Connectivity rules at the Philadelphia Auto Show

Subaru displays in-dash entertainment and information system.

And check out the new plug-in hybrid versions of Ford's C-Max mini sport Ute (starting just under $30,000 after federal rebate) and Fusion, both with a dual battery-plus-gas motor system that helps the vehicles achieve an equivalent rating of more than 100 miles per gallon! The C-Max starts and runs for the first 20 miles strictly on battery power, then shifts to a combination of backup battery and gas engine, unlike the Chevy Volt and its new high-end, plug-in hybrid brother the 2014 Cadillac ELR, which go from battery to all-gas, explained Ford communications specialist Taylor Blackburn.

At last year's car show, Toyota had an inside drive experience demonstrating how silently and cleanly its hybrid Prius models ran on battery power. This year, Toyota has enlarged and spiffed-up its indoor course and brought more models to savor, including the Camry hybrid, said Gempp.

You'll also get a gander at the crossover Venza, an all-new RAV4 and, most surprising to behold, a totally revamped Avalon. That once matronly sedan has been sexed-up with major surgery outside and in, including a super-sounding 7.1-channel Harman infotainment system on high-end models.

Room to vroom

The bigger than ever, 630,000-square-foot 2013 Philadelphia Auto Show has also found room to accommodate the Philly debut of Camp Jeep. Product specialists will chauffeur strapped-in participants in a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, Wrangler Rubicon and Grand Cherokee up steep, 14-foot-high Jeep Mountain (hold onto your socks). You'll also traverse a 30-degree wedge and rough terrain strewed with fallen logs to demonstrate the vehicle's grip and agility.

Besides these indoor ride experiences, several carmakers will invite show-goers behind the wheel for a short spin around the Pennsylvania Convention Center neighborhood.

Fridays and weekends, Cadillac's Ride and Drive features pretty much the entire line, from the relatively compact ATS Sedan to the Escalade. Same goes for sister brands Chevrolet, Buick and GMC.

The supercharged Hyundai line can be road-tested this Saturday, Sunday and Monday; sister brand Kia gets into the act the following Thursday through Jan. 27.

Perhaps to impress the homies, Subaru of America will invite folks behind the wheel every day of the show.

"If you see the test cars on the street and there isn't a line, you can jump in one for a ride without even having to go into the show first," clued Gempp.

Time machines

The Philly car show boasts a lower-level showcase for custom cars and accessories. It always pays allegiance to classics, too.

This year's blasts from the past include a 1948 Hudson convertible (immortalized in the animated hit "Cars"), a 1948 Tucker (subject of a biopic) and a rare, 1963 Jaguar XKE roadster that gawkers can compare with a new Jaguar F-type two-seater debuting on the East Coast elsewhere on the show floor. Some of these vintage gems come from the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum stashed behind the Auto Mall in Southwest Philadelphia.

There's also a new twist in old cars at this year's show -- a "Face-off" between classic Ford Mustangs and Chevrolet Camaros exhibited by the brands' local booster clubs of private owners. They'll pump up special enthusiasm with the most muscular, memorable editions -- such as the Shelby Z28 Camaro and a love it/hate it Mustang Fastback -- in opposing rooms on the bridge corridor between the main convention center and historic Grand Hall where Mercedes-Benz and Lexus exhibits are staged.

Show visitors can vote for their favorite exhibit, and the winning booster club will get a $2,500 check to donate to a favorite children's charity, plus $1,000 for their club coffers, Gempp said.

So it really is all in your hands, car fans.




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