This auto show puts you behind the wheel

DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer
DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer
Posted: January 21, 2013

The 2013 Philadelphia Auto Show brings what's billed as a $48 million economic impact to the region through next Sunday at the Convention Center.

In addition to an array of new models, the show has some new features, such as Camp Jeep, an expanded Toyota ride-and-drive, and ride-and-drives with other manufacturers as well on the streets of Philadelphia. The 2014 models include the 2014 Ford Fiesta, GMC Sierra, Nissan GT-R, and several others.

Here's a look at some of the highlights of this year's show:

Chrysler: The smallest of Detroit's Big Three has been making quite a splash at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit - and with the auto-buying public. Its sales are up 10 percent for December and 21 percent from 2011 to 2012.

While its 2014 Jeep Compass and Patriot models won't be in Philadelphia, plenty of other models are available.

Another big draw should be Camp Jeep, making its first appearance in Philadelphia. Chrysler bills Camp Jeep as "the ultimate indoor off-road driving test." Professional 4x4 drivers chauffeured this writer over a 14-foot-high, 35-degree hill climb and a section of simulated fallen logs. The free ride is a great way to experience the off-roading capabilities, suspension technology, and hill-descent technologies available in the vehicles.

Riders get to experience the event in either a Grand Cherokee, a Wrangler Unlimited, or a Rubicon. But just like the best amusement rides, Camp Jeep is not for riders under 44 inches tall.

Fiesta, Fusion Energi: Ford is emphasizing fuel economy and value in its lineup for Philadelphia.

David Principato, Ford regional manager, said the company is "democratizing technology," trying to provide more features seen in luxury brands in its entire lineup.

The company boasts its 2014 Fiesta and the 2014 Fusion Energi Hybrid. The latter model gets to 85 m.p.h. without turning on the engine, and up to 21 miles on electricity, as well, Principato said.

Another new model coming to showrooms later this year is the Transit Connect Wagon, which Ford offers as a five- or seven-passenger minivan.

Principato said Ford believes value is a strong consideration.

Upscale: But for people not at all looking to trade down, McLaren makes its debut at the show, and offers the East Coast debut of its new 2013 12C Spider.

The Spider adds a retractable hardtop to the exotic carmaker's lineup.

But it's certainly not for everyone. The car not only carries a $330,000 price tag, said Chad Sierer, sales manager for McLaren Philadelphia in Newtown Square, but also production is limited. Only 1,500 12C coupes were built for 2012, and even fewer Spiders will be available, Sierer said.

The car features the same gull-wing doors and low, sporty driving position of the coupe.

A new pickup from General Motors: The 2014 GMC Sierra gets a whole new redesign, its first since the 2007 model year. The Sierra and corporate cousin Chevy Silverado are expected to be in dealers' showrooms in the second quarter.

Bold, brawny, and chiseled were some of the adjectives Buick-GMC marketing director Roger McCormack used for the new Sierra, because no one wants a nerdy, 98-pound-weakling pickup. But today's brawny trucks have to have at least a touch of the metrosexual, and provide all the creature comforts of the best sedans.

It will come with a choice of a 4.3-liter V6 or a 5.3-liter or 6.2-liter V8 engine, all with direct fuel injection, variable valve timing, and active fuel management (or cylinder deactivation) to stretch each drop of gasoline as far as a full-size truck allows.

A baby Buick crossover: A preview test drive of the 2013 Buick Encore revealed it definitely lands where General Motors aimed.

"It embodies the DNA of Buick perfectly but in a package maybe you didn't expect from Buick," McCormack said.

The new-for-2013 subcompact crossover - just arriving in dealerships this week - features a 1.4-liter four-cylinder turbo engine that gets an EPA rating of 33 m.p.g. on the highway.

It has chrome trim and an inviting interior a la Buick, and is definitely hushed thanks to quiet tuning technology.

Outdoor ride-and-drives: The Encore is just one vehicle that visitors should be able to try out themselves. Five manufacturers will have outdoor test drives on the streets of Philadelphia: Cadillac, General Motors, Hyundai, Kia, and Subaru.

See a video of what it is like behind the wheel at the Camp Jeep ride-and-drive, plus more on the Philadelphia Auto Show, at

Contact Scott Sturgis

at 215-854-2558 or

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