While everyday sedans and SUVs are the breadwinners for most of the year, during auto show season it’s the head-turning concepts and exotics that draw some of the largest crowds. At the 2015 Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto, which runs from February 13 through 22, more than two-dozen such examples will get eyes popping and tongues wagging. Here's an advanced look at some of them.
2015 Aston Martin Vantage GT – Aston Martin’s Vantage has an enduring shape that has remained essentially unchanged since its introduction. And while it may not be quite as desirable as the full-fledged V-12, the 430-horsepower V-8 does an admirable job. The latest GT trim adds all the sports extras into one package, along with a six-speed manual or seven-speed automated-sequential transmission. Its exhaust roar alone might be worth its $104,000 asking price.
2015 Bentley GT Speed Convertible – Not only is the Bentley GT Speed Convertible one of the most luxurious and expensive vehicles at the show – at least among those you can buy – it’s also one of the fastest drop-tops around, maxing out zt over 320 km/h. That’s all thanks to an uprated 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W-12 engine with 626 horsepower and all-wheel drive, which also helps it get up to highway speeds in the low four-second range.
Chevrolet Bolt EV Concept (Canadian debut) – Chevrolet is previewing the second arm in its electrified vehicle offensive with its Bolt EV. Although this pure electric sits on the compact Sonic platform, it looks more like the upcoming second-generation Volt than its conventionall cousin. The Bolt promises a range of around 300 km on a charge, with a starting price of around $30,000 US when it goes ino production – probably around 2017.
2015 Ferrari California T (Canadian debut) – Yes, even Ferrari is turning to turbocharging on more than its Formula 1 cars. The California T uses a twin-turbocharged 3.9-litre V-8 engine with 552 horsepower and a similar torque figure (lb-ft), mated exclusively to a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. While never the most elegant Ferrari, the T also updates some of the California’s more awkward details.
2015 Ferrari F12berlinetta – The latest in a long line of front-engined GT cars, the F12berlinetta takes no prisoners with its screaming 730-horsepower 6.3-litre V-12 engine and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. But as astonishing as it is to drive, it’s even more amazing to look at. The over-long hood and lengthy wheelbase give it classic proportions, but the vents, intakes and aerodynamic aids are functional as well.
Infiniti Q60 Concept (Canadian debut) – Compared with the larger Q80 Inspiration Concept, the Q60 Concept isn’t nearly as far-out a proposition. Designed to be the expected two-door version of the Q50 sedan, the Q60 is only a set of exterior door handles and mirrors away from hitting the show-room floor. Power will come from the same twin-turbocharged V-6 engine as the Q80, but minus the hybrid system.
Infiniti Q80 Inspiration (Canadian debut) – Infiniti’s been itching for a global headliner since the old Q45 sedan died decades ago. The Q80 Inspiration shows off what should eventually serve in its stead. The cabin is split into four distinct sections that give each occupant a luxurious experience, and it features the usual fantasy pieces common with concepts. Power comes from a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V-6 engine and electric motor that combine for 550 horsepower.
Jaguar Project 7 (Canadian debut) – Jaguar’s F-Type roadster is hugely impressive, but the company has pushed its in-house customization department, responsible for the Project 7, even further. It has aerodynamic aids, race-inspired graphics and an uprated engine, all designed to evoke the Le Mans-winning D-Types from the mid-‘50s. While the one here is the concept, there will be 250 produced, including a handful for Canada.
Kia Stinger GT4 Concept (Canadian debut) – One of the best-received concepts at the 2014 Detroit show, the Stinger GT4 shows what a rear-drive sports car from Kia could look like. It has tall vertical headlights framing the company’s corporate grille, while everything is pushed low and wide to the four corners. Power comes from a turbocharged four-cylinder with over 300 horses mated to a six-speed manual transmission.
2015 Lamborghini Huracan (Canadian debut) – Lamborghini’s replacement for its decade old Gallardo is larger and lighter, and looks suitably dramatic too. Although its V-10 engine still displaces 5.6-litres, the total output is now over 600 horsepower. A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission replaces the old single-clutch unit for faster acceleration and much smoother shifts. And – for once – its handling matches its formidable pace.
Lexus RCF GT3 (Canadian debut) – Lexus has been trying to boost its relatively staid image with products like the RC F coupe and LFA supercar, and this racecar is its latest attempt. Built to FIA GT3 regulations, it packs the same basic 5.0-litre V-8 as the production car, but produces over 540 horsepower. Rumours suggest it could show up at racetracks in the next few months.
2015 Lotus Evora Sports Racer – Although rare in any part of the world, let alone Canada, the Lotus Evora Sports Racer is positioned as a real competitor to the Porsche 911 and Jaguar F-Type. Packing a supercharged 3.5-litre V-6 engine with over 350 horsepower, this rear-drive 2 2 is also loaded with unique paint and interior upgrades.
Maserati Alfieri Concept (Canadian debut) – The Concours Villa d’Este has become known as a fantastic place to launch one-off cars and beautiful automotive sculpture. The Alfieri – shown there in 2014 -- does beauty in spades, and also celebrates Maserati’s centenary. Production versions – probably as a replacement for the GranTurismo – areexpected some time in 2016.
2015 Maserati Ghibli S Q4 – The reborn Ghibli has only been around as a 5 Series sized competitor for two years, and already it’s getting advances like standard navigation and painted calipers for 2015. While not the prettiest car to some eyes, it does provide a dramatic alternative to the traditional German rivals. The range-topping S Q4 boasts a 410-horsepower twin-turbo 3.0-litre V-6 engine and all-wheel drive.
2014 Maserati GranTurismo MC Centennial Edition – When you turn 100 years old, this would be one heck of a birthday present to yourself. The long-winded Maserati GranTurismo MC Centennial Edition differentiates itself from lesser MC Stradale models with unique paint, wheel styles, striping and interior touches that take inspiration from the red-and-blue company logo. The 4.7-litre V-8 engine still produces 460 horsepower with either a six-speed manual or optional automated sequential transmission carry over.
2015 Maserati Quattroporte S Q4 – The Quattroporte S Q4 might be the most Canadian-friendly car in the Maserati lineup. Why? Standard all-wheel drive, along with a potent twin-turbo V-6 engine with 410 horsepower that can hit 100 km/h in less than five seconds. Add in a well-crafted interior with a large back seat, and entertaining driving character, and it’s an exciting prospect.
2012 McLaren 12C – The 12C re-launched McLaren as a manufacturer of road-going sports cars, helped by trick pneumatic suspension, a carbon-fibre tub and a twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V-8 engine making 592 horsepower. The purpose-built seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox helps the car accelerate to 100 km/h in around three seconds. Not the most exciting to look at compared with its rivals from Italy and Germany, perhaps, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
2015 McLaren 650S Coupe / Spider – McLaren’s excellent 12C received a complete re-do to make the 650S, gaining new front-and-rear fascias and lights inspired by the P1 hypercar. It gets its name from its horsepower rating and acceleration drops to well under three seconds to 100 km/h. Suspension and steering are said to be markedly improved and more exploitable than before.
Mini Superleggera Concept (Canadian debut) – Another Villa d’Este special, this Mini concept built by Italian design house Touring Superleggera is much more elegant than the in-house Roadster could ever be. The single vertical wing trailing behind the driver is a neat touch, although perhaps over the top given the concept’s electric powertrain. Otherwise, the hand-turned aluminum instrument panel is quite impressive and more in-tune with Superleggera’s brief.
2015 Pagani Huayra – After years dreaming jealously about being able to drive a Pagani Zonda in Canada, the Italian exotic’s successor – the Huayra – is finally available here. The Huayra uses lots of active aerodynamic bits to help it feel stable at speeds of up to 370 km/h. It is propelled to those velocities by a 720-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V-12 powerplant sourced from Mercedes-Benz’s AMG unit.
2015 Rolls-Royce Wraith – A bespoke-looking two-door version of the Ghost, the Wraith is unlike any of its competitors thanks to Rolls’ trademark reverse-opening doors. The cabin is equally bespoke with beautifully finished stitching, wood and real metals applied everywhere. Its twin-turbocharged V-12 engine puts out well over 600 horsepower, making it one of the most powerful Rolls around.
Scion iM Concept – Wondering what Scion will replace its xB and xD hatchbacks with? This Toyota Corolla-based iM Concept (in essence a rebadged European Toyota Auris five-door hatchback) is a great first clue. Its ultra-low stance and extra-wide fenders and body kit will probably be absent from the production model but, given that it’ll be a Scion, there’s a good chance they’ll be available to add afterwards.
Toyota i-Road Concept (Canadian debut) – One of Toyota’s latest what-if exercises in personal transportation, the electric i-Road is designed with enough room for two people. It offers some neat touches such as exterior screens that can display the vehicle’s mood. And it has three wheels to maximize maneuverability and stability.
2014 Tesla Model S – It's neither a concept nor particularly exotic, but the Tesla Model S can be found in the AutoExotica area of the show. It does have the most power and longest range of any EV on the road currently, and it's one of the most entertaining to drive. It's pretty luxurious too. And it can now be had with second electric motor up front that not only adds full-time all-wheel drive, but provides acceleration that can make every person riding in the car giggle with glee.
Volkswagen Cross Coupe GTE Concept (Canadian debut) – Volkswagen has been looking at building a more car-like SUV at its U.S. plant in Tennessee and there have been several similar concepts in the past few years. The Cross Coupe GTE is one of the more aggressive, and is powered by a 3.6-litre V-6 engine and pair of electric motors that net 355 horsepower. That package not only provides all-wheel drive, but also 0-100 km/h acceleration in just over six seconds.
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