There’s something very compelling about auto shows, where dozens of manufacturers show off their latest and greatest vehicles. It’s a bit surreal with the vehicles in sparkling, pristine condition, locked up and sitting on plush carpet, but that’s a reasonable trade-off for the ability to check out dozens of vehicles at once and be the proverbial fly on the wall and just watch people check out vehicles. What do they look at? Do they look at the Monroney for more than just the price? Do they write anything down or talk to the auto reps?
Since I grew up in Los Angeles, I’ve always had a special spot for cars too, whether fancy sedans, convertibles, or supercars that are something I’ll never drive, and I’m not sure I’d want to anyway. Still fun to see them all.
This year it worked out great because I brought my son along to the 2023 Denver Auto Show, courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press group. Our journalistic Auto Show experience began with a pre-show Toyota reception at Stout Street Social, then we were back the next morning at the spacious Colorado Convention Center for press presentations from Toyota, Dodge, McLaren, and Nissan. Lunch was courtesy of Stellantis at the always delicious Pizza Republica.
When you are allowed onto the show floor a few hours before the doors officially open, it’s quite pleasant to wander and be able to see the vehicles without the hoi polloi swarming over them, for sure. Here’s what was introduced, what caught my eye, and some pretty interesting classics and commercial vehicles too…
Of the vehicles introduced this week, my favorite was the Toyota Grand Highlander. It’s a bigger Highlander with a lot of significant improvements over the best-selling Highlander. I might have a soft spot for it since I owned a Toyota Highlander Hybrid for a decade, and really found it an excellent vehicle.
The Grand Highlander will have three engine choices; Turbocharged gas, 2.5L hybrid, and 2.4L turbocharged “Hybrid Max”, the latter of which sounds like it’s going to be a great option for environmentally conscious owners who still want the extra room (the third row seat is significantly improved and much roomier).
Dodge showed off its latest vehicle, the mid-size “Hornet” SUV, with a presentation from a member of the design team beamed straight to us from his office in Detroit. While the body is almost exactly the same as the Alfa-Romeo Stelvio (Alfa-Romeo and Dodge are both Stellantis companies), the engine, drive train, and overall drive experience will definitely be a very aggressive, macho Dodge adventure. Some impressive specs, particularly the R/T model, but will people want a Dodge “with PowerShot” in this mostly compact SUV form factor?
For comparison, here’s the Alfa-Romeo Stelvio:
Scroll up and down and you’ll see, it’s almost exactly the same body design, with the Hornet featuring a more aggressive “Dodge” style headlight setup. The Stelvio is a fun drive too, so I’ll have to compare it to the Hornet when I have the opportunity.
Speaking of surprising EVs…
Electric is all the rage in the auto industry and one of the most surprising vehicles was the Ford F150 “Lightning”. It’s a full EV, which leads to a big surprise when you pop the “hood”: it’s storage space! It’s like a mystery truck with a missing engine, very odd. Otherwise, looks exactly like an F150 and the EV badging is deliberately (I’m sure) very subtle.
Nissan was very proud to unveil its first EV SUV, the Ariya. This one has good specs and with its roomier interior it’s sure to attract EV buyers who otherwise were turned off by the very compact Nissan Leaf EV. EVs are now powering vehicles of all form-factors, not just small sedans and mini-cars.
Where I think EVs can have more of an impact on our environment, however, are with bigger vehicles, and there were some pretty fascinating examples on the show floor (though few people even noticed them). I was impressed by this Xcel Energy truck:
Fully electric. Given that Xcel Energy is our power company in urban and suburban Colorado, it’s nice to see they’ll be reliant on trustworthy power as much as their customers. There was also an even bigger panel truck:
Autonomous driving – which wasn’t much of a discussion topic at the Denver Auto Show this year – might get the ink in the media, but it’s these more environmentally friendly transport vehicles that are going to really make an impact, so props to Xcel Energy and MHC for showing off their latest EVs.
Which isn’t to say that there weren’t some far more eye-popping electric vehicles on the show floor. Like this Audi:
Audi has definitely embraced electric with its e-tron lineup, and this RS e-tron was a beauty, one of the most attractive EVs on the show floor. Except for that weird, plastic-wrapped-milk-crate front grill, but plenty of people seem to love it, so there ya go. While we’re talking about Audis…
My son and I were both pretty impressed with this sleek, sexy Audi R8. Spendy, but pretty darn good for a company spun out of Volkswagon, I’d say. When it came down to it, however, my son much preferred the McLaren, as you can see:
He can only dream of buying a $330,000 car, however, and the insurance would undoubtedly be cripplingly expensive for an under-25 male driver. Makes me a bit faint to even think about that quarterly bill!
Personally, I was more interested in this sportscar:
This is the Chevy Corvette Z06, with a $146,000 MSRP, so it isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s probably the sexiest American sports car on the road today, and this year’s model finally has some of the classic Corvette feel to it, along with the Pininfarina-inspired Italian supercar side scoop and back design. Ya gotta imagine it’s crazy fast, for sure. Very nice, Chevy.
But.. I have to admit to being a bit more interested in fuel efficiency and technology than I am in driving fast enough to be imprisoned rather than just getting a speeding ticket 🙂 so the Chevy I looked at most closely was this one:
This is the Chevy Bolt EUV. It’s a bit bigger than the original Bolt and a full EV. I can also attest that it’s great fun to drive, super zippy and basically like a swanky go-cart (in all the good ways). A very tempting second car to have tucked in the garage.
Finally, while Honda had a lot of vehicles, they didn’t show off one of their new Prologue EVs, though they did have a poster that made it something worth a much closer look:
Notice it’s also sporting a new logo too. Definitely, one to keep an eye on.
The 2023 Denver Auto Show runs April 12-16 at the Colorado Convention Center, downtown Denver. You can get more details including admission price here: DenverAutoShow.com