Automotive companies flexed their muscle cars at the 47th edition of the Montreal International Auto Show (MIAS) at the Palais des Congrès January 16-25.

autoshow-2015Naturally, the auto show dedicated two neon-lit gallery rooms to custom car junkies, luring them in with hot chicks draped over vintage cars featuring mind-blowing mods. Highlighting the skills of local custom shops, these galleries contained obscene exhibits of tricked-out cars. We’re talking souped-up everything, from Civics to Lamborghinis to the classic Trans-Am.

For new vehicles, the latest tech trends and what the industry has in store, the MIAS had something appealing for everyone. As the first major Canadian city of the year to host an international auto show, Montreal is often the place where the biggest names in the industry unveil their latest models. This year featured three North American premieres and 41 Canadian premieres.

Honda had a sporty subcompact SUV crossover, the 2016 Honda HR-V. The 2016 HR-V aims to take the growing niche of subcompact SUVs by storm, with Honda executives promising a more comfortable ride and higher cargo volume capacity than the competition, as well as best-in-class fuel economy. It will be interesting to see whether the HR-V can live up to the considerable hype when it hits U.S. and Canadian markets this spring.

The long-awaited 2016 Mazda2 was one of three cars to make their North American debut at this year’s MIAS, and of those three the Mazda2 is the only one to have moved beyond the “concept” phase. A subcompact with a redesigned exterior and improved weight distribution scheme, the 2016 Mazda2 aims to be 20% more fuel efficient than the previous iteration thanks to the implementation of Mazda’s SKYACTIV Technology.

Toyota’s floor space drew considerable attention, perhaps due to the conspicuous rotating exhibits of the envelope-pushing 2014 hybrid racecar, the TS030 and the newly unveiled FT-1 – a screamer of a concept (said to be the next Supra). Toyota also had its Canadian unveilings for its 2015 Prius C and V.  The 2015 Prius V is the larger of the two, and with a fuel economy of 5.6L/100km, it might be the most fuel-efficient family car to be released this year. The 2015 Prius V base model starts at $27,500.

Audi also joined the crossover party this year. In addition to the Canadian unveilings of the 2016 A7 and the 2016 S6, Audi unveiled its first plug-in hybrid, the 2016 A3 e-tron. According to early test reports from Europe, the A3 e-tron will offer amazing fuel economy nearing 1.5L/100km. The A3 e-tron will hit North American markets this summer and is expected to retail at around $40,000.

autoshow-2015-1Two other crossover concept cars made their North American premieres in Montreal – the Hyundai Intrado and the Subaru VIZIV 2. Both of these sleek concepts are optimistic attestations to the feasibility of a global shift from fossil fuels to more sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives. The Intrado runs on hydrogen fuel-cell technology and reportedly gets 600km/tank, emitting only water vapour. The VIZIV 2 is a diesel-electric hybrid, boasting an updated version of Subaru’s signature “symmetrical” all-wheel-drive technology to provide state-of-the-art handling precision in all terrains and weather conditions.

The 2015 trucks were out in full force. It’s a North American thing – west of the Atlantic we recognize there’s no substitute for a good pickup. Although there were no first-time Canadian unveilings for pickups, the biggest, baddest contenders in the truck market were letting it all hang out. GMC, Ford, Dodge and Chevrolet were all packing a big-wheeled wallop.

Ford wasn’t shy about showcasing its award-winning series of full-size pickups. The silver F-150 XLT-XTR was capped with a triangle signifying an award from the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) for the “2015 best new pickup.”  These trucks are especially popular in Canada and the U.S., and the Ford section of the floor was loaded with dozens of people lined up for the chance to examine this year’s models.

Rugged and spacious, the F-150 comes in five classes ranging from the most affordable, the F-150 XL, which starts at $21,399, to the top-of-the-line F-150 Platinum, which starts at $66,999. The 2015 F-150s are officially the most patented truck in Ford’s history, with more than 100 patents and patents pending riding on their burly shoulders. New innovations include an all-aluminum body, and a lighter, more compact turbocharged EcoBoost V6 engine, available in either 2.7L or 3.5L. According to Ford, these additions mean the new F-150s weigh up to 300 kg less and offer better fuel economy than older models.

Not to be upstaged, Dodge was ready to defend its place in the pickup food-chain by showcasing its acclaimed 2015 Ram series, boldly marketed as “Canada’s most fuel-efficient pickup.”

autoshow-2015-2The 1500 Laramie EcoDiesel V6 model is the only pickup option in its class with a diesel engine. The EcoDiesel engine, exclusively available in the Laramie Longhorn 1500 model, has 240 horsepower and a 4,100 kg towing capacity. Its big brother, the Laramie Longhorn 2500 trades up the V6 for a 5.7L HEMI V8 in the base version. The upgraded 2500 6.4L HEMI V8 delivers Best-in-Class 410 horsepower, while the 6.7L I-6 Cummins Turbo Diesel has the Best-in-Class ¾ ton towing with an advertised towing capacity of over 8,000 kg. The eldest brother, the gargantuan, dual-wheeled Laramie Longhorn 3500, offers Best-in-Class payload capability of up to 3,350 kg, and Best-in-Class towing of up to 13,600 kg.

The most stylish cargo van in the building, the 2015 Ram Promaster City SLT, won Best-in-Class standard cargo capacity with a maximum cargo volume of 13,100L (460 cubic feet). Starting at $27,995, the Promaster City and can carry a maximum payload of up to 2,300 kg. Two powertrain configurations are available – the standard gasoline-powered, 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine with a 6-speed automatic transmission, or the more fuel-efficient 3.0L EcoDiesel I-4 engine with 6-speed automated manual transmission.

For those in the market for midsized trucks, the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado is lauded as Motor Trend’s “2015 Truck of the Year.” Starting at $19,900, the affordable base Colorado is only available in 2WD and makes the most of a 2.5L direct-injected 4-cylinder engine. The fully upgraded Colorado Z71 comes with a 3.6L V6 engine, enhanced suspension and 4WD for $31,500.

The 2015 Silverado is Chevrolet’s full-sized pickup model. Featuring a redesigned interior and exterior, the Silverado 3500 HD-DRW exudes an imposing presence that commands respect. Under the hood dwells a Duramax 6.6L Turbo-Diesel V8 engine with 4WD capability. This truck is ready to work toe-to-toe with the Ram 3500 but at a slightly less exorbitant cost. The Silverado 3500 HD is gigantic and beastly, but with a sense of robust functionality that is somewhat absent from the more glamorous designs of other full-sized trucks. These include the more expensive, chrome-laden luxury in the GMC Sierra LTZ-Denali, which looks more like a vanity ride than a professional grade utility vehicle.

The Quebec-made Magnum MK5 made its Canadian debut at this year’s show and managed to hold its own in the face of other highly anticipated sports car premieres such as the Lamborghini Huracan and the Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS. The MK5 is a (barely) street-legal supercar designed by the famous Québécois racecar driver Bruno St-Jacques. The poster-child of this year’s auto show, known as the “Vedette du Québec,” the MK5 features an ultra-light carbon fibre body weighing only 545 kg. The MK5 uses a 4-cylinder, 250-horsepower engine that allows the car to accelerate from 0-100km/h in 3.2 seconds, and attain a top speed of 240 km/h. The MK5 will retail for $139,000.

An agonizing and exhilarating tug-of-war between automotive passion and corporate excess, the 2015 MIAS delivered the best anyone could hope for in an auto show. Innovation is alive and well in the automotive industry as manufacturers shift to more efficient, cleaner energy. It’s brighter still for open-minded Canadian consumers in the market for excellent automobiles.