This weekend marked the end of the 2015 Canadian International Auto Show (CIAS), and this year’s automotive lineup was very impressive. The show boasted more than 125 exhibitors and displayed nearly 1,000 cars, trucks and utility vehicles, along with some of the most notable Canadian vehicle premieres in recent memory.
The past few years have proven to be very profitable for manufacturers, allowing room in their budgets for the production of new and interesting models. Some are aimed at existing market segments, and some are in segments of their own.
If you haven’t attended the show, worry not – we have all the highlights you need. Here are 10 noteworthy premieres:
10. Kia GT4 Stinger
The purpose of a concept car, or “halo” car, is to represent the best a brand has to offer, and in doing so, attract customers. These vehicles showcase new frontiers in performance, technology and styling, letting consumers know what to expect from the brand in the future.
The unveiling of the Kia’s GT4 concept Stinger is therefore notable for all the wrong reasons. Kia is an economy brand aspiring to expand toward affordable luxury, and the GT4 Stinger does nothing to further this. When the Stinger was unveiled at the press preview day it was described as a no-frills, purpose-built sports car, with an emphasis placed on the lack of stereo, floor mats and conventional door handles for weight reduction.
Stripped down track specials like the Porsche 911 GT3 or even Chevrolet’s Z28 Camaro make sense, coming from brands that market models largely based on performance; however, Kia does not produce anything remotely resembling a sports car.
What Kia should be premiering is a high-end luxury model that can showcase the brand’s capacity for luxury car design. This would do far more to lend credibility to their expansion into the affordable luxury market than a car without door handles.
Branding missteps aside, as a design exercise the GT4 stinger is highly attractive, with unique styling of its own.
9. Jaguar F-Type Project 7
This year marks the appearance of Jaguar’s first sports car designed by Land Rover’s Special Operations Team. The Project 7 was built as an homage to the Jaguar D-Type race car that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for three consecutive years from 1955-57.
This is Jaguar’s most exclusive and powerful production car ever, with a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 that produces 575 horsepower.
Only 250 examples of the F-Type Project 7 will be produced worldwide, seven of which will be delivered to Canada. However, any Canadian enthusiasts interested in buying a Project 7 are out of luck as Jaguar was proud to announce that every last car has already been sold.
The limited production number of the Project 7 largely makes it irrelevant to consumers, though it is a design exercise that has drawn positive attention to the brand and the beautiful F-type lineup that it tops.
8. Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe
The unveiling of the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe marked the entrance of Mercedes into a market segment currently dominated by BMW. BMW created the SUV Sport Coupe segment with the X6 M as an answer to a question no one really asked. However, the segment has proven to be profitable enough for Mercedes to make an appearance with the GLE Coupe.
The styling of the GLE leaves no doubt that it was built to compete with the X6 M. It’s reasonable to assume the GLE’s lack of power means it isn’t likely to be a true performance competitor until the inevitable release of a GLE AMG, which will no doubt provide stiff competition in the segment.
7. Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
It is hard to dispute that we are living in the golden era of horsepower when you can buy not one, but two car models from Dodge with more than 700 horsepower.
Dodge unveiled the four-door Charger SRT Hellcat this year to accompany its two-door sibling, the Challenger Hellcat, which is also showcased at this year’s auto show.
Both of these cars boast 707 horsepower, which many have said to be a conservative estimate. The representative at the press presentation described the Dodge Charger Hellcat as a car you can take the family to church on a Sunday morning and then a drag strip in the afternoon. This car has more than enough horsepower to back up the Hellcat name, and for just over $60,000, it is the performance bargain to beat.
6. Mercedes-AMG GT
The Mercedes-AMG GT was the second of three Canadian vehicle premieres from Mercedes. This car is positioned to take the place of Mercedes’ top AMG model, the SLS AMG. With the same stunning proportions as the SLS AMG, the AMG GT is very much an eye-catching addition to the Mercedes lineup.
The AMG GT is powered by a hand built 4.0-litre V8 biturbo and is the world’s first sports car engine with its turbochargers inside the “V” of the engine block’s cylinder banks. This design increases throttle response and enables peak torque to be delivered over a remarkably wide RPM range. Some journalists have labelled the AMG GT as a “Porsche 911 fighter,” but I don’t see the AMG GT stealing many Porsche 911 customers any time soon.
5. Acura NSX
The Acura NSX has been a LONG time coming. The NSX originally debuted at the Detroit Auto Show as a concept car back in 2012, following a featured role in The Avengers movie and Acura’s Super Bowl ad. This gave many people the expectation that the car would be in showrooms in no time.
That was unfortunately not the case, and this year’s NSX reveal invoked more of a sense of deja vu than excitement. However, we have to say that the NSX reveal turned out to be one of the best of the day.
The president and CEO of Honda Canada, Jerry Chenkin, did more to make the NSX relevant to the average consumer than any other representative. He admitted that production of the NSX will be quite limited, but continued that the NSX DNA is present throughout Acura’s lineup. From the headlights to the nine-speed automatic transmission, each Acura shares a piece of the NSX.
We went into the NSX unveiling sceptical of its relevance after having the car’s release pushed back for years, but the car is stunning in person. Those in charge at Acura really do seem to grasp the car’s role for the brand.
4. Cadillac ATS-V (CTS-V)
This year, Cadillac expanded its V-series lineup to include the ATS-V model. With more than 450 horsepower, 0-60 mph in less than four seconds, magnetic ride control suspension and a top speed north of 185 mph, this is a car deserving of the V-series badge.
There is no question that Cadillac is planning to compete with BMW, as they have priced the ATS-V at $63,000, which puts it right between the BMW M3 ($62,000) and M4 ($64,000). The BMW M3 (and more recently M4) has been the consistent champion in the high-performance luxury compact segment, and the ATS-V is Cadillac’s attempt to change that.
The competition with BMW was a focus of Cadillac’s press presentation, drawing direct comparisons in terms of price, technology and performance. Cadillac is definitely the underdog in this fight – a car that has reigned supreme in its segment for almost three decades, but if I had to pick a car to get job done, it would be the ATS-V.
3. Chevrolet Bolt
Seemingly in an attempt to create a lineup of electric vehicles with names that both rhyme and speak to their use of electricity, Chevrolet released the all-electric Bolt.
The Bolt not only Chevrolet’s first mass-produced all-electric vehicle (EV), but it’s also the first “affordable” vehicle of this type.
Until now, the Tesla Model S has been the only serious competitor in the North American EV market, but starting at around $70,000, it is out of reach for many consumers. Starting at $30,000 (with federal tax incentives included), the Bolt will fill an enormous market void.
Tesla has recently announced that their upcoming Model 3 will directly compete in the affordable EV segment too. Whether you love or hate its styling, the Bolt is the way of the future, and will hopefully serve as an example for many more offerings in this segment.
2. Mercedes-Maybach S600
The Mercedes-Maybach S600 is notable as it marks the return of the Maybach brand. Originally founded in 1909, the Maybach has existed in many iterations, more recently as a subsidiary of Daimler-Benz, producing extravagant ultra-luxury vehicles. 1997 marked a resurgence of the brand, when Maybach produced a number of models ranging in price from around $400,000 to over $1 million. The return was short-lived, however, as cripplingly low global sales lead Maybach to dissolve.
This year, Mercedes brings back the Maybach name once again – this time, as the range-topping Mercedes-Maybach S600. Visually, the Maybach S600 is very much a member of the Mercedes S-Class line, but the interior is extended 7.9 inches over the standard S-Class, giving rear-seat passengers extensive legroom and increased comfort.
The Maybach S600 will start at approximately $200,000, and champagne flutes come standard. Though the price of the Maybach S600 may seem extravagant, it has nothing on the previous Maybach models.
And just in case you thought this was the pinnacle of luxury, Mercedes is set to debut the Mercedes-Maybach S600 Pullman at this year’s Geneva auto show, which will fill an even higher luxury vehicle segment.
1. Ford GT
Finally, there is the Ford GT. This is a car that needs no introduction for car enthusiasts, and is a vehicle steeped in racing history. This year’s Ford GT is inspired by the original Ford GT40, which was built to beat Ferrari at Le Mans following a business deal gone sour, and the GT40 did just that. Following Ferrari’s six consecutive wins at Le Mans from 1960-1965, Ford managed to steal the title from Ferrari for the next four years, solidifying its place as a racing legend.
In 2005, Ford released the Ford GT, a road-going production model inspired by the Ford GT40 to celebrate the brand’s centennial. Upon release, the Ford GT was met with extremely high demand and remains one of the only cars to have never depreciated. With an initial MSRP of $140,000, early cars were sold for as much as $100,000 above the asking price. At this year’s Barrett Jackson car auction, some units sold for more than $350,000.
This year marks the first return of the first Ford GT since 2006, powered by a 600-horsepower turbocharged 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6 engine – a departure from the previous supercharged V8 in the 2005 model. A turbocharged V6 wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it will do a lot to promote Ford’s EcoBoost engines, and there is no shortage of power either.
How the power is delivered could be the only sticking point for enthusiasts. The Ford GT makes use of a carbon-fibre monocoque construction mated to an aluminum subframe that is likely to make for a very stiff chassis. But, combined with active aerodynamics, the new model is sure to keep up with the best other manufacturers may throw at it.
The Ford GT was undoubtedly a must-see car at this year’s auto show. In fact, we will boldly say that the unveiling of the Ford GT was the best premiere of the 2015 Canadian International Auto Show.