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Just the fun facts at the Montreal Auto Show

January 21st, 2013


My favourite January activity is not scouring the deeply discounted sales racks in every store in the city, hitting the ski slopes or flying off to some sunny destination (well, actually, this one I wouldn’t mind).

It’s auto show season and, although the Big Daddies like the North American International and the Canadian International Auto Shows are usually the ones on everyone’s list, my preferred is the Montreal International Auto Show (MIAS), this year celebrating its 45th anniversary.

Every year, we make the 1,200-kilometre drive from Halifax to Montreal for Press Day and every year, I’m excited.

Who will have North American reveals, who will have Canadian debuts? At MIAS this year, there were no less than 45 Canadian unveilings, one North American premiere and even a world debut. Busy day.

The auto industry is about the economy, employment, ethics, aesthetics and the environment. The business of making and selling cars touches everyone. It’s Serious Stuff.

But all work and no play gets dull, so this year, at the Montreal International Auto Show, I decided to focus on: the Fun Stuff.

In the fun department, the day started off with a ‘bang’ at the world premiere of Honda’s concept, GEAR, which stands for Gen-Y Active Runabout and is inspired by fixed-gear bicycles. The interior of the sub-compact will be customizable and connectivity will be paramount. It looks like fun and perfectly suited to the two Gen-Y cyclists that rode onto the stage and took the wraps off GEAR.

From men on bikes to men in tights, the unveiling of the MINI John Cooper Works Paceman made the usually tough crowd giggle. Three male dancers appeared, covered in head-to-toe body stockings, one in black-and-white checkers, perhaps heralding the JCW Paceman’s racing blood, the other two in red.

After an acrobatic intro, the anonymous dancers pulled back the cloth covering the cute three-door Paceman. With a turbo-charged four-cylinder engine that delivers 208 horsepower, a top speed of 226 km/h, 18-inch alloy wheels and a sportier suspension, it’s FUN, Paceman-style.

Centennial Avenue, a special feature of this year’s Montreal Auto Show, focuses on signifcant vehicles of the past 100 years.

Out of the ten iconic vehicles on display, like a 1916 Ford Model T, a 1967 Ford Shelby Mustang and that best-selling roadster, a Mazda Miata, the car that caught my eye was a bad-ass 1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, the one with the bird on the hood, just like the one my boyfriend had.

Fast-forward to over-the-top fun and, for a mere $300,000, the Aston Martin Vanquish could be yours. At that price, you’d probably have to live in it, but it would get you around quickly. The 6.0-litre V12 engine will pump out 565-horsepower and move you from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.1 seconds. Holy F-f-f-fun!

Volkswagen showed us the Beetle TDI Convertible, the only diesel-powered convertible to hit the streets in North America. The Beetle symbolizes the epitome of fun and with that clean diesel, the frugal hippy would have loved it. Groovy.

Another droptop that pulled at my Italian heartstrings was the ‘small but wicked’ Fiat 500 Cabrio (500c) Abarth. Its turbocharged 1.4-litre produces 160 horsepower and has a fun five-speed manual transmission. Coming to a dealership near you this spring. Andiamo!

More topless fun with the 2014 Audi RS5 Cabriolet, unclothed at the Montreal Auto Show. It’s funny, many manufacturers tout their quiet interiours. But top down in the Audi RS5? All the better to hear the music of the 4.2-litre V8 rolling out that 450 horsepower. You can conduct the symphony yourself, using the paddle shifters on that seven-speed S-tronic transmission.

Chevrolet sees itself as the world’s fastest growing major automotive brand. I see Chevrolet as GM’s fun brand especially considering the just-revealed cute CUV Trax for 2013. The Youth Concepts, in hot yellow and gritty grey, Code130R and Tru140S, also made an appearance in Montreal for the first time in Canada.

Honorable mention in the fun department has to go to McLaren’s MP4-12C. The V8 twin-turbo engine produces 616 horsepower and, throttle down, top open, you can scream to your heart’s content. On the complete other end of the speed spectrum is Mercedes-Benz’ smart fortwo display car that looks like a disco ball. Sparkly but not for sale. Aw, c’mon!

Mitsubishi was excited to reveal its global small car-with-no-name (known as Mirage in other markets). The 1.2-litre, three-cylinder engine with a five-speed manual transmission or CVT, will arrive in Canada this fall. Fuel economy and fun, especially in that green metallic paint.

Another fun thing at the Montreal International Auto Show this year is the ‘Electric Circuit’, a three-kilometre test drive offered by CAA Québec, and featuring a chance for consumers to try out the wide (and growing wider) range of hybrid and all-electric vehicles on real roads.

Don’t get me wrong. In January, the hunt for the ultimate sale on clothes, shoes and purses sure gets my juices flowing. But that’s serious business. This Auto Show stuff is Fun.

If you’re in Montreal, catch the Auto Show at the Palais des Congrès, still on until Sunday 27 January.

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