CARS.COM — While the majority of America hunkers down for the cold, long winter months that follow the holiday season, our West Coast friends in San Diego will continue soaking in a year-round supply of enviable sunsets, miles of Pacific Coast beaches and an idyllic year-round climate. Adding to this warm-weather city’s cool factor is the 2018 San Diego International Auto Show.
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The exhibition will drive into the San Diego Convention Center, 111 W. Harbor Drive, Thursday and run through New Year’s Day. Sponsored by the New Car Dealers Association of San Diego County, the event will showcase the latest in autonomous driving technology, along with more than 400 new-model vehicles from at least 35 manufacturers.
Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors age 62 and older and active-duty military members, $11 for kids ages 7-12, and free for kids 6 and under. All children younger than 13, and accompanied by an adult, will be admitted free on Chevy Family Day, Dec. 31. Tickets are on sale at sdautoshow.com. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday; and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday.
Live in San Diego or planning a visit before the new year? Here are five reasons you should consider heading to the show:
1. Star Wars-Inspired Vehicles
In conjunction with the December release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” the San Diego auto show will treat fans to a peek at Nissan’s promotional fleet of Star Wars-inspired vehicles, which started making rounds at auto shows starting in Los Angeles earlier this month. Several top-selling Nissan models will be decked out with laser cannons, S-foils, thrusters and more. The specialty vehicles include a 2018 Nissan Altima that has been transformed into a Special Forces TIE Fighter with custom wheels, a full-body wrap and the dual wings of the fighter.
2. ThinkBlue EcoCenter and Electric Vehicles
Did you know California law makes a special exception to permit solo drivers of specified electric vehicles passage in the carpool lanes? California’s reputation as one of America’s most environmentally conscious states shines at the San Diego International Auto Show, where San Diego Gas & Electric will host the ThinkBlue Eco Center as part of “Electric Vehicle Day” Thursday. Representatives from ThinkBlue and the Center for Sustainable Energy will distribute information on specialty rates for electric-vehicle drivers, and speakers from the energy industry will host the EV101 talk series. In addition, various types of pure-electric, plug-in and other models will be on display. Car-show visitors can learn about the newest EV technology on the market today and about state and federal tax credits for electric vehicle owners.
3. Autonomous Technology
Some of the world’s biggest automakers will be on hand to educate guests on the latest in self-driving technology, from adaptive braking systems to traffic-lane sensors and a variety of cutting-edge safety features debuting on the market in 2018 and beyond. While a fully autonomous vehicle will not make an appearance, all manufacturers exhibiting at the show will highlight some aspect of autonomous driving, said Richard Newendyke, chairman of the San Diego auto show.
4. Test Drives
Car-shoppers can skip trips to multiple dealerships and take the keys to any of more than 79 models from 13 different brands — all in one place. Test drive 2018 models from brands including Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, Jeep, Kia, Lincoln and others. Test drives will be set up in the front entrance of the convention center near the ticketing booth and in the back lot, which can be accessed from inside the show between the Lexus and Lincoln exhibits. Jeep returns to the auto show with “Camp Jeep,” an interactive off-road experience, where professional 4×4 drivers allow riders to experience the on- and off-road capabilities of Jeep brand vehicles, according to the company. Kids can enjoy their own test drives on the mini-Jeep kids’ course.
5. New Models and Cool Concepts
U.S. and international automakers will showcase concepts, upcoming models and just-released vehicles for 2018. Among the highlights: The 2019 Land Rover Range Rover Sport PHEV and the all-new 2018 Range Rover Velar; Jaguar’s sporty take on the station wagon, the 2018 XF Sportbrake; the custom Toyota C-HR Beat Box, a veritable rolling drum machine; and two customized 2018 Toyota Camry sedans that appeared at the 2017 Specialty Equipment Market Association Show this past fall, including one the ones outfitted for NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin and NASCAR analyst and “Top Gear” personality Rutledge Woods. A must-see is Toyota’s FV2, a single-occupancy concept vehicle equipped with voice and image technology to sense the driver’s emotions, according to the automaker.
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