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January 20, 2006

38th annual Montreal International Auto Show
By Jil McIntosh
Photos by Paul Williams and Grant Yoxon
Discuss this story in the forum at CarTalkCanada

The first Canadian auto show of 2006 has many Canadian vehicle premieres

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  • Following closely on the heels of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Montreal International Auto Show (MIAS) now in its 38th year will be the first opportunity for most Canadians to see many of the new production and concept vehicles unveiled at the recent Detroit and Los Angeles auto shows, plus some Canada-only cars. The show, which opens to the public today and runs through January 29, gave the media an advance look yesterday at the Palais des congrès de Montréal.

    Production vehicles

    General Motors introduced the all-new 2007 Chevrolet Aveo, produced in Korea by its GM/Daewoo partnership; this little car has caught on big with buyers, so much so that it's the best-selling subcompact in the United States. GM also unveiled the Wave, a Pontiac clone of the Aveo that's only sold in Canada.

    2007 Pontiac G6 convertible
    2007 Pontiac G6 convertible
    View the complete Montreal Auto Show Gallery
    Pontiac also brought the much-anticipated convertible version of its G6; some engineering gremlins in its roof mechanism delayed its introduction following the sedan and coupe models, but it's now all-systems-go for this handsome drop-top.

    On the SUV side, GM took the wrappers off two models completely redesigned for 2007: the Cadillac Escalade and Chevrolet Tahoe. These models all feature cleaner styling, a new, stronger frame, and available V8 powertrains with cylinder deactivation to help save fuel.

    Saturn unveiled two new vehicles - the stylish Sky roadster, which goes on sale this Spring, and the hybrid Saturn Vue Greenline. Powered by a new, more affordable hybrid system, the Vue Green Line delivers an estimated 20-percent improvement in fuel economy, depending on driving conditions. When it goes on sale, prices are expected to start below $30,000.

    At Ford, the popular Sport Trac a cross between an SUV and a pickup truck left the company's line-up for a year when the Explorer, upon which it is based, underwent a complete makeover. The Sport Trac's back for 2007, having been unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this month, and should be just as popular among those who like the convenience of four doors and a roomy interior, with a place to easily throw cargo in the back.

    2007 Dodge Caliber
    2007 Dodge Caliber
    Over fifty more photos!
    DaimlerChrysler presented the 2007 Dodge Caliber, which replaces the SX 2.0 (formerly named Neon). With its own version of the "tall wagon" theme that made the PT Cruiser popular, the Caliber cleverly mixes smooth design themes with a roomy interior, to create a vehicle that looks big but is actually shorter than the SX it replaces. With its recent emphasis on muscle cars and mega-trucks, DaimlerChrysler needs an entry-level winner, and with prices starting at just $15,995, this could be it.

    BMW arrived at the show with four new models that should raise enthusiasts' interest levels. The 3 Series Touring now receives the handsome new facelift and mechanical makeover given its sedan siblings, and emerges as the 2006 325xiT, a wagon model featuring the company's proactive xDrive all-wheel-drive system.

    Roadster fans will appreciate the new 2006 Z4 3.0si, the second generation of BMW's stylish soft-top, while performance drivers will be looking at the M Roadster, featuring a 3.2-litre engine capable of 330 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, or the mighty new 2006 M6, introduced in Los Angeles, which takes the 6 Series' muscular styling and attaches a 500 hp V10 engine, along with the first production use of a carbon fibre roof.

    2007 Mercedes-Benz S 550
    2007 Mercedes-Benz S 550
    See all the photos here!
    Mercedes-Benz goes the full luxury route with its all-new S-Class, redesigning its flagship model into a larger, more powerful and more advanced design, with numerous state-of-the-art safety features and handling improvements.

    Mercedes-Benz also unveiled its limited-edition Smart Fortwo Grandstyle. Equipped with a silver tridion safety cell and body panels in exclusive dark green metallic, only 200 units will be available as of April 2006.

    The Grandstyle trim package includes unique beige leather seats and trim, black leather-effect instrument panel, "Grandstyle" exterior badging, and contrasting components in silver. The Grandstyle editions are priced at $23,300 for the coupe and $25,100 for the cabriolet.

    Two Japanese manufacturers, already renowned for their small cars, introduced even smaller ones to the North American marketplace. The 2007 Fit enters Honda's line-up below the Civic, but don't underestimate its roominess: it's huge inside, and its rear seats fold and tumble for even more storage space.

    The 2007 Versa joins Nissan's offerings as an entry-level sedan or hatchback below the redesigned and now larger Sentra. The Versa, built in Mexico, features a 1.8-litre, 120-horsepower engine, spacious interior, and the convenience of a hatchback bodystyle.

    Toyota offered three new models at MIAS. The third-generation 2006 RAV4 is already on sale; it's larger and more powerful than its predecessor, with an available V6 engine, and will eventually be built in Ontario once Toyota's new plant is operational.

    The 2006 Yaris hatchback, which entered the marketplace last year, is now joined by the 2007 Yaris sedan. Like the Echo it replaces, the Yaris offers peppy performance, fun-to-drive characteristics, and the distinction of being named Energuide's most fuel-efficient gasoline subcompact for 2006. Pricing for the Yaris sedan will be announced at a later date.

    2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser
    2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser
    View the complete Montreal Auto Show gallery
    Also on Toyota's stage was the 2007 FJ Cruiser, a thoroughly updated version of the tough-as-nails Land Cruiser that's hailed around the world for its ability to tackle almost any terrain. Toyota announced that pricing will begin at $29,990 for the base 6-speed manual, while the 5-speed automatic is $30,990.

    Mazda takes on the "crossover SUV" segment with its handsome 2007 CX-7, one of three upcoming, all-new models designed and built specifically for the North American market. A turbocharged and intercooled 2.3-litre four-cylinder direct-injection gasoline engine provides this five-passenger Mazda with 244 horsepower.

    Korean automaker Hyundai continues its extensive new-product initiative with the 2007 Accent 3-Door. The hatchback got left behind when the 2006 Accent sedan received a complete makeover, but it's caught up to its sibling, and offers the same improvements and increased level of comfort and safety.

    Lexus introduced its 2007 GS 450h, a hotly-anticipated model that the company says is the world's first gasoline/electric hybrid luxury sedan. It's beautiful, too, and with a level of opulence that was previously considered unimaginable in a "green" automobile.

    Volkswagen introduced the powerful and sporty 2007 GTI, as well as the 2007 Eos, an attractive four-seater with a retractable roof. Sister company Audi introduced the V8-powered 2007 Q7 luxury SUV, to be sold here in late spring, and followed in model year 2008 by a hybrid version. The Q7 4.2 quattro will start at $68,900, while the 3.6-liter V6 version of the Audi Q7 will follow in the Fall at an approximate price of $55,000.

    Among revered British nameplates, look for the 2006 Bentley Flying Spur, the 2007 Jaguar XK Coupe, and the Lotus Elyse; from Germany, Porsche will show the powerful 2006 Cayman S, first unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show.

    Concept vehicles

    Ford introduced two concept vehicles at the event. Its Model U is named in the spirit of the original Model T that made Henry Ford famous; it features a hydrogen-powered engine coupled to an electric hybrid transmission, reconfigurable interior and exterior design, and voice-recognition technology. At the other end of the scale, where it's all about going fast, look for Ford's Shelby Cobra Concept.

    General Motors is also involved with alternative powertrains, and presented the GMC Graphyte Hybrid Concept, which uses a two-mode hybrid similar to that which will be available in upcoming versions of the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon. It's a product of the GM Advanced Studio in Coventry, England. Buick will also showcase its Centieme Concept.

    Nissan Azeal concept
    Nissan Azeal concept
    More photos from the show
    Nissan brings the Azeal Coupe Concept, which made its world debut at the 2005 Detroit Auto Show; it's the first concept car created by Nissan Design America's studio in Michigan. The Azeal is powered by a turbocharged 2.5-litre engine and features 19-inch wheels, glass-panel roof and 2+2 seating. It's joined by the Actic, designed at the company's California studio, with dual sliding doors, handles that sense when a hand passes over them, and six ceiling-mounted LED screens.

    And a whole lot more

    While new cars are the stars of the show, the Montreal event also showcases numerous other features; this year, the On Route to a Greener Future display hosted the unveiling of the Best New Alternative Power Vehicle, the Honda Civic hybrid, as selected by members of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). This award is normally presented in December, along with other category winners in AJAC's Canadian Car of the Year voting, but because of the attention being paid to alternative energy during the 2006 MIAS, it was decided to defer the announcement to January.

    >Honda Canada's Jim Miller with AJAC Car of the Year Alternative Fuel
    Honda Canada's Jim Miller with AJAC Car of the Year Alternative Fuel winner, Honda Civic Hybrid
    More photos from the show
    En Route to a Greener Future will introduce ecologically-friendly vehicles, present conferences on alternative energy sources, and offer tips for fuel efficiency and conserving energy. In the spirit of energy conservation, MIAS will offer a $2 discount on the price of single admission to those who use public transit to attend the show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

    Visitors will also be able to enjoy the Corvette Evolution, featuring examples of Chevrolet's fibreglass sportscar from 1954 to the all-new Z06; Tuning, a collection of modified tuner cars; the Automobile Career Expo, where visitors can learn more about careers and job opportunities in the car industry; the 312-T5 Ferrari that belonged to Formula 1 race driver Gilles Villeneuve, along with other collectibles and memorabilia, presented by the Gilles Villeneuve Museum; and a display of six hot rods. As well, the popular MIAS magazine will be handed out free of charge to visitors.

    The Montreal International Auto Show is held at Palais des congres de Montreal, 1001 De Bleury (place Jean-Paul-Riopelle), and runs from Friday, January 20 to Saturday, January 28 from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Sunday, January 29 from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Family pricing is available and the Kia Sedona Childcare Centre is available for parents. For more information, visit www.montrealautoshow.com.

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    2006 Montreal Auto Show
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