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Exotics rule in Toronto

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Mark Hacking
The purpose of the Canadian International Automobile Show, along with the other major shows in North America, seems to have changed.

Dodge Challenger

Whereas the show circuit used to shine the spotlight on the latest in concept car designs, the manufacturers are now far braver in introducing production vehicles that, at one time, would have never advanced beyond the "what if" stage.

Thus, when people see the next-generation Camaro or Challenger, they don't say, "If only they would build it," they say, "Looks great - when's it on sale?" In this way, all the North American shows are becoming less "industry-oriented" (here's what we could do if the pencil-pushers would just get out of the damn way) and more "consumer-oriented" (here's what we're doing very, very soon - we promise).

For this observer, then, much of the excitement In Toronto revolved around cars - specifically, exotic cars - that are almost within our collective grasp.

This is definitely the case with the Audi R8. Looking for all the world like a pure concept car that would never come within two time zones of a production line, the R8 will actually hit North American roads this year like a knife through hot butter. This latest entry in the exotic car sweepstakes, it must also be noted, looks far better in person than in photographs - a characteristic also true of the latest generation Audi TT.

After the Audi R8, the car that caught my eye was the Mercedes-Benz SLR 722 Edition. Although I'm not a big fan of the "base" SLR (the styling doesn't hold a candle to almost anything coming out of Italy), this special edition version looks absolutely monstrous. In fact, it looks like a Dodge Viper. If said Viper were designed by Germans. Germans in a particularly aggressive frame of mind.

Mercedes-Benz SLR 722 Edition

One final exotic worth mentioning and the exception that proves the rule: the Shelby GR-1. Although I'd already seen this shining example of exotic car excellence on a few occasions, it still manages to stop me in my tracks. The gleaming aluminum body, the elongated hood, the powerful stance; it all adds up to a tidy slice of automotive magic. Now if only they would build it...
photo:Philippe Champoux, Ray Watson
Mark Hacking
Mark Hacking
Automotive expert