WASHINGTON — The Washington Auto Show parks itself at the Washington Convention Center this weekend, and whether you’re just into cars, or you expect to be climbing into a new car on a regular basis soon, it has a lot for you.
Spread out over three floors inside the building, nearly every major manufacturer is represented, showing off their latest models. There’s even a new Porsche with a sticker price of only $344,000 and some change. It goes from 0 to 60 mph in less than two seconds.
But it’s the big vehicles seemed to be going out of vogue a few years ago that are making huge comebacks in the car business.
“The industry is talking a lot about electric vehicles, which there will be a lot of … here, but also people are buying crossovers, sport utilities, and pickup trucks,” said Michelle Krebs, an executive analyst with Auto Trader. “Sport-utilities and trucks — they’re the big sellers now.”
A decade ago, the thinking was gas prices would climb so high that they would fall out of favor. The prices have leveled off, but Krebs said that’s only part of the reason why such vehicles become such big sellers.
“Gas prices are still relatively low, and the vehicles that are on the floor here today are much more fuel-efficient than the trucks and sport-utilities of 10 years ago,” she said. “And also, we know that millennials are aging; they’re starting to have families, and they have children they need to put in child safety seats.”
And while there are lots of models to look at, Jaguar and Land Rover will go even further. Jaguar is showing off its new E-Pace SUV by letting you ride like a stunt driver on a controlled track on the floor. Slicker than your typical road, it’s meant to give you an idea of how it handles in bad weather.
Next to that, Land Rover will let you drive on its off-road track, which features bumps and hills that can put you at an angle of more than 30 degrees. It feels much steeper than that, though; you’d have to drive pretty far from D.C. to experience conditions like that.
Toyota’s display on the second floor is boasting of big innovations in automation technology. One minivan has front seats that turn around and face the back of the vehicle.
“We are on the road to self-driving cars,” said Krebs. “In the meantime, we’re seeing a lot of cars have driver-assist systems on their vehicles that kind of will transform into self-driving cars eventually. Things like lane detection, automatic braking if you get too close to the car in front, cruise control that keeps you a set distance from the car in front of you, all kinds of cameras …
“The cars are getting much more technological with helping the driver be a better driver, and that all leads to eventually the world of self-driving.”
At a keynote speech Thursday morning, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said there are still lots of obstacles and considerations before self-driving cars become mainstays on the road, but he said that thousands of lives will be saved once they become more commonplace, since so many fatal crashes are caused by driver error.
But until that day comes, you still might want to check out the cars that require you to get behind the wheel and put your foot on the gas.