It's a chance for prospective buyers to learn more about vehicles available in a low-pressure environment. Families can get up close and personal and see how everyone fits.
But the folks behind the event know that simply giving people the opportunity to sit behind the wheel - and in the backseat, and the cargo bay - only gets them so far.
Kids today, and even adults, need a bit more stimulation, so expect ever-wilder attractions than before at the Center City event:
The first appearance from Camp Jeep, sponsored by Chrysler, a 12-year-old outdoor driving adventure brought indoors showing off the brand's off-roading capabilities.
The first-ever Mustang-Camaro Face-Off!, sponsored by local enthusiasts' clubs.
The return of the Toyota indoor track, with a new course and a billing as a more personalized driving experience.
Outdoor test drives on the streets of Philadelphia by five manufacturers - Cadillac, General Motors, Hyundai, Kia, and Subaru.
Kevin Mazzucola, executive director of the show-sponsoring Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia, said the show's footprint had grown immensely, first when the Convention Center expanded, prior to the 2012 event, and even more for this year.
"We've added over 100,000 square feet to the show in the last two years," Mazzucola said.
The expansion of the local show has been nicely timed, as the turnaround in the auto industry has continued unabated.
Numbers from the National Automobile Dealers Association show that U.S. light-vehicle sales are expected to total around 14.4 million in 2012. That's up from 12.7 million in 2011; 11.55 million in 2010; and 10.4 million in 2009, its lowest point in 27 years, just as the recession was unfolding and the national Cash for Clunkers program aimed to prop up sales.
Themes in the past have included retro cars and fuel efficiency. This year, Mazzucola said, the focus is on the wide variety of new models available, allowing carmakers to build on recent successes.
"It's a weird year," Mazzucola said. "This is my 15th show and there always seems to be a trend; this year it's more of the whole market is the trend."
Here's a closer look at some of what will be at the show over the next 10 days.
What to look for
The 2013 McLaren 12C Spider will make its East Coast debut in Philadelphia. It's as close as most of us get to a $250,000-plus exotic.
The Lexus LF-LC Concept.
A range of 2014 models: Acura RLX, Chevrolet Impala, Ford Fiesta, Ford Transit Connect Wagon, Jaguar F-Type, Jaguar XFR-S, Mazda6, Porsche Cayman, Subaru Forester, Ford Fusion Energi, and Land Rover Range Rover.
Green technology: 2014 Audi A6, A7, A8, and Q5 TDI models, Ford C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi and Ford Fusion Energi.
Bring a tent?
Camp Jeep bills itself as "the ultimate indoor off-road driving test." Chrysler representatives say participants will be able to enjoy a five-minute adventure chauffeured by professional 4x4 drivers over a 14-foot-high, 35-degree hill climb, a section of simulated fallen logs, and a 30-degree wedge.
It's available anytime the show is open and is included with the price of admission.
Let's go places
Toyota has moved on from Atlantic City circa 1936, last year's indoor Monopoly theme for indoor testing of its cars. This year, it follows on a new marketing path, "Let's Go Places," while taking show visitors inside its models.
Vehicles will include the Avalon, Camry Hybrid, RAV4, Prius, and Venza. More than 10,000 visitors sampled last year's first-time offerings, according to Toyota officials.
Take a ride outside
A chance to drive some actual vehicles yourself on city streets takes the auto show to a new level. Visitors who are interested in a Cadillac, General Motors, Hyundai, Kia, or Subaru will get to test them out firsthand.
Muscle car face-off
The great Mustang vs. Camaro debate will bring itself to the floor of the Philly auto show. Local Mustang and Camaro clubs are sponsoring something called Face-Off!
During show hours, visitors can see some of the best examples of the two vintage muscle cars from throughout the years owned by club members - including a 1967 Ford Shelby GT350 and a 1969 Chevy Camaro Z/28 Coupe - as well as a few of the latest muscle-car offerings from GM and Ford.
Aficionados will be able to vote for their favorite, and the contest will be updated on Facebook.
2013 Philadelphia Auto Show
Days: Saturday through Jan. 27.
Times: Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sundays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; weekdays, noon to 10 p.m.
Location: Convention Center, 1101 Arch St.
Tickets: Adults (age 13+), $12; seniors 62+ weekdays, $6; children 7-12, $6; children 6 & under, free with paid adult.
Contact Scott Sturgis at email@example.com or 215-854-2558.