Not since Prince’s show-stopping guitar solo on George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony has something so electrifying as the 2019 Cleveland Auto Show come to C-Town. OK, maybe I’m overselling this thing, here — but given the lineup up vehicles slated to be there, it’s a safe bet that Cleveland Auto Show visitors, at worst, will be less disappointed than when LeBron left the Cavs … um, y’know, again.
Related: Video: How to Shop at an Auto Show
If you’re a car shopper, auto enthusiast or just someone looking for something to do to get you out of those biting Erie winds, heading to this automotive exhibit wouldn’t be a mistake on the lake. The Cleveland exhibit is well-positioned in the middle of auto-show season to act as sort of a bottleneck for all the big model debuts that have already occurred at the major shows in Los Angles, Detroit and Chicago — all in Clevelanders’ backyard and all under one roof.
The show opens Friday and runs through March 3 at the International Exhibition Center, 1 I-X Center Drive, next to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Show hours are 5-10 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Feb. 28; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. March 1-2; and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. March 3. Admission is $14 for a regular adult age 13 to 61; $12 for senior citizens age 62 or older, and for kids age 7-12; and children age 6 or younger get in free. On Northern Ohio Heroes Day, Feb. 28, active military, reservists, veterans, firefighters, police officers, and other safety and security professionals get in free with a valid I.D. For more information, visit the show’s website.
Like the ’89 pennant-winning Indians’ “Wild Thing” Ricky Vaughan throwin’ ’em the heater (with his prescription glasses on, of course), you can’t miss these five things at the 2019 Cleveland Auto Show:
1. 2020 Ford Explorer
Making its media debut at an event just before the 2019 Detroit auto show in January, the 2020 Ford Explorer has proven popular among Cars.com readers, offering supporting evidence to the automaker’s claim of it being the best-selling SUV of all time. For 2020, the rear-wheel-drive people hauler is light on exterior updates, but it sits on an all-new platform shared with the Ford Police Interceptor Utility and 2020 Lincoln Aviator. Inside, the Explorer improves comfort and quality, updates tech, and boasts a cool digital gauge cluster and an optional 10.1-inch tablet-style multimedia touchscreen. See it for yourself come Friday, well ahead of its summer dealership arrival.
2. 2020 Jeep Gladiator
After much speculation, conjecture and innuendo over the first Jeep pickup truck in the U.S. since 1992 — including since-debunked rumors that it would be the return of the ’80s-fabulous Scrambler — the 2020 Jeep Gladiator used its off-road genetic disposition to climb to the highest peaks of excitement at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show in November. The mid-size pickup, which looks like a Jeep Wrangler with a bed, promises all the utility, capability and detachable-door delight of its SUV sibling — but with the ability to haul around your other motorized toys in the back. The Gladiator is set to go on sale in the spring, so don’t miss this opportunity to get up close to one while not under the watchful gaze of an eager salesperson.
3. All the Other Stuff You Missed
Again, this is your chance to get up close, get inside and poke around all the latest models that bowed at previous shows without having to visit a dealer lot. Among 2019 models expected to show up in Cleveland are the Chevrolet Blazer, Ford Ranger, Honda Passport, Lincoln Aviator, Mazda3, Nissan Maxima and Murano, and Volkswagen Jetta GLI. Model-year 2020 must-sees include the Cadillac XT6, Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Soul and Telluride, Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Subaru Legacy and STI S209, Toyota Corolla and Supra, and Volkswagen Passat.
4. Movie Cars
Even against high-wattage Hollywood celebrities like, say, Steve McQueen in “Bullitt” or Burt Reynolds in “Smokey and the Bandit,” the car’s the star — and the Cleveland show will be like the waiting room at Central Casting. A call sheet of movie cars will be led off by none other than Optimus Prime of “Transformers” fame. A red-and-blue-flamed Western Star 5700XE semitrailer developed specially for the massively popular film series, most recently appearing in 2017’s “Transformers: The Last Knight,” will be on display all show days and hours.
Other movie-mobiles potentially on hand are the Lego Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Z71 (most recently seen in Chicago) from “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” along with the Mutt Cutts Shaggin’ Wagon from “Dumb and Dumber,” Doc Brown’s DeLorean time machine from “Back to the Future,” the off-road 1970 Dodge Charger from “Furious 7” and the Mystery Machine from “Scooby-Doo.” The only danger of being around all these famous movie cars is getting … star-struck.
5. Test Drives
Get behind the wheel of a car you’re considering buying — maybe even a few — for a test drive without having to drive from dealership to dealership. Automakers and models expected to be available for test drives are listed below. Test-drive times and days vary by brand, so be sure to check here before you head to the auto show. (Drivers must be 18 or older and present a valid driver’s license, and must pass a zero-tolerance Breathalyzer test.)
- Chevrolet: Blazer, Colorado, Equinox, Malibu, Silverado 1500, Trax and Traverse
- Chrysler: 300 and Pacifica
- Dodge: Challenger, Charger and Durango
- Fiat: 500, 500X and 124 Spider
- Jeep: Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, Compass and Wrangler
- Kia: Niro, Optima, Sorento, Sportage and Stinger
- Mazda: CX-3, CX-5, CX-9, Mazda3 sedan and hatchback, Mazda6, MX-5 Miata
- Nissan: Altima, Kicks, Rogue and Titan XD
- Ram: 1500
- Subaru: Ascent, Crosstrek, Forester, Impreza, Legacy, Outback and WRX
- Toyota: Camry, Corolla, Highlander, RAV4 and Tacoma
- Volkswagen: Atlas, Golf GTI, Jetta, Passat and Tiguan
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