options on the market. The Titan suffered a different fate. Poor mileage aside the interior felt…basic. The model on display was actually near the top but felt more stripped down than the others. It didn’t even feel like a solid work truck. All together it was a short visit. Notably missing was the Nissan Quest, an interestingly designed but functionality lacking minivan.
Yup, we still get the Impreza and WRX. Sorry Top Gear boys. Score one us.
Our first stop and the bar setter was Toyota. Their small and medium cars are always a clean and efficient entry in their market segment. I hadn’t started taking pictures at this point so forgive all the text. Because of all the fuss Jeremy Clarkson and the boys at Top Gear had made about the GT-86 I had to check it out. In Canada we see this car as the Scion FR-S and the Subaru BRZ. The car was essentially a small sports roadster. Without being able to take it out and enjoy it as the Brit boys had it didn’t stand out as anything special to me.
Another draw was the Sienna. As a father and minivan affectionado both my father and I were interested in seeing the current model. He owns a 2005 Sienna. They were one of the few makers who had a (mostly) entry level vehicle on display – this Sienna being one of them. We noted immediately the cheap, hard plastic on the doors we had spotted in the 2011 version. The seats were also just as comfortable as the 2011. What had changed was the height and comfort of the third row. A problem with my current minivan is the third row, so it can fold flat, is very low and hard. My dad’s Sienna has a good height and soft padding in its third row. This 2013 Sienna did not. I would choose the Honda Odessey for this very reason. We also took at look at the Tundra. A very well built truck it’s popular amongst those who don’t actually get their hands dirty much. Toyota is known internationally as the standard in off road so there is little doubt in the Tundra’s pedigree. It’s never stood up well in competition, however. It suffers from the worst mileage both towing and not. Its price puts it out of reach of most people and certainly over priced compared to its superior competitors. A diesel HD version would be nice as well.