The vehicles at the 2012 Seattle Auto Show are a reflection of the times. Almost every automaker will be showing fuel-sipping hybrids, super-efficient compacts and zero-emission electrics.
At the same time, improving sales are giving auto manufacturers a bit of their swagger back. Auto design is at a peak, technology is booming and manufacturers are producing engines with more power and better fuel economy. In other words, visitors to the show, which opens Wednesday, can expect some razzle-dazzle with their sensible and eco-conscious.
Some expected highlights:
"Now that pretty much every [manufacturer] has a hybrid -- from Toyota and Lexus to Infiniti and BMW -- electrics are a much bigger topic of conversation," says show communications director Craig Chastain.
Show organizers are particularly excited about the 2012 Coda, a brand-new all-electric four-door sedan that has a range of up to 150 miles per charge. Wheego, which is represented by Seattle dealership MC Electric Vehicles, is showing a new freeway-capable version of its electric car. That model was previously limited to city streets at a maximum of 35 mph.
The new Mitsubishi i and Ford Focus Electric will also be at the show, along with the hit Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt -- two of last year's electric highlights.
- • Nov. 2-6
- • CenturyLink Field Event Center
- • For more information and tickets, visit seattleautoshow.com
Always the stars of the show, supercars will shine just as brightly this year. Present will be the Lamborghini Aventador LP700 -- a 700-horsepower beauty that goes from zero to 60 in 2.9 seconds.
Porsche is bringing its 2012 Boxster Black Edition. Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, Maserati and electric-sportscar-maker Fisker also will exhibit.
In honor of its 100th birthday on Nov. 3, Chevrolet has created special editions of the Camaro and Corvette, two of the most iconic performance cars of all time. To celebrate the centennial, which falls on the second day of the show, organizers will be handing out Chevy-logo-shaped cookies and holding special giveaways.
Small cars are huge. "That's where there might be as much excitement as anywhere," Chastain says.
Fiat has returned to the U.S. market with the 500 subcompact for 2012. The hardtop and convertible versions will be on display at the show.
Also present will be the Scion iQ, a smartly designed four-seater than looks much bigger inside than it does outside. "Now you've got some actual competition in the subcompact category," Chastain says.
The redesigned Kia Rio and the new Chevy Sonic are other compacts not to miss.
Trucks and SUVs
If you want size, truck manufacturers are making it possible to go bigger than ever. "Supertrucks" such as the 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 and the Ford F-250 Super Duty will be on display. And they provide as much comfort as they do muscle, making driving a truck "similar to driving an upscale luxury car," Chastain says.
The top-selling Jeep Grand Cherokee will also be on display, as will the iconic Jeep Wrangler.
LeMay -- America's Car Museum, located in Tacoma, is in the middle of a major expansion, and its presence at the show is getting a size upgrade as well. The exclusion of motorcycles from the show this year gives the historical exhibit a larger chunk of real estate, so as you take in the excitement for the year to come, you can also admire the cars that were the future of auto shows past.