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APA at the 2020 Canadian International Auto Show Press Day

Ron Corbett, APA Staff Writer


The Canadian International Auto Show is the largest event on the Canadian car show circuit that begins in Montreal in January and ends in Edmonton on April 19th this year. Around 350,000 people are expected to pass through the turnstiles by the time the show ends on February 23rd.

While the public has not lost its appetite for car shows, interest from manufacturers is waning. This year, two major European luxury brands, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, skipped both the Montreal and the Toronto shows. Once a two day affair, the 2020 CIAS official reveal schedule was finished by 1:30 PM on the single Media Day.

2020 will be a strange year in the Auto Show circuit as the Detroit show, held in January for decades, has switched to June. The New York show, traditionally the last show on the schedule and the most important in terms of media attention and attendance, may have its thunder stolen if manufacturers withhold vehicles they would have originally shown in New York, for Detroit.

There was a lot of chatter at the show about electric cars and a number of compelling electric and hybrid concept vehicles, were shown, but sales are still at a low level. Except for early adopters, who are fervent ambassadors for electrification, and residents of Quebec and British Columbia who are eligible for very generous subsidies, the general public is waiting on the sidelines until prices drop, range improves and a reliable public recharging infrastructure is established.

This report follows the Media Day schedule and reviews the most significant Toronto reveals as well as a variety of classic cars on display.  

Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) Car and Utility of the Year awards being presented at the CIAS Press Day (AJAC Photo)

Chosen by AJAC members who voted for all the vehicles they drove in the past year as well as those driven at the AJAC TestFest in October of 2019, the Car and Utility of the Year were announced at the Toronto show.

The 2020 AJAC Car of the Year is the popularly-priced and slick-driving Mazda 3, with the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace crossover proclaimed as the Utility vehicle of the year. 

The Volkswagen MEB platform that will underpin its future electric cars 

The German term Modularer E-Antriebs-Baukastenhe, generates the acronym MEB, which translates to Modular Electric Drive Matrix. MEB is the platform that will underpin a plethora of electric Volkswagens over the next few years.

Volkswagen is investing $800,000,000 U.S. in a new assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that, by 2022, will employ 1000 people to build a new fully-electric crossover. VW announced that Chattanooga will also host a battery pack assembly plant that will supply battery packs for the new vehicle.

VW started pilot production of the MEB-based ID.3 hatchback at Zwickau -- former home of the Trabant -- in November 2019, with the car set to go on sale in mid-2020. Volkswagen plans to build up to 1.5 million vehicles on the MEB platform annually by the year 2025.  


The new Nissan Versa sedan made a surprise appearance in Toronto

When the latest Versa sedan was shown in New York in April last year, Nissan Canada reps stated the car would not be sold here. However, the attrition of vehicles in the segment over the last few years, including Nissan’s own Micra and Versa Note, the Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta and Hyundai Accent sedan, may have opened up enough marketing space to convince Nissan that the car is viable here.  

Along with the Nissan Kicks, the Versa sedan is built on the new-generation Micra platform that debuted in other markets for the 2017 model year. Like the current Altima and Sentra, the Versa is an attractive, contemporary design. The Versa has the same wheelbase as the Kicks, but is 201 mm (7.9 inches) longer, slightly narrower, 130 mm (5.1 inches) lower and about 40 kilograms lighter.

Essentially a Kicks sedan, the Versa shares most of the cabin features, including the dashboard, with its tall hatchback showroom mate. The gauges are easy to scan and all controls are logical and work with a satisfying precision. Fit and finish are much better than in small Nissans of the recent past.

Power for the Versa stems from Nissan’s ubiquitous 1.6L four that is rated at 122 horsepower. Torque will reach the front wheels via either a five-speed manual transmission or a CVT.

The Nissan 360 Safety shield, with intelligent autonomous emergency braking, including pedestrian detection and rear self-stopping, will be offered, as will lane departure, rear cross traffic and blind spot warnings.

Although the car is already on sale in the United States, it won’t go on sale in Canada until the fall of this year. Pricing has not been announced but will likely slot in below the Kicks in the Nissan lineup.

Although it is a busy and barocque design, the Hyundai T Vision PHEV concept car compels you to look at it 

The Vision T, a Plug-In hybrid concept from Hyundai, is similar in size to the new Sonata sedan. There are no details of the Vision T’s powertrain but it likely will be shared with the upcoming Sonata PHEV.

For 2021 the Pacifica will be offered with all-wheel drive

FCA elected to unveil the mid-cycle update for its Pacifica nearly a year before it goes on sale. In addition to a number of styling and content tweaks, the big news for the Pacifica is that an all-wheel drive variant, compatible with Stow ‘n Go seating, will be available.  

Nothing exceeds like excess. The 2021 Cadillac Escalade

Based on GM’s full-size pickups, the Escalade and its showroom mates from Chevrolet and GMC are generally renewed a year after the new-generation pickup platform becomes established. Like GM’s current pickups, the Escalade’s styling is fussier, with an awkward belt line and some odd chrome accents on the windows.

Inside, the Escalade reflects conservatively tasteful luxury. Cadillac is touting its 38 inch Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) gauge package that is said to offer crisper displays than the single-field Transistor Film Technology (TFT) used by companies like Audi. GM’s 6.2L V8 will be standard on the Escalade, with a 3L inline-six turbodiesel optional.

Despite its lofty price tag and basic truck underpinnings, the Escalade sold nearly 2500 units in Canada last year, each one generating a profit as massive as the vehicle itself.


Dramatic and massive Lexus LF-30 Electrified

A longtime proponent of hybrid power, and more recently, hydrogen fuel cells, Toyota is reluctantly being drawn into the battery electric vehicle (BEV) segment, as that is where the market seems to heading.

Similar in size to the Lexus LS500 range-topper, the massive LF-30 Electrified concept singles the near-future intention of Lexus to enter the BEV field with a production car.

On the LF-30, power reaches the ground via an electric motor mounted on each wheel. Range is said to be 500 kilometres from a 110 kWh battery pack that produces 400 kW of power. 

The Land Rover Defender 90 on display in Toronto wore a factory-applied matte wrap  

After an absence of  many years, the Land Rover Defender returns for 2020. Two variants, a two-door, called the 90 as well as a four-door bearing the 110 moniker, are offered. The wheelbase and the overall length of the 110 are about 435 mm (17.3 inches) greater than those of the 90.

Jaguar Land Rover’s 375 horsepower 3L turbocharged V6, the sole engine announced thus far, sends power to all wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive with a dual-range transfer case is standard, as is four-corner air suspension.

The cabin of the new truck is executed in an industrial-chic theme, with painted interior surfaces, rubber mat flooring and real Allen key fasteners used to affix the door trim. Rear seat legroom in the 110 is quite suitable for adults, and cargo space is deep and regularly shaped. Prices starts at $76,700. 

The Genesis GV80 should help establish the brand in Canada 

With just 1525 cars sold in Canada in 2019, over 1100 of which were the compact G70, the Genesis franchise has failed to gain traction, despite the excellence of the cars. It has been evident since the beginning that a crossover vehicle would be needed to establish the brand in Canada, and the GV80 is it.

Based on a rear-wheel drive architecture, the GV80 is roughly the same size as the Acura MDX. All-wheel drive with Multi-Terrain control, which offers settings for sand, mud, and snow, will be standard here. Two engines, a 290 horsepower turbocharged 2.5L four and a 375 horsepower turbo V6, will be available. The sole transmission will be an eight-speed automatic.

The cabin of the top-spec GV80 on display in Toronto was sumptuous. Crisply-marked gauges face the driver who inhabits a stylish interior finished in subtly contrasting two-tone quilted green leather, matte-finished wood and elegant bright accent garnishes. The name Bentley comes to mind when examining the cabin of the GV80.

Final details are unavailable but Genesis plans to have the GV80 on sale in Canada by mid 2020.  

1912 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost

This Rolls-Royce, nicknamed “Ladybird” was owned by Lady Flora Eaton of the former department store family. Originally restored by the Craven Foundation, the car now resides at the Canadian Automobile Museum in Oshawa.   

1904 Curved Dash Oldsmobile 

One of the first mass-produced cars and one of the first assembled from precisely-engineered and interchangeable parts, the Curved Dash Olds was introduced in 1901. The myth behind this car is that the prototype was saved from a fire that destroyed the factory in 1900 and acted as a template for series production. However, some experts note that what was saved were the all important engineering drawings for the car which permitted the car to proceed. The Curved Dash went on to be one of the best-selling cars of its time, with 2500 leaving the factory the year this car was built. Ransom Eli Olds, the founder of Oldsmobile, parted ways with the company in 1904 and founded another company, REO, using his initials as the new brand.

1930 Cadillac V-16 convertible coupe

Although Marmon started working on a V-16 engine before Cadillac, Cadillac beat Marmon to the market by about six months. This Cadillac’s 7.4L overhead-valve V-16 generated 161 smooth horsepower and a stout 318 lb.ft. of torque. Power flows to the year wheels via a three-speed fully-synchromesh manual transmission.

This elegant convertible coupe features roll-up windows and a rumble seat that can accommodate two additional passengers. 


1934 Bugatti Type 57 Atalante

One of the best sports-luxury cars of the 1930s, the Type 57 was the last volume production car built while the company was still under the stewardship of Ettore Bugatti. Power is derived from a 3257 cc overhead-cam straight eight that puts out 135 horsepower in this example.

While many Bugattis were bodied by prestigious outside coachbuilders, this Atalante was created at the factory in Molsheim, Alsace.  

1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K  

A development of the 500K, the 540K debuted at the Paris Salon in 1936. It's powered by a supercharged 5.4L straight-eight engine which produces 115 horsepower most of the time, but can crank out 180 horsepower when the supercharger is engaged. Power reaches the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transmission. Fully-independent suspension, via coils and wishbones at the front and a swing axle at the rear, was very advanced for its era.

Most 540Ks were factory bodied but this cabriolet was created by the Swedish coachbuilder, Norrmalm. 

1961 Cooper T55 Grand Prix car

This Cooper, powered by a 1.5L inline four sending power to the wheels via a six-speed manual transmission, was driven by Bruce McLaren during the 1961 Grand Prix season.