TRAVIS Goes to The Autoshow

If you’re a gear head like me then making the pilgrimage to Toronto every February for the International Auto Show is a sacred tradition. It’s like church for people who buy tickets to ‘The Fast and the Furious’ movies and who lose sleep checking out clips of ‘Top Gear’ online.

However, if you go every year, then you’ll probably start to notice some repetition. Not every manufacturer brings a completely new line up every year. Some things start to become predictable. Rest assured that companies like Toyota are still building family friendly, fuel conscious and completely boring vehicles. But that’s not why you should go to the Auto Show. You should go to see what’s new and exciting.

Let’s talk tomato sauce. Ferrari is showcasing their awesome new 458 Italia. You can’t afford one so just get it out of your head now. Stop thinking about those gorgeous curves and how those three exhaust pipes must sound. Definitely don’t think about how the new 5.0L V8 and the duel clutch F1 7-speed transmission will carry you to over 200mph. Just stop it.

This year the government of Canada has their own booth in the North Hall of the convention centre.  The reason for their presence is to showcase their picks for the most fuel efficient vehicles of 2011 in each class. Winners of the government’s ecoENERGY Vehicle Awards include the Honda CR-Z, Ford Fiesta and of course the fan-favourite Toyota Prius.

While Ford and GM have reinvented themselves after the economic collapse, Chrysler had been stagnant up until this year. For this reason, there’s been a lot of attention on Chrysler. All eyes have been watching to make sure that the folks in Detroit were putting American tax dollars to good use. And they have been. This year the Chrysler booth is teeming with new, exciting, quality products.

I could talk about Chrysler’s new 3.6L Pentastar V6 that puts out 290hp while only sipping gas. I could talk about the new beautifully crafted Chrysler 200 or the brilliantly redesigned 300C (seen above). I’d also probably like to mention the Call of Duty: Black Ops edition Jeep Wrangler (yes, it’s a thing). But, this year, it’s MOPAR or no car.

Say hello to the all new Dodge Charger. If any car is representative of Chrysler as a company right now, it’s the 2011 Dodge Charger. It’s not so much a car as it is Chrysler’s positioning statement. Refocused and redesigned with performance and quality at the top of the priority list. The exterior styling makes us remember the legendary 1969 Charger while the interior is drop dead gorgeous. Everything is leather wrapped and there are no more boring, bland, cheap plastics. This new Charger is available with red leather seats and voice activation control. A too cool for school aluminum dash is standard on all models.  There’s also some comfort to back up the Charger’s either 290 or 370hp. The suspension has been reverse engineered from BMW.   This is the kind of car you can jump into through the window, peel out down your street, and then comfortably drive to work in.

While the Charger is leading the ‘charge’ into the future, the 2011 Dodge Challenger 392 has some more then titillating nods to the past. A new 6.4L HEMI V8, cranks out 480hp to the rear wheels. This beast is hooked up to a 6 speed manual transmission complete with classic pistol grip shifter. Oh, did you want Viper stripes with that? Just kidding, of course you wanted Viper stripes with that!

While Chrysler may have come with the most improved line up this year, Ford easily has the most impressive booth. Their entire corner is bathed in blue and silver lightening in every direction. On display are standards like the new line of F series pickups, the Edge, the redesigned Explorer and the new Fiesta.

Of course, the most exciting part of the Ford booth is always the Mustangs. This year is particularly exciting because on the floor, not roped off, is the new BOSS Mustang. A remake of the classic racer from 1970, the new BOSS Mustang 302 comes packed with unique retro styling features, a race focused interior and a 440hp DOHC V8. What’s the coolest thing about this new BOSS? It comes with not one, but two keys. The first standard black key is for normal street driving. But, when you insert the red key, the computer stiffens up the suspension, loosens up the traction, enables launch control and sends more torque to the lower end.  What does the BOSS run on you ask? M3 owners tears.

This year is all about two cars for GM. The Chevrolet Cruze and the Chevrolet Camaro. You’ve got to give it up for the Cruze.  Chevrolet has had a lot of woe in the compact market in the past but it looks like this could be the one.  The Cruze features a cut and carved exterior and a roomy, functional interior made with quality materials. A 1.8L ecotec motor and a six speed transmission for under $16,000 set this car apart from the competition.

Everywhere you look this year you can’t avoid the new 2011 Chevrolet Camaro. Aside from all the various giveaways and the historical exhibit, Chevrolet is pushing their new convertible Camaro. The convertible was missing from the car’s launch last year. After seeing the concept back in 2008, we all wondered where it was. What we get is a very well done, crisp clean folding top. Ok, granted, there no extra features from last year’s car. This means it still doesn’t do anything faster (including putting its top down) than its Mustang counterpart, but it is still very cool.  You just have to love it because, well, it’s a Camaro.

Chris D’Alessandro with Photography by Ashley Edmonds

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  1. March 8th, 2011

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