Though the weather is turning cold in much of the country, things are heating up in the desert as the 2018 Arizona International Auto Show rolls into the Phoenix Convention Center from Nov. 22-25. While most of the splashy new-car news will come out of the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, which opens the following week, there is still plenty to check out for car shoppers and enthusiasts in Phoenix. More than 500 new cars will be on display on the show floor, with another 75-plus available for road tests — including the 2019 Ford Ranger, an exciting new entrant into the mid-size pickup truck segment, which we got to drive recently.
Related: Video: How to Shop at an Auto Show
The show kicks off Thanksgiving Day at the convention center, 100 N. Third St., in downtown Phoenix and runs through Sunday. Show times are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. General admission is $11 for visitors age 13 or older; $7 for senior citizens 62 and older, military personnel with a Department of Defense I.D. and children ages 7-12; kids 6 and younger get in free. For directions, parking and additional info, go here. For advance tickets (general admission is $1 off per ticket), go here.
Here are five things worth checking out at the Phoenix auto show this year:
1. New SUVs
One of the biggest stars of the auto show circuit this year so far has been the 2019 Ford Ranger (which I did my part in hyping above). But let’s turn an eye to the other SUV offerings slated for the Arizona show, including the 2019 Chevrolet Blazer and 2019 Toyota RAV4. As Americans buy fewer cars more and more SUVs, automakers are investing commensurately into growing and reworking their SUV lineups with new or rebooted models like the Blazer, and redesigns for current ones a la the RAV4.
2. Testing, Testing … 1, 2, 3
A test drive is an essential part of the new-car buying process, and I would never suggest anyone buy a new car without driving it first. But the process can be tedious and may involve taking a day or two to head to different dealerships to get behind the wheel of competitors in a given class. Auto shows are an excellent way to expedite this process and drive some head-to-head competitors in quick succession. Manufacturers including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep and Ram), Toyota, Ford, Chevrolet and Genesis will all have vehicles there for drives.
Click here for a complete list of vehicles available for test drives (and I’d suggest getting there early to beat the lines).
3. Faster Testing?
For those with different, less practical interests in mind, automakers have you covered, too. Both Hyundai and Ford will offer racing simulators on the show floor for attendees to get a better feel of what it’s like to drive at track speeds — without the requisite list of potential consequences (like crashing).
4. Kids Drive
Besides the test drives for adults, the youngsters can get in on the fun, as well. For kids ages 3-7, a test track will be set up from noon to 5 p.m. on each of the show days for them to pilot an electric car around. In addition to keeping them occupied while at least one parent gets to shop the show, this’ll be a good preview to see how much trouble they’re going to cause you once they hit driving age.
Moreover, Family Day will take place on Nov. 25, and all kids younger than 12 will get free admission to the show with a paying adult. Kids under 6 years old are free all days of the show.
5. Meet Bumblebee
For the uninitiated, that would be the Transformer and not the insect. Just in time to capitalize on the anticipation surrounding the Dec. 21 release of the “Bumblebee” movie, the robot will be present as a 12-foot statue for the entirety of the show. No word yet on whether the statue can change into Bumblebee’s car form — a classic Volkswagen Beetle (in yellow, of course) — but the best way to find out is to buy a ticket to the 2018 Phoenix auto show.
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