This weekend, February 6-8, 2015, the automotive world will converge upon Jacksonville’s very own Prime Osborn III Convention Center to create an automotive wonderland. With more than twenty-five manufacturers on hand displaying over 150 different models, the 2015 Jacksonville International Auto Show represents the best opportunity to window shop what is new and exciting on the automotive front without the anxiety or pressure that can sometimes accompany a trip to the dealer.
Representative of today’s new golden age of the automobile, this year’s show promises to be better than ever. Whether you are interested in simply walking the show floor and kicking tires or venturing behind the wheel of a brand new GM, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, or FIAT, the Jacksonville International Auto Show provides hands-on connections with the latest vehicles and allows you to “try them on” without having to explain to your spouse that you are only looking.
However, an event of this size can be a little overwhelming. I have gone in the past and found myself wandering around aimlessly snapping cell phone pictures and mindlessly collecting free literature to read later. To avoid the onset of car show delirium, I spent some time on the phone with show organizer and media liaison, Alexandria Pudney. Based on our conversation and my experiences over the past year going to media introductions for many of the latest vehicles, I will attempt to offer some helpful advice and recommendations for making the most of your time at the show.
My first tip is to arrive early. In years past, I found that the first couple hours after the show doors open are the least congested. This recommendation goes double if you are planning to participate in the ride-and-drive events. Get on the ride-and-drive sign up sheets as soon as you arrive and prioritize which vehicles you really want to experience, your time in the car can be a valuable shopping tool for the future.
Once you are at the show, grab a map and plan your visit based on your favorite manufacturer locations. While it is possible to start at one end of the convention center and work your way through the entire floor haphazardly, you will likely run out of energy before you see the brand new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray or Porsche 911 that you’ve been dreaming about. While the Vette or 911 may temporarily reenergize you, the rest of the crowd has also arrived and more than likely you’ll find yourself pressing to get a decent look at the vehicle. If your primary goal is to see the 2015 Stingray, then check out the 2015 Stingray and work from there.
Of course, you may not even know where to begin and that is all right. To help, I have put together a list of six vehicles, in no particular order, which I feel deserve a look. I have been able to spend extended time driving many of them and reviewed them in my column; the auto show provides a great opportunity to check them out for yourself.
Lexus is bringing examples of the all-new NX crossover SUV and the sporty RC coupe. Last August I was able to spend three days in Nashville checking out the Japanese manufacturer’s crossover and came away impressed. The use of the first-ever-for-a-Lexus 235-horsepower 2-liter twin-scroll turbocharged in-line 4-cylinder engine that reaches peak torque at a meager 1,650 rpm means that the NX is quite quick. Combined with a luxurious interior and offered with an optional all-wheel-drive system, the NX is capable and entertaining to drive yet provides the utility that you desire from an SUV. For buyers looking for more economy at the cost of a little performance, the NX also comes as a hybrid.
While I was off driving a family friendly economically minded crossover, Malcolm was able to visit the Monticello Motor Club in up-state New York and put the RC line up through its paces on the racetrack. Lexus has finally built a legitimate BMW 4-Series competitor that looks fast standing still. Lexus tends to show these cars in bold colors, so make sure you snap a few photos of this sculpted eye-catcher.
Hyundai is bringing examples of the beautiful all-new 2015 Genesis sedan. Very few vehicles that I have driven come close to the performance, style, luxury, and value of Hyundai’s new sedan. The rear-wheel drive 3.8-liter V6 represents incredible value, adding all-wheel-drive means incredible handling, and opting for the 420-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 means you own a legitimate car to race at Green Cove Dragway.
Porsche is excited to introduce us to the new for 2015 Macan. This exciting crossover brings the fabulous Porsche formula to a completely new audience. The styling is gorgeous enough that you may consider parking it in your living room, but then you’d be missing out on the real beauty of the tiny SUV, the robust turbocharged engines. Whether you opt for the 340-horsepower 3.0-liter twin turbo V6 Macan S or the 400-horsepower 3.6-liter twin turbo Macan Turbo, ownership means that every trip to the mall, grocery store, or work is a pulse-raising experience.
Chrysler’s new 300 is definitely worth a quick peek. The product of an excellent mid-cycle refresh, the new 300 boasts a larger, more aggressive grille that is reminiscent of the statement-making 2005 300 that took the automotive world by storm. The ever-popular V6 model produces 300-horsepower while boasting a best in class 31-mpg on the highway. Of course, motor heads like myself will be happy to hear that the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 is still available and better than ever now that it is attached to a fast and smooth shifting 8-speed automatic.
Finally, General Motors will arrive from Detroit with a brand new turbocharged ragtop that seats four, the 2016 Buick Cascada. Available in the spring of 2016, Buick is providing us with a real sneak peek at one of the most exciting vehicles to come from the marquee in a while. I was able to touch base with the public relations team from GM, who are looking forward to the show as much as we are.
“Buick is excited to bring top-down luxury to the Jacksonville Auto Show with the 2016 Cascada, says Katie Bjoerk, Product Communications Manager.” We are confident that it will delight customers and further push the momentum fueling Buick’s success.”
GM is also displaying the all-new 2015 Chevrolet Trax. Marketed as a “smart urban vehicle” the affordable compact SUV employs a fuel saving 1.4-liter Ecotec turbo engine that sends 138-horsepower to the front or all four wheels is you choose the AWD option. Pricing starts low at $20,120 and fuel economy high at 26-mpg city and 34-mpg highway.
Obviously, I have only scratched the surface; a quick spin around the show floor should also include a look at the all-new Ford Mustang and the many exciting offerings from BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Maserati, to name a few. But I do hope my suggestions help make your trip to the show a little better and if you get home and have more questions about any of the vehicles that you see don’t hesitate to email me. I would also recommend that you visit AutomotiveAddicts.com for full reviews of hundreds of vehicles, local automotive news, and more.
For details, including times and ticket costs for the Jacksonville International Auto Show visit http://jaxautoshow.com/