2007 Toyota Tundra CrewMax
2007 Toyota Tundra CrewMax (click for more photos). Click image to enlarge

By Tony Whitney

Late March is an important time of the year for BC automotive fans, both enthusiasts and consumers. March 30th – April 8th sees the staging of another Vancouver International Auto Show, slated as usual, for BC Place stadium which is within walking distance of the downtown core.

It looks like being an especially interesting show this year, with an impressive roster of Canadian debuts and even a few vehicles that have never been shown either in Canada or the US.

As usual, I’ve had a quiet word with my contacts in the auto industry with the aim of getting some advance details on what the highlights will be. Of course, there are always a few last-minute surprises at this show, so any preview is by no means comprehensive. It’s worth noting too, that automakers who don’t have anything all-new to show (and may not be mentioned in this preview) will still display their complete ranges, so the opportunity to check out everything they offer is still there.

2008 BMW 5-series
2008 Saturn Astra
2008 Ford Taurus X
Top to bottom: 2008 BMW 5-series (click for more photos), 2008 Saturn Astra and 2008 Ford Taurus X (click for more photos). Click image to enlarge

BMW will attend with an array of tempting vehicles, but of special note is the 2008 5-Series sedan – the company’s mid-sized luxury car. Also close by will be products from the Munich automaker’s Mini stable, this car having been completely re-worked quite recently.

General Motors will have its usual large display area, highlighted by a Canadian introduction – the 2008 Saturn Astra, based on the European Opel Astra. BC show-goers will be able to see several GM division products for the first time, including the 2008 Cadillac CTS, the 2008 Buick Enclave and the 2008 Saturn Vue – a compact SUV which also has Opel origins. The 2008 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups are at the dealers and the show will be the first time visitors will be able to check out the whole range under the dome. Look also for the mouth-watering Camaro concept coupe – a real nostalgia trip.

Ford’s big display will include the Canadian premiere of the Taurus X, an upscale relative of the recently revealed Taurus. If you think this new Taurus X looks familiar, it’s actually the old Freestyle dressed up with the company’s new “corporate face” – it picks up grille styling and other cues from Fusion and Edge models. The standard Taurus will also be on show – a rework of the old “500” sedan, which itself is based on the last generation Volvo S80. Ford will also show a 2008 Escape Hybrid, the new Focus, and on the concept side, prototypes bearing Bronco and Shelby GR-1 nameplates. On the full-size work truck front, look for the 2008 F-Series Super
Duty models.

2008 Chrysler Sebring convertible
2008 Chrysler Sebring convertible; click here for more photos. Click image to enlarge

Chrysler/Dodge will give pride of place to its new Sebring Convertible, long the top selling ragtop in North America. A Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel will also be on display, as will the Dodge Avenger and Jeep Patriot.

“Firsts” at the Toyota/Lexus displays will be the Lexus LX 600h, the largest luxury sedan with hybrid power on the market. The number of Lexus hybrids now adds up to more than the entire industry has come up with so far on the luxury front, but maybe that situation will change
soon. Toyota will also pull the wraps off its huge Tundra CrewMax pickup – the largest ever launched by an offshore nameplate brand. Toyota has high hopes that this rig will cement its place as a serious truck contender in North America’s fickle market. To its credit, Toyota is displaying a Sienna van modified for the mobility impaired and upgrades include a built-in wheelchair ramp and a special lift-up seat.

2008 Volkswagen Jetta wagon
2008 Volkswagen Jetta wagon; click here for more photos. Click image to enlarge

Volkswagen is treating us to two major North American debuts at BC Place and consider them important enough to bring in a group of US automotive journalists to attend. The 2008 Jetta Wagon and 2008 Touareg SUV didn’t make it to Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago or Toronto, but you can check them both out at the Vancouver show. Both these utilitarian vehicles – in very different size ranges – should draw lots of interest. Also, visitors will be able to see the New Beetle Triple White Edition (any colour you want as long as it’s white!) for the first time in Canada.

We’ll be seeing a few more luxury brands at the show this year than usual, including Jaguar with its new range of XK sports cars (coupe, convertible and “R” models) and Land Rover with the new medium-compact 2008 LR2. Mazda will have its new CX9 crossover there and it will be easy side-by-side to see how much larger it is than its stablemate CX7. Also from Mazda is the revised 2008 Tribute compact SUV.

Mitsubishi has been gaining ground in Canada in recent times and confirmation of this brand’s future can be found in the fact that the Jim Pattison Group has taken on a franchise. Mitsubishi will show its new Outlander, 2008 Lancer sedan and the rest of its extensive model range. Interestingly, the new Lancer has Mitsubishi’s first continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) which puts it a step ahead of many of its competitors.

2007 Hyundai Veracruz
2007 Hyundai Veracruz; click here for more photos. Click image to enlarge

Hyundai is taking the opportunity to show a new product that should sell very well in BC’s discerning market – the 2008 Veracruz luxury SUV/crossover. Having been able to examine this one over quite thoroughly, I’d urge visitors to take a look at the quality and general fit and finish of this vehicle – and see how well it compares with even lofty nameplates from Europe. Hyundai will also display its Accent SR, a performance-oriented compact sold only in Canada. Look out for the reworked Tiburon sports coupe too at Hyundai.

Suzuki will show one of its World Rally Championship (WRC) SX4 models, reminding me of the time I watched a team of Suzukis compete impressively in the Monte Carlo Rally a few years back. Major WRC competitor Subaru will by unveiling four 2008 models – the Outback XT, Outback 3.0R, the Legacy Spec B performance sedan and a legacy GT wagon that’s exclusive to Canada.

Battling to compete in the tough North American pickup segment, Nissan will show its new long bed Titan Crew Cab full-size truck and also the Titan Pro X4, both of which promise to be interesting competitors to Toyota rivals, not to mention domestic trucks. Also new from Nissan is the 2008 Altima sedan, the 2007 Altima Hybrid and the 2008 Armada full-size SUV.

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