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The five most interesting and rare cars to see at the Toronto auto show

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Aston Martin AM-RB 001

Aston Martin

Aston Martin and an energy drinks company are working together to create the ultimate supercar. It’s said to pull four times the force of gravity, sideways, when cornering and accelerate from a standstill to 321 km/h in 10 seconds, according to the Wall Street Journal. Interested drivers should enroll in Top Gun school to acquaint themselves with such gut-twisting speed.

The AM-RB 001, codenamed Nebula, is making its Canadian debut at the Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto. Aston is only building 175 of them, each worth something like $3-million. See it here while you can because, out in the wild, you have a better chance of seeing a pig in yellow slippers climbing a pear tree.

The Nebula is the brainchild of Adrien Newey, of the Red Bull Formula One team, which counts Aston Martin among its sponsors. Newey has designed 10 Formula One World Championship-winning race cars, but the Nebula is his first crack at a road-going machine. He told Top Gear several current F1 drivers have already ordered one for themselves. No doubt the AM-RB 001 will stake out unchartered territory for what a car is capable of, but it’s not without competition. Recently, Mercedes-AMG announced it’s working on a supercar, with the engine adapted from its championship-winning Formula One car.

2018 Audi RS3

Volkswagen

On the opposite end of the performance-car spectrum is this little Audi. It may look harmless – hardly different from the budget-friendly A3 sedan at first glance – but it’s packing 400 horsepower, all-wheel drive and a new five-cylinder turbocharged engine. The ultimate sleeper? We won’t find out until it goes on sale later this year.

The RS3 has the potential to be all things to all gearheads: a classier alternative to a Ford Focus RS, a more practical BMW M2, a spicier VW Golf R or a non-ugly Subaru WRX STI.

Audi denied previous versions of the RS3 to North America drivers, citing lame excuses like, ‘There’s no business case,’ or ‘It’ll never make money!’ The 2011 and 2015 RS 3 hatchbacks received mostly positive reviews from the European press, but were criticized for high prices and tame handling.

When it finally lands in Canada, the 2018 RS3 will arrive in sedan form only. It’ll have more power than before thanks to the new aluminum 2.5-litre five-cylinder borrowed from the Audi TT RS. It’s enough to propel the car from 0-100 km/h in 4.1 seconds. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but we estimate it’ll be closer to the Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 ($51,800) than to the BMW M2 ($63,500).

2017 Jeep Compass

FCA

The all-new 2017 Jeep Compass is here to erase the memory of two less-than-stellar products in Jeep history.

The old Compass and Patriot SUVs were far from class-leading, to put it politely. The Patriot, in particular, had a reputation for being underpowered, with poor fuel economy and a cramped interior. At least it was cheap.

The new Compass is shaping up to be one of the biggest turnarounds for any single model. On paper, the 2017 model looks to right its predecessor’s wrongs, and then some. In person, it looks better, too – like a shrunken Grand Cherokee.

Fiat-Chrysler is offering 17 different powertrains in the Compass across the world, but only one will come to North America initially: a 2.4-litre four-cylinder. The company promises much-improved fuel economy from the new motor. Also on the spec sheet is optional all-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic transmission.

The Trailhawk edition is the most exciting, promising respectable off-road performance from an affordable cute-ute. Beyond the two-tone paint and flashy wheels, the Trailhawk features increased ground clearance, skid plates, and a 20:1 low-range for crawling over big rocks. The bumpers are also redesigned to offer better clearance. It’ll wade through nearly a half-metre of water and tow up to 2,000 pounds. The Compass is dead. Long live the Compass.

Kia Stinger

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The Canadian International AutoShow lives in the shadow of bigger car shows, truly international events – like Detroit and CES – which happen just a few weeks earlier. The inferiority complex is justified; it’s rare that auto makers bring their big Detroit debuts to Toronto. Often we have to wait a year or more to see them, by which time they’re old news. And so, yes, it is flattering that Kia is bringing its new Stinger sedan to Toronto, fresh from its world-premiere in Detroit.

The importance of this car for Kia can’t be overstated. It’s not that Kia Canada expects the Stinger to be a big seller; it probably won’t be. Rather, it’s meant to change perceptions of the brand, to move Kia up-market and earn some high-performance credibility.

During development, the benchmark for the Kia Stinger was the BMW 4 Series. In fact, the chassis was honed by Albert Biermann, the same engineering wizard who fine-tuned many of BMW’s greatest M cars.

Based around a new rear-drive chassis, the Stinger GT has a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V-6 putting out 365 horsepower. It’s enough to propel the car from 0-100 km/h in 5.1 seconds, which would put it in a dead heat with a BMW 340i.

Is the fastback Stinger really desirable enough to lure buyers away from sports sedans by Audi, BMW, Benz, Cadillac and Jaguar? The Toronto show offers the chance to find out, before the Stinger arrives in dealership later this year.

Mercedes G550 4x4 2

Mercedes-Benz

Like the Aston Martin supercar, this Mercedes monster truck is likely to reduce grown adults to fits of child-like awe; it is the stuff of daydreams.

Before you write it off as mere fantasy, know that this Benz SUV is real. If you are an adult-child with a couple thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket, you could walk into a Mercedes dealership and drive away in a G550 4x4 2. Just be careful you don’t run over any Smart cars on the way out.

Compared to the already-rugged G-Class, the Squared version is exponentially more rugged, as rugged as Bear Grylls multiplied by Bear Grylls. How is that possible? Mercedes has added portal axles – which raise the axles above the centre of the wheels – as well as dual springs and damper struts at each corner. It means it’ll drive clean over obstacles 43 centimetres high and wade through water one metre deep.

However, we doubt Mercedes’ claim that, “the enhanced G-Class drives through bends so dynamically that the occupants feel as though they are in a sports car rather than a cross-country vehicle.” Nothing more than two metres tall and weighing around three tonnes is going to feel even remotely sporty, even when powered by a twin-turbo V-8.

Like the Aston Martin supercar, you’ll probably only ever see one at the auto show.

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