2017 Calgary Auto Show – Part 2

The finale – Part 2 of the main Calgary Auto Show coverage. Let’s not deal with any long-winded introductions today, and just get to it!

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Today we kick off with Subaru’s booth, which was located in the corner of the hall. The first thing to grab our attention was this rather good-looking concept they had on display; for the most part it looked production-feasible (aside from the usual concept dress-up items like door mirrors and handles that always get replaced) but they really went to town on the lighting and that was what specifically turned our heads. A blue strip ran from headlight to headlight, passing through the grille, with an additional blue light above each wheel well. The best parts though were the ‘foglights’ (assuming that’s what they would be) as they were beautifully intricate tunnels with a cluster almost appearing to float inside – and then for bonus points there was plenty of carbon fiber too because that never hurts.

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I went to check out the STi on the second trip when Brian and I were having a look around, but on my first visit, after the concept I headed straight to the BRZ. I was very happy to see they had this particular example on display – an Inazuma Edition in its bright yellow finish – but I found out it was locked. And then I wasn’t as happy. Another showgoer’s comments mirrored my own thoughts – a $35,000 Subaru was locked but we could climb into 6-figure cars elsewhere? I especially wanted to see the interior in more detail as it was a beautiful black leather/Alcantara equipped cabin with plenty of yellow accents and stitching.

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Yes, the Ford owner did stop by Chevy’s stand too. The new Camaro ZL1 was unlocked so I took a look inside, though apparently it ended up taking an especially hard beating as Derrick noticed some substantial damage when he visited a few days later.

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Maybe it’s just me, but while I do very much like the 6th gen’s exterior design, the interior has taken me a while to get used to. It’s not that I don’t like the styling of it – I do very much in fact – but something about it to me, makes it seem almost out-of-place inside the Camaro and more suitable to a car that’s not a snarling monster. I don’t really know how to explain the feeling but I can’t shake it.

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For those unaware, this year we’ll be celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday, and to mark the occasion there are already lots of things going on all around the country. For the Auto Show this year Chevy brought out this Traverse which collected signatures and doodles from showgoers – it was a bit of fun at the show and a neat idea on Chevy’s part. Also, impressive was the fact that there didn’t seem to be anything even remotely rude scribbled on it. Insert joke about Canadians and politeness.

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Moving down the aisle to Toyota’s area I found the new 86 which, happily, was unlocked (should I stop giving Subaru grief for that now? Perhaps). Now that they’ve been out for a little while and the aftermarket has had time to work with them, I will say I rather like the facelifted FR-Ss/86s. One nice detail worth noting was the inclusion of the 86 logo inside the headlights, which I had previously been unaware of.

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Leading up to the show I had been told that Nissan apparently had something especially interesting and important coming to their display as they not only had security lined up to guard said item at the show, but between the days as well. I wandered over, curious to see what was there, and found that they had a droid from Rouge One!

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Anyway, why the Rouge One tie-in? Because of the Nissan Rogue. In terms of marketing I find this an odd exercise to say the least; okay, the car has a name that ties in to a Star Wars movie, so let’s do a Star Wars version with a few stickers on it and have it as a special edition? It seems like a bit of a stretch (make that a huge stretch) if you ask me. Not only was it iffy in concept, but execution too as the only additions of note were headlights and black trim and wheels, which are fairly basic anyway. The rest of the features were essentially stickers, badging, floor mats, and cup holder inserts. It wasn’t really justification for a special edition if you ask me – all style and no true substance there – but truthfully the significant part of these special edition vehicles isn’t even a part of them…

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…that’s because each car comes with a numbered, replica Death Trooper helmet. That’s cool, but I’m still left confused by this exercise (Sorry about the guy bending over in the background. Haha).

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Moving past the Rogue, nearby was the car that we all wanted to see – the facelifted GT-R. And, it was locked. And parked against a wall. This wasn’t the first time Nissan had teased us with the GT-R as last year it was roped off, but I remember once it was indeed open though that was a few years ago now at least. I understand not wanting special vehicles to undergo the abuse that most others saw (if you remember my comments from Part 1) but Lexus had the right idea with the LC500 and having someone on hand to unlock it for attendees.

Since we couldn’t hop inside, on the second trip Brian and I started going through the information on the GT-R and the available options for it instead, and couldn’t believe what we saw. Did you know you can have a chrome jack for $300, or carbon fiber floor mats for $1243? I am not kidding. Seriously, I am NOT kidding – $1200+ floor mats. We tried our best not to laugh too hard as a rep was right there beside us, but we failed.

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Moving on to a more positive (that is, not critical) note, the new Miata RF was awesome. Apparently there’s at least one on the roads in Calgary now as we saw one parked in the lot with regular plates on it when we left on Sunday! It’s a cool concept and it looks awesome too. How long before we see a Rocket Bunny RF? (Side note – I know it’s officially the MX5 now, but I’ll always call it the Miata)

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On the topic of not just the RF but Mazda in general, their interiors are really quite nice, and the body-coloured door panel accents in the new Miatas are a favourite of mine. I like how Mazda takes obvious cues from Audi and Mercedes for example, but it works without looking like just a copy. I know a lot of people take issue with the infotainment screens that stick straight out of the dash like this but I’ve always liked them.

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Before the RF came along, if I was in the market for a Miata/124 this was probably the route I would have taken – the 124 Abarth. It’s something a bit more unique in the first place, and the Abarth variant is well, an Abarth. The uniqueness of the RF makes the decision a bit harder in my mind now though.

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Dodge brought out a very green Viper, with a very unique Snakeskin-patterned stripe running over it. The stripe was accompanied by a custom car cover and serialized badge as part of the $12,000 “Snakeskin Edition” package apparently. As shown this example rang in at just north of $160,000 thanks to the aforementioned package, carbon splitters (for $6500) and that paint for $4000; the 6-vent hood was the bargain of the bunch as a $500 option.

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Despite having the Viper, 124s, a Challenger, and more however, the offering from Dodge’s camp that I was most intrigued by was this Durango – specifically, an SRT version. We are in a truly crazy time for performance when an SUV can get to 60mph in under four and a half seconds! I think the mission statement of Dodge is simply becoming “add more power to everything”.

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I walked through the Hyundai booth honestly not expecting too much to catch my attention, but I found the new Elantra Sport and couldn’t help but go in for a closer look. The few exterior changes really transformed the look of the car and gave it proper presence, and overall it looked like a very nice package. With a turbo engine and decent power, I’m sure this would be a fun one to try out. Also worth noting was the flat-bottom (D-Cut in Hyundai Speak) steering wheel, which guaranteed a few more cool points.

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I looked at Kia’s booth on both days, but without a doubt the highlight (and the one I spent the most time looking at) was the new Stinger concept – it wasn’t just gorgeous, but all-caps GORGEOUS . I almost saw hints of Alfa and others peeking through in the styling, and it struck the balance of being recognizable as a Kia with some of their touches while still being new and fresh. At least in the appearance department, I see it as strong competition for the others in the class already and if it drives as good as it looks, it should be epic. My fingers are crossed for this one – I really hope it does well.

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Of course it’s not fair to judge cars on looks alone but alas that was all we could do with a concept that was sealed up and put at a distance from us. What’s the saying though, that the exterior brings you into the showroom in the first place (and the interior keeps you there)? The exterior is essentially the first impression that a car makes, and this made a good one. I may just have to wander into a Kia showroom when these arrive…

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In VW land now and the new, quite attractive and angular Tiguan. Its interior was one of the most worn and used of the show though; with the copper/orange accents it really showed dirt and stains. Also, we were surprised to see that the rear door cards lacked the orange inserts to match the rest of the interior. The front seats, rear seats, and front door panels all had orange, but the rear door panels were all black! It looked like someone had mixed up and installed a set from a different car. Cost saving is surely the reason here, but especially with such a bright accent colour missing it was extremely apparent that something was ‘wrong’. If you’re going to do an interior like this, charge just a tiny bit more for the option if you have to but go all the way!

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Still in VW’s area, one vehicle that constantly had people climbing in for a better look was the new Atlas. The unique (and awesome) paint definitely helped to draw the people in but it warranted continued examination once your attention shifted from the colour. The exterior was very nicely styled and of particular note to Brian and I was the rather detailed bodyline running over the arches and across the doors.

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The Atlas’ interior was a pretty nice place – uncluttered but not bare – though to nitpick the silver trim was perhaps a bit plain and could have been changed up to something that stood out a bit more. Especially against the vibrant exterior of this particular model, the inside felt just a bit too reserved.

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We hop back to BMW now and the new 7 series. I had wanted to check out the interior of these in person and luckily the driver’s seat was free when I walked by. I didn’t get to try the famed gesture control but was more than happy just to look around and see it up close and personal. Like the X5M this too had the leather-wrapped upper dash (remember our comments on the M2/3?) and combined with all of the wood, accent lighting and other details, it was truly stunning. You sat in this thing and just felt important.

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Now we return to Audi with their S6 sedan. The 6 has typically been my favourite in Audi’s sedan family and this new model was one I waited on a chance to check out before leaving the show. Like I had said in Part 1 that I have long seen Audi’s interiors as some of the best out there, this one was especially nicely done with red seats, diamond stitching, suede, and plenty of carbon fiber. As shown this one rang in at around $106,000 but importantly, when sitting inside it looked like a $106,000 car.

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…and a couple more of the blue S3, for good measure.

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I also returned to Lexus for another set of photos, though only of the two LC500s on display; the yellow one, because it’s almost guaranteed that I’ll never have it in front of my camera again…

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…and the stock silver one because I wanted more photos of the crazy head- and tail-lights.

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Porsche happened to have their 919 Hybrid on show which was a real treat, so I wasn’t going to miss that either (anyone who read Part 1 but had attended the show may have noticed its absence)…

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…and Infiniti joined the racecar game with the Renault Sport 2016 F1 car.

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Ultimately, it was a lot of fun attending the show both times this year. I will forever enjoy seeing the new vehicles, taking my photos, and collecting as many brochures as possible to read through after getting home, but discussing the cars in detail with Brian was another way to really enjoy the event.

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Going to the Auto Show has been a yearly tradition for as long as I can remember and I don’t see that changing any time soon. However, I think that going twice may need to become the new routine; once to capture it all, and again to actually see the cars and get into looking through them in proper detail.

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Not only did Brian and I have a ton of fun as we started to compare and critique the cars in more detail, but we learned a lot more than we otherwise would have. If you’re keeping a tally though, you’ll know that we called some BMW interiors cheap-looking, were upset with Nissan, missed Mitsubishi altogether, and even nitpicked some of Ford’s cars, so you may be wondering then what the actual highlight of the show was for us? The Stinger was amazing, we loved seeing the LT and GT, and the Continental was a treat, but there was one car in particular – importantly, one that we actually got to sit in and spend a lot of time with – that truly took us by surprise and was without a doubt the standout of the show for us; and that is what I have saved for now, to end off the coverage.

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The single vehicle that we were by far the most impressed with, was the white Genesis G90 you see here. This is the one car that we easily spent the most time looking at on Sunday, but I don’t have many photos because I never even sat in them on Wednesday when I was photographing everything. If I hadn’t returned with Brian, I would have really missed out on something special.

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As was our routine with the vehicles at the show we’d started pointing out what we thought was either good or bad about each, and if nothing immediately caught our attention as being one or the other, we’d begin actively looking so that we could find something. As a show of how impressed we were with the G90 we had to get especially fussy to find any ‘faults’. In fact, the only thing we could find to complain about after probably 20 minutes with the car was the lack of a physical button to lock out the rear control panel.

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(No, I haven’t mixed up my photos – I’m switching to G80 pictures now because I have no more of the G90)

To explain what I mean, in the rear there was a full control panel for the occupants which included controls for the stereo and even the front infotainment screen, as you would expect of a car in this category. Brian and I – being the 6-year-olds that we are – naturally got into a back-and-forth battle of turning the screen on and off again; he’d be looking through features and I’d hit the button in the back seat and shut it down on him. Ultimately he found the way to lock out the rear seat controls so I could no longer annoy him with this, but he had to go through three or so menus to do so. The lack of a physical button for this was literally the only thing we could find as a fault with the vehicle – that’s saying something! There was even a dedicated button-sized light on the rear panel to tell me when it was locked out, but up front – even with all of the real estate for buttons and switches and displays – there wasn’t be a physical button for him. The argument we supposed was that you’d plan ahead and if you knew kids would be in the back seat you’d lock the panel out ahead of time, but it was still surprising that there just wasn’t one given how easy it would have been to include.

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The rear seat room of the G90 was also staggering. Brian is not a short guy, and I’m average height; he was already sitting in the front so when I climbed in the back seat and saw how much room I had, I had to ask if he was even in his normal sitting position – which he was! When we switched and he climbed in back seat he noticed that there were even rear vanity mirrors that folded down from the ceiling; I had failed to notice them because I was probably too distracted with the buttons and switches back there – and, well, turning off the screen on him.

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Moving to the outsides of both the G90 and G80, it was neat to find obvious cues inspired by other models; Maybach-ish tail lights in the G90, Infiniti-ish lower bumper in the G80 and so forth, but it all came together well. As Genesis continues to refine these and find more ways to make their own unique look, they will hopefully get even better. Anyone not caught up in brand names (it will likely be hard to explain an $80,000+ “Hyundai” to some people for a little while yet) will have an epic car for the money with either of these at least in terms of tech, features, and finish. I’d be curious to not only see how they drive, but how they hold up over time in terms of reliability and resale.

In any case, hands down the highlight of the show for us was that G90 specifically, but frankly Genesis overall was what we were most impressed with upon leaving the 2017 Calgary Auto Show. We went in to the show with our checklist of cars to see – cars we were already fans of (hi Focus RS) – but it was way more fun to look at what we weren’t familiar with.

Also, well done Genesis.

-Bill

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