Insider’s guide: What to look for at the New England Auto Show

The 2016 Honda Civic was named North American Car of the Year at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show.
The 2016 Honda Civic was named North American Car of the Year at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show. –Bill Griffith

Where: Boston Convention & Exposition Center.

When: Saturday (10 a.m.-9 p.m.); Sunday (10 a.m.-7 p.m.); Monday (10 a.m.-6 p.m.)

Cost: Adults $15, Children (6-12) $6, Children under 6 free. Get a $2 discount here.z

Notable: New Mini convertible and Clubman; Porsche 911 GT3 RS and Cayenne S E-Hybrid; Mazda MX-5 and CX-3; Audi R8; Audi Q7; BMW i8 and 330e; Toyota Prius and Mirai; more than 100 alternative-fuel vehicles, including electric, hybrid, diesel, and fuel cell.

These are electric times in many ways for the automobile industry. Automakers are coming off a record sales year and offering a wide array of new models even as newcomers such as Tesla and Google are becoming part of the landscape.


While much of the world was focused on the news coming out of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week, manufacturers also were setting up displays at the Boston Convention & Exposition Center where the New England Auto Show will run through Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Boston doesn’t get the array of concepts and future products that have become staples of the Los Angeles and Detroit shows. Instead, we get the meat and potatoes of what’s in dealer showrooms now or will be in a few months. For local dealers, that’s a nice prelude for next month’s Presidents’ Day Weekend, which traditionally kicks off the spring selling season—weather-permitting.

The New England show traditionally draws big crowds, and there’s plenty for show-goers to see and talk about. For those who think they will be buying a new car, it’s an opportunity to compare and contract brands in one venue.

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The cars of your wildest drams at the N.E. Auto Show

People who really want to gawk will be drawn to the exotics—you’ll find Lamborghini, Maserati, Bentley, Aston-Martin, and Lotus. You’ll also find the just-named North American Car and Truck of the year, the 2016 Honda Civic and 2016 Volvo XC90.

The 2016 Volvo XC90 SUV was named North American Truck of the Year at the Detroit Auto Show. —BILL GRIFFITH

But they’re only some of the 37 brands showing vehicles.

Expect to see many light trucks and SUVs among the more than 600 display vehicles, given that they account for more than 50 percent of new vehicle sales.

And those sales were a big number: The industry sold 17.5 million vehicles last year.

Representatives from Acura, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford, Jeep, Nissan, and Toyota were here Thursday to talk about their products in advance of the show.

STRIKING A POSE: The 2016 Prius takes a big step forward as the number of hybrid vehicles on the market keeps growing. —Toyota

Toyota is featuring two of its important new vehicles, the fourth-generation Prius and the RAV4 hybrid, both of which promise to be significant presences in the segments (hybrid, compact SUV) they helped to establish. Toyota has sold more than 3.5 million hybrids in the past 15 years, and the RAV4 becomes the eighth hybrid in the company’s lineup.

Show-goers will have the opportunity to drive both the new Prius and RAV4 along with the Corolla, Camry, and Tundra as part of the ride-and-drive feature of the show, something that Ford, Kia, and Mazda also are offering.

Both the Prius and the RAV4 will offer Toyota Safety Sense, the advanced safety package with automatic pre-collision braking. It includes safety technologies, including Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Full-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Automatic High Beams

In addition, visitors to the Toyota display also will have a glimpse of the fuel-cell powered Mirai.

Chevrolet is emphasizing its sales growth and pointing to redesigns of the Volt, Malibu, and upgrades to the Colorado midsize pickup.

Manufacturers love to see us purchase well-optioned versions of our favorite vehicles.


And, in years between redesigns, nothing freshens up a model lineup like a fancy new trim level.

Jeep is bringing one by offering a premium Overland version of the 2016 Cherokee midsize SUV, a vehicle that saw a 23 percent sales jump in 2015.

“The new Cherokee Overland model is a direct response to consumers looking for benchmark 4×4 capability that only Jeep can offer, in a stunning, more luxurious package loaded with premium amenities,’’ said Mike Manley, head of Jeep brand for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

In case you need a reminder, the Cherokee also comes in Sport, Latitude, Limited, and Trailhawk models. Features? Call this new one loaded. An optional Technology Group offers pre-collision braking and lane-keeping assist.

Did we mention that gas prices are down and sales of large vehicles have risen? Funny how that works.

PRACTICING PICKUP LINES: Nissan’s new Titan pickup makes its Boston debut. It will be available in multiple configurations. —NISSAN

Bigger definitely is the word to describe Nissan’s all-new 2016 Titan XD pickup as it makes its first visit to Boston. The Titan was one of the three finalists for the North American Truck of the Year Award.

The Titan XD Crew Cab, powered by a 5.0-liter Cummins turbo diesel, is now on sale, the first of three cab configurations, two frame sizes, three powertrain offerings, and five trim levels that will be offered.

And even bigger is the 2017 Ford F-250, the company’s latest and greatest Super Duty pickup. Stop us if you’re surprised to read that it’s lighter with more towing, payload, and performance capability.

GREAT ESCAPE: Ford’s 2017 Escape gets a mid-cycle fresh-up and promises to be a major player in the compact SUV segment. —Ford

Ford’s 2017 Escape may not have the sex appeal of the exotics, but it likely will have great sales appeal. This model’s past recall bugs should be behind it, and the Escape is offering a new EcoBoost engine. Meanwhile, Ford’s Sync infotainment system has been transformed from one of the industry’s most confounding to (dare we say it?) user-friendly.

Performance enthusiasts will want to check out Ford’s Focus RS, which has a performance-oriented all-wheel-drive system with torque vectoring, and industry-first “drift mode.’’

Something new to the show (and Boston) this year is an Indy Car racing display to promote the auto race that will take place around the Expo center in the Seaport District on Labor Day weekend.

On Sunday, Indy driver Simon Pagenaud will do a meet-and-greet from noon to 2 p.m.

You won’t be able to try out an Indy car on any of the ride-and-drives, but Ford (and Hyundai) will let you test your racing skills in a gaming area.

Not so much of a game is Toyota’s distracted-driving simulator, which may help make the roads safer for some of these new vehicles.

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