The 2018 auto show season is now in full swing, and more than 350 new vehicle models from nearly 30 brands will descend on the Tampa Convention Center Nov. 16-18 for West Central Florida's 2018 Tampa Bay New Car and Truck Show. With palm trees, abundant sunshine and deep-blue water year-round, the Tampa Bay area has plenty of outdoor enjoyment to offer during a wintery month for much of the rest of the country. But this weekend, the fun will move indoors when thousands of visitors check out the latest and greatest the auto industry has to offer — and even get a chance to hop behind the wheel of some of the most highly anticipated vehicles of the 2019 model year.
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The show kicks off this weekend, opening Friday from noon to 10 p.m. and continuing Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. before wrapping up Sunday, open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Tampa Convention Center is located at 333 S. Franklin St., in downtown Tampa. Admission is $12 for adults (age 13 or older); $5 for senior citizens age 62 or older, military members with a Department of Defense I.D. and first responders; and free for kids 12 or younger. Regular adult tickets purchased online before the show receive a $1 discount.
Organizers say the Tampa auto show is tailored for family fun, with test drives for both adults and children, an exotic vehicle display and kid-friendly activities all day Saturday and Sunday. Here are five things you can't miss at the 2018 Tampa Bay New Car and Truck Show:
1. 2019 Chevrolet Blazer
Whether in the market to buy or just here to ogle the pretty machines, showgoers can get an up-close look at all-new models before they arrive at dealerships, like Chevrolet's freshly rebooted Blazer. The 2019 Chevy Blazer is a sleeker verison of its former self, powered by a 193-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder or 305-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 engine. The new Blazer will at a class-competitive $29,995 when it goes on sale early in 2019, and attendees can decide whether that's a fair price by giving it your own personal [fill-in-the-blank]-point inspection right there on the show floor.
2. 2019 Ford Ranger and F-150 Raptor
America's favorite vehicle is (by far) still the pickup truck, with the Ford F-150 leading the pickup pack, and the automaker's new models will be on hand in Tampa. Most notably among its pickup lineup are the 2019 Ford Ranger and F-150 Raptor being spotlighted. The Ranger mid-size pickup offers off-road capability and electronic off-road systems that are also features of the F-150 Raptor. Both trucks are coming to Tampa Bay auto show audiences ahead of their official street date — the Raptor launches later this year, while the Ranger will find its way to dealerships in early 2019 — so this is your chance to say, "Yeah, man ... I was there."
3. 1964 Chevrolet C10
Speaking of things to entice pickup truck enthusiasts, the Aspire Autosports car collection returns this year to present a restored 1964 Chevy C10. The model has been completely rebuilt by hand over the past two years to the highest standards, said Megan Licursi, spokeswoman for the auto show. It features a Cadillac CTS-V drivetrain, a Pro-Touring Stage II performance air suspension and other custom parts. The car is purportedly valued at $250,000, Licursi said.
4. Test Drives
Brands offering test drives include Buick, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, Hyundai, Jeep, Nissan, Mazda, Ram, Toyota and others. A driver's license and breathalyzer test are required before drivers take the keys.
"The show reinvents itself every year because the models are new, [but] I can say for certain that what brings people out to the show are the exotics and the test drives," Licursi said.
Test drives run all three days for all participating brands, starting at noon on Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday across the board (check here for specific closing times). Models confirmed for test drives include:
- Chevrolet (Cruze, Malibu and Camaro cars; Bolt EV; Equinox and Traverse SUVs; Colorado and Silverado 1500 pickups)
- Chrysler (Pacifica minvan; 300 sedan)
- Dodge (Challenger coupe; Charger sedan)
- Fiat (500 and 500X hatchbacks; 124 Spider roadster)
- Ford (Mustang, Focus and Fusion cars; F-150 pickup; Escape, Edge and Expedition SUVs)
- Jeep (Grand Cherokee SUV)
- Ram (Ram 1500 pickup)
- Toyota (Camry sedan; Highlander and RAV4 SUVs; Tacoma pickup)
5. Multimillion-Dollar Exotic Vehicle Displays
Lamborghini of Sarasota will bring a collection of the ultimate aspirational exotic high-performance cars of its namesake to the Tampa show. Meanwhile, Aspire will have Aston Martin, Bentley, McLaren and other highfalutin models on display for showgoers to drool over ... but not on, please.
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