Gearing Up for Show-and-Tell

Volvo steps outside the box with its XC60 Concept. Noted for its sleek styling, the XC60 is one of several concept cars to be on display at the 2007 Washington Auto Show.
Volvo steps outside the box with its XC60 Concept. Noted for its sleek styling, the XC60 is one of several concept cars to be on display at the 2007 Washington Auto Show. (Bryan Mitchell -- Getty Images)
By Andrea N. Browne Staff Writer
Monday, January 22, 2007; 11:17 AM

Historically known as a place where automakers showcase their sensible best -- the sort of station wagons, minivans and sedans most likely to sell in sometimes-staid Washington -- the Washington Auto Show hasn't always attracted the kind of glitz associated with its counterparts in Detroit, New York or Los Angeles.

Instead, the latest models, family oriented exhibits and local celebrities have generally been the main draws. This time, however, organizers hope they can upgrade the show's reputation by focusing on new designs, alternative fuel technologies and performance cars.

With over 700 vehicles on display at the 2007 Washington Auto Show, open to the public from January 24-28 at the Washington Convention Center, there will be a lot for visitors to see. Below, we've collected a selection of attractions -- from the cutting-edge to the conventional -- to help you navigate the show floor.

Eye Candy

The world's auto manufacturers try to outshine each other every year as they span the globe unveiling their latest innovations. Washington doesn't always get to see product releases and concept vehicles firsthand, but this year some exceptions are likely to be in attendance. Among them:

Volvo's XC60 Concept vehicle. This generated lots of buzz at its debut in Detroit at the 2007 North American International Auto Show. With D.C. as its second stop, the XC60 brings some "wow factor" thanks to sleek styling -- both inside and out -- from the Swedish automaker sometimes known for its boxy designs. The manufacturer's second SUV, it holds fast to tradition with Volvo's signature grille.

Lexus' LS600h L sedan. Introduced to the world at the 2006 New York International Auto Show, this luxury sedan is the hybrid version of the LS460, which launched last year. The LS600h L boasts a five-liter V8 engine with 430 horsepower. But with a fuel emissions level at nearly 70 percent lower than competitors, the automaker anticipates a Super Ultra Low Emissions Level (SULEV) rating from the California Air Resources Board, according to Greg Thome, a communications administrator for Lexus. The LS600h L will be the company's first 2008 model to go on sale when it hits the market this spring, he says.

Fun for the Whole Family

With exhibits ranging from hot rods to tricked-out rides to an off-road course for kids, there will be much to see besides parked cars. Some attractions scheduled for the show:

Go over the river and through the woods -- indoors. DaimlerChrysler's "Camp Jeep," which was popular with visitors last year, returns. Would-be off-roaders can go along for the ride as professional drivers maneuver through a simulated course that includes an 18-foot mountain and 160 yards of dirt and mulch. A children's course features mini-Jeeps.

A look into the future. What's one of the world's leading car makers doing to improve fuel economy? Toyota's interactive "'Highway to the Future" will illustrate by allowing visitors to take a virtual test drive of the Prius, Camry Hybrid or Highlander, learn about how the company is developing hybrid technology, and what consumers can do to help combat environmental pollution.

A look at luxury. At the Automotive Rhythms' "Urban Restyln' Salon," spectators will see what happens when customization enthusiasts get free rein. Cars and trucks with everything from Lamborghini-style doors, chrome rims and MP3 players installed will be on display. The show's official Web site says a 2007 Cadillac Escalade ESV and Audi A8L luxury touring sedan will be among the featured vehicles.

A Little 'Star' Power

For some visitors, the opportunity to meet a few well-known faces is the real draw at the auto show. This year, athletes and media stars are among the attractions.

NASCAR drivers Richard Petty and Bill Lester are scheduled to meet and greet. And several local celebrities, including the Washington Wizards' Antawn Jamison and former Redskin Darrell Green, are scheduled to make appearances and sign autographs.

Also, Danielle Evans, winner of season six of the Tyra Banks-produced reality show "America's Next Top Model," is slated to team up with local radio station WKYS 93.9 FM to select 10 women for professional makeovers and participation in a runway show to be held during the show.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company