With more than 3 million visitors a year, the State Fair of Texas Auto Show is the most attended in the country. And, because Texas is one of the most important car and truck markets in America, automakers bring out the new and shiny en masse to wow buyers.
We are here to help you navigate the more than 300,000 square feet in two buildings — and an outdoor Texas truck zone. These are the highlights:
The stunning new full-size XTS and soon-to-be-released ATS sport sedan shine in the spotlight for Cadillac. The ATS is aimed squarely at BMW’s 3 Series and Audi’s A4, and early reports show it’s a serious competitor. Both XTS and ATS feature the “Cadillac User Experience” or CUE interactive system that brings “tablet-like control” to the in-car experience.
The full-size Impala sedan was last redesigned in 2005. In 2013, it will debut in a whole new form as a 2014 model. Sharing its platform with the awesome Cadillac XTS, the design is decidedly more conservative than its Cadillac cousin and Ford Taurus rival but serves as a sign of how Chevrolet styling is evolving.
Be sure to walk through the Chevy Heritage Center — located outside the Automobile Building in the Chevy truck display — for a look back at 100 years of Chevrolet.
The 2013 Fusion will be in dealerships this fall. With its Aston Martin good looks, four-cylinder lineup with EcoBoost performance, and economy and driving dynamics that rival German luxury carmakers, Fusion is a winner. The hybrid version delivers class-leading 47mpg efficiency without severely compromising its cargo volume or its fun-to-drive factor. Fusion is an American family car you want to own.
2013 C-Max is also new and rivals Toyota’s Prius and Prius V hybrids with 47/47/47mpg economy and, much like Fusion, is fun to drive with steering feel and hybrid power that, frankly, feels like it has power to spare. See it before it hits dealerships.
F-Series trucks show with a few improvements for 2013 — chief among them is the first application of Microsoft Sync with MyFord Touch. One of the best in-vehicle connectivity and entertainment systems, MyFord Touch for trucks features redundant controls — buttons and knobs — for climate and radio systems that are fully glove-handed compatible. Bravo, Ford!
Acadia and Acadia Denali are refreshed for 2013 with new front and rear styling and interior content improvements that aim to keep the eight-passenger crossover relevant. New grills, satin chrome details, wraparound rear glass, a new soft-touch dashboard with real aluminum trim, and an industry-first between-the-front-seats airbag highlight the appearance refinements. Denali’s suspension gets new dual-flow front dampers, which do make a big difference in delivering a suitably premium ride.
Veloster, the interesting little three-door with hatchback sporty coupe, finally gets the powertrain it deserves, with a turbo bringing horsepower up from 138 to 201. With a matte gray exterior available from the factory, Veloster Turbo looks cool and drives confidently. Plus it is value priced at around $24,000 well-equipped.
Elantra GT is new to the show and surprises as a value-leading five-door the likes of VW’s Golf or Toyota’s Matrix. A great blend of features, interior volume, competitive powertrain and “America’s Best Warranty” make the GT a compelling alternative in the versatile compact-car scene.
New special editions, sub brands really, make their debut at Jeep. Grand Cherokee is shown in “Trailhawk” form — the most off-road capable version of the most awarded SUV ever. It features Kevlar-reinforced Goodyear Silent Armor tires on Trailhawk-specific wheels, steel underbody rock rails, special interior trim and exterior graphics. This Jeep is something special.
Wrangler is shown in “Moab” trim and includes the same tires as Trailhawk, Rubicon wheels, standard Trac-Lok rear differential, winch ready bumpers, rock rails, and unique graphics and trim that, of course, make it look super cool. Both will be seen in dealers this month.
All new for 2013, the ES350 and ES300h bring the venerable ES up a level and could even drive some buyers to question why they’d step up to the flagship LS (that is, until the new LS makes its way to Texas). Dimensions have grown, lines have become more defined and driving dynamics have improved to a new level of sophistication for the once soft-shoe volume model. What impresses most is the interior, where a hand-stitched leather dash anchors a spectacularly redesigned interior that must be seen to be believed it’s in a Lexus.
Showing for the first time is the 2013 MKZ, the Lincoln version of the aforementioned Fusion. MKZ shares many of the same benefits as Fusion but with a completely different and polarizing new look for Lincoln. It’s worth checking out.
Pathfinder is all new and launching in Texas at the motorshow. Leaving behind its truck roots and taking on a more car-like crossover form has shed some 500 pounds of weight and given way to a slippery unibody with class-leading fuel economy. A feature first shown on the Infiniti JX, EZ Flex seating allows access to the third row without having to remove a child seat in the second row. Once in the third row, passengers find class-exclusive reclining seats, best-in-class passenger volume, large side windows and an available panoramic moonroof — all of which goes a long way to bring the third class up a notch.
Throwing down the gauntlet in trucks, RAM, Chrysler’s truck only brand, brings the all-new 2013 RAM1500. Although styling is familiar, pretty much everything else is now designed to wow and buy. Eight-speed automatic transmission, active aerodynamics, thoroughly modern Pentastar 3.6L V6 engine, electronic power steering and a segment-first full-air suspension system add up to give the RAM1500 best-in-class fuel economy. Interior improvements match the rugged exterior, and technologies abound to make for the most exciting RAM ever.
The FR-S is the sport coupe designed as a back-to-basics halo car for the Scion brand. Now in full production and delivering to thrilled Texans across the state, this sexy little coupe that’s as track-hungry as it is street-friendly comes well-equipped for around $25,000.
The 2013 Avalon makes its debut at the expansive Toyota booth with a slightly sexier exterior and a downright Lexus-like interior. The Avalon has moved upscale and is sure to impress families across the state. One of the first new models addressing “how Toyota lost its way,” the new Avalon sets a good tone for future Toyotas to come.
High on record-breaking sales — August was the best sales month since 1972 — VW shows its Texas pride with a customized new Beetle complete with 100-gallon hat. It makes for the best photo opportunity of the show. Also check out the strong-selling, American market-focused Passat, the 2012 Motor Trend Car of the Year.