November 11, 2012

News & Features

Seattle Auto Show lets visitors spend time with cars of their dreams

Special to NWautos

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Four of the almost 500 autos on display at this year's Seattle Auto Show include (clockwise from top left) the Ford Focus, Bugatti Veyron, Mini Countryman and Hyundai Elantra.

Each year, the Seattle Auto Show displays cars that are rarely seen in person. Lamborghinis, Porsches and Ferraris can be found in the same venue as the latest fuel-efficient family cars. This mix is a main draw of the show, organizers say, because people can shop and dream at the same time.

"It's the perfect place to see everything from the sensible to the spectacular," says show manager Jim Hammond.

If you go
  • Location: CenturyLink Field Event Center
  • Hours: Wednesday-Thursday, 1-8:30 p.m. Friday, 1-9 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Admission: $12, adults; $10, seniors; children 12 or under free
  • Online: seattleautoshow.com

Here's a sneak peak at what you can expect at this year's show, opening Wednesday and running through Nov. 18 at CenturyLink Field Event Center.

Eye-candy cars
Dreaming is one of the highlights of the show, says communications director Craig Chastain. Most people choose a car based on factors such as price and mileage, but at the show, people are always crowded around the cars on luxury row.

This year will be no exception, with the $1.5 million Bugatti Veyron expected to be a major draw. It's the fastest production car on the planet, with a top speed of 253 mph.

Filling in luxury row will be $5 million to $6 million worth of McLaren, Lamborghini, Lotus, Aston Martin, Ferrari, Fisker, Maserati, Jaguar, Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Porsche autos.

"These are the true superstars of the car world that are seldom seen in public," Hammond says.

Latest technology
We're not quite to the point of self-driving cars, but we're getting close, says Chastain. Several of the almost 500 vehicles at the show will feature technology that lays the groundwork for the autonomous vehicles of the future.

Look for autos that use radar sensors, video cameras and artificial-intelligence software to help steer and avoid accidents. At slow speeds, for instance, the Volvo S60 will stop automatically if a pedestrian or car unexpectedly crosses your path.

Shrinking SUVs
One of the big trends in the auto world is the merger of the family sedan with the SUV. The show will feature several vehicles that combine features of both, says Chastain.

The Mini Countryman, the brand's first four-door, features elevated seating and additional cargo space. The Buick Enclave is an SUV with three rows of seating, but it looks, drives and rides like a crossover.

Other examples include the redesigned Ford Explorer, Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5.

Fuel efficiency
The car that holds the Guinness world record for "history's best mileage" isn't what you'd expect: It's a 1959 gas-powered Opel P-1 that uses vapor capture to achieve 376 mpg. The car will be at the show courtesy of LeMay — America's Car Museum in Tacoma, which is sponsoring an expanded display this year.

Modern fuel-efficiency technology will be reflected in the latest hybrids and electric vehicles. Almost every major manufacturer will have a new one on display. Look for fuel sippers such as the Ford Focus EV and a hybrid Chevrolet Silverado.

Small cars, big tech
Another trend is affordable cars packed with features and sporty styling.

A host of cars under $20,000 are fuel efficient, focus on safety (with as many as 10 airbags in some models) and offer creature comforts such as integrated Bluetooth and touch screens. Examples include the Dodge Dart, Hyundai Elantra, Fiat 500, Kia Rio, Nissan Versa and Chevy Spark.

Innovative designs
A cadre of unique electric vehicles will be on display, including two Wheego models, the latest utility vehicles by Polaris, and oddballs such as the three-wheel Firefly service vehicle.

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