Yes, I said car SHOWS. Because this chick doesn’t just do one city, one show.
I actually went to my first car show right around 2000 when my husband and I attended the NC Auto Expo. It’s held at the fairgrounds every year and it basically feels like you’re walking through a giant new car showroom.
Fast forward a few decades and I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to some of the largest car shows in the country like Detroit (also known at the North American International Auto Show, or NAIAS), New York (also known as the New York International Auto Show, or NYIAS), Washington, Dallas, and, most recently, Chicago. You might think, seen one show, seen ’em all but each show varies in size, sponsorship, and overall theme. Did you know that?
So even though I just recently spent three days at the Washington Auto Show, I learned even more during the three days I just spent at the Chicago Auto Show. (Fingers crossed that I’ll make it up to New York for their auto show next month).
If you’re not lucky enough to live close to or have the opportunity to attend a major car show, I’ve got you covered. Here are some of the major highlights that I heard from the horse’s mouth and saw with my own lens.
What’s New at the Car Shows This Year…
There’s something new every year. From new models to new concepts to new marketing campaigns, you’ll find something different at every show you attend. But these were some of the trends and highlights I noticed from the few shows I’ve attended recently.
Bigger, Better, and Prettier Off Road Capability
Yes, I said prettier. Looks matter when it comes to what I’m driving. So let’s talk about that Jeep Wrangler redesign/update. I love to look at Jeep Wranglers more than I love to drive them but everything about this said, “We know what the core of this vehicle is all about so we’re just going to improve upon that instead of change it.”
The RAM 1500 also received a major overhaul. Gone is the signature in-your-face grille which has been replaced by a kinder, gentler, and more aerodynamic truck. You’ll also find upgrades, like a large cab and reclining rear seats, that make it clear RAM wants to be your family truck.
Toyota also announced the addition of TRD Pro to their truck lineup, including the Tacoma, Tundra, and the 4Runner.
Behold, the Subcompact SUV (They’re everywhere!)
The subcompact SUV appears to still be a hot market. With the success of vehicles like the Mazda CX-3, Buick Encore, and Honda HR-V, you’ll see consumers that wants commuter-friendly cars with the advantages of a SUV.
Nissan introduced their new Kicks, which replaces the Juke in their crossover lineup.
And due out in the spring is Hyundai’s first subcompact SUV, the Kona.
The Hot Hatch
Not far behind the subcompact SUVs are the hatchbacks. And the hatchbacks are aplenty. Just look at the Subaru Impreza hatchback, the Chevy Cruze hatchback, the ever popular VW Golf, and the Kia Rio to name a few. But the hatchback doesn’t stop there.
What’s hot are the “hot hatches” or what we called souped up cars back in the day. Like the VW GTI (a higher performance version of the Golf), these cars are tuned for performance and for turning heads.
Also this Ford Focus ST is a little more outfitted than most, it is meant to be a performance hatchback.
Another hotly anticipated hot hatch is the Hyundai Veloster N, with the N being the new performance designation. In fact, Hyundai has even thrown their hat into the ring and put together a professional racing team.
Movies & Cars
While we’re talking about Hyundai, they showed off one of the coolest cars since Wayne’s World. This Hyundai Veloster actually appears in Ant-Man and the Wasp, which opens in July.
I’ve made it known that I’m not in love with the Lexus LC500 but then again, I didn’t drive one that looked like this. This specially outfitted Black Panther Lexus was one of the stars of the show.
And of course, Nissan and Star Wars. Still riding high on the tie-in between the Nissan Rogue, Rogue One, and now, The Last Jedi, we look forward to seeing what Nissan’s movie tie-in with A Wrinkle in Time will bring.
New and Conceptual
If you like far out cars like the movie tie-ins, that’s great. You’re going to love some of the concept vehicles I’ve seen. But don’t worry. There are plenty of amazing new vehicles for purchase too.
Spotted at the Washington Auto Show was the Toyota FCR, a concept car that stood for Fine Comfort Ride. It’s a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that relies on autonomous driving. Don’t expect it in showrooms anytime soon.
In Chicago, Toyota brought another concept vehicle, the FT-AC which stands for Future Toyota Adventure Concept.
Concepts come in luxury as well as evidenced by the Cadillac Escala. I secretly hoped it was a vehicle slated for production but the smirk I got from them when I asked told me it’s probably not likely to happen.
Now for the REAL cars. You know, the ones you can actually buy. I’ve shown you a lot that you can actually buy but these were some of the standouts that caught my eye.
After the VW Phaeton and the VW CC, I was beginning to think we’d never see another luxury sedan from Volkswagen again. In Chicago, they introduced the 2019 Arteon and I’m looking forward to seeing what it can do.
I normally steer clear of gigantic luxury SUVs. It’s usually the price tag or the gas mileage that scares me away but the Lincoln Navigator drew me back in. It’s luxurious inside and out and rumor has it that dealers can’t keep them in stock.
I absolutely love Volvo and want to marry the new XC60 but there’s a smaller car in town. The Volvo XC40 is a compact SUV with distinctive styling outside and, ahem, in. Sure, we’ll say it’s distinctive. The jury’s still out on this one but worth taking a look at.
And last but not least is me dreaming about living life on the road and driving wherever the GPS takes you. the 2019 Envy is a camper van built on the Nissan NV200 platform and ready for 2 adults and 2 kids. Sounds perfect!
Women That Aren’t Booth Babes
And finally, the biggest draw at the auto shows this year was THE WOMEN! And no, I don’t mean the booth babes. In fact, most of these “booth babes” are trained product specialists that can answer many of your questions about the cars they are showing. They just happen to be really really skinny and capable of standing in heels all day.
I’m talking about other women.
For example, I got to lead several tours for the Washington Auto Show. My tour attendees were often men but many were women with their sons and daughters or even the entire family. I loved talking cars with such diverse groups!
At the Washington Auto Show, I got to spend time behind the wheel for the massive Jaguar and Land Rover driving experiences. I was so pleased that I drove and rode with two different female professional drivers.
There were many female members of the media as well as a Women in Automotive panel and luncheon in Chicago. It’s to find other women in this industry to make you feel welcome.
If you have any questions about an upcoming car show, don’t hesitate to reach out. I can even recommend what to wear so you don’t get too hot or too cold and your feet don’t hurt!
My travel expenses for the Chicago Auto Show were provided by the Chicago Auto Show and their media partner, Nissan. All opinions are my own.