2018 Washington Auto Show: 5 Things You Can't Miss

CARS.COM — This year's Washington Auto Show will run the gamut from all things luxury — with ritzy cocktail receptions and award shows tailored to auto industry bigwigs — to the latest drivable and buyable autos for mainstream American car shoppers. Known colloquially as the "public policy show" for its Washington, D.C., locale, the two-part event will draw a global mix of policymakers for two days of panel discussions covering the future of autonomous driving.

Related: How to Car Shop at an Auto Show

Before the show opens to the public on Jan. 26, U.S. auto industry influencers will join their counterparts from the United Arab Emirates, Germany, South Korea and other countries for a forum to exchange ideas on emerging trends in autonomous driving during the two-day MobilityTalks International event.

Don't want to pony up the $295 registration fee for a seat at the symposium? The doors of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center will be open for general admission through Feb. 4, packing plenty of live music, a light show and other entertainment alongside more than 600 new domestic and imported models from at least 35 manufacturers.

Heading to the D.C. area this weekend? Here are the top five reasons you should check out the show:

1. VIP Tours With Auto Experts

Automakers always send reps to shows to educate consumers, but D.C.'s show aims to go above and beyond by connecting visitors with automotive experts to provide an in-depth peek under the hoods of the latest vehicles to hit the market. A slate of auto journalists will lead individual two-hour VIP tours of the vehicles on display and the products on the show floor. Expect regional debuts of the 2019 versions of the Hyundai Veloster, Jeep Wrangler, Ram 1500 and Volkswagen Jetta. Register for a VIP tour here.

2. Experiential Driving Opportunities

Jaguar Land Rover will bring off-roading indoors in the form of a 100,000-square-foot track that will take riders through a challenging simulated off-road course navigated by a qualified instructor. The Jaguar Land Rover Test Drive Experience will feature the entire Land Rover range (Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, Range Rover Velar, Range Rover Evoque, Discovery and Discovery Sport), and Jaguar will feature the E-Pace.

Guests can also grab the keys to more than 600 models from more than 35 manufacturers during the "Ride 'n Drive" portion of the show. BMW — an infrequent participant in the auto-show test-drive scene — is scheduled to offer test drives, according to auto-show spokesman Mike Bushnell.

3. Celebrity Athletes

D.C.-area sports fans can meet personalities from their favorite local teams, including Tom Wilson of the Washington Capitals, on Jan. 29; Josh Norman, of the Washington Redskins, Jan. 30; Otto Porter, of the Washington Wizards, Jan. 31; and Washington Nationals manger Dave Martinez on Feb. 1. Players from D.C. United are slated to attend the show on Feb. 2, but names have not been announced yet.

4. Vehicles Transformed into Art

A lineup of modern artists and street art designers local to the D.C. metro area will take center stage for the third annual Art-of-Motion exhibit. The live art show will feature 8,000 square feet of painted vehicles, custom motorcycles, urban-inspired fashion and murals. More than a dozen luxury vehicles will be part of the fleet of cars that will be turned into art. Be sure to check out an accompanying laser show and live music, too.

5. Hyundai 'Hands-On' Contest

Ten people have been chosen out of a pool of at least 150 applicants to sacrifice their privacy and other basic needs for up to five days in exchange for a chance to go home with a brand-new Hyundai Tucson SEL. Contestants will line up next to the vehicle on Jan. 30 and must stay in constant physical contact with it until Feb. 4 at noon (albeit with a 15-minute break every three hours). If more than one person remains standing on Sunday, the winner will draw car keys out of a fish bowl, according to Bushnell. The popular annual contest reportedly draws a consistently big crowd of onlookers who stand around watching the contestants, well ... stand around.

Show info: The public show runs from Jan. 26 through Feb. 4; hours are noon to 10 p.m. Jan. 26; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Jan. 27; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 28; noon to 9 p.m. Jan. 29 through Feb. 1; noon to 10 p.m. Feb. 2; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Feb. 3; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 4. Tickets are $12 for adults, $5 for kids age 6-12 and free for kids under 6. Active military members and veterans get in free on Military Tribute Day, Jan. 30, and get discounted admission on all other event days. Students and seniors will receive discounts on varying days of the show.

Visit the Washington Auto Show's website for further details, including parking information and floor maps.

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