2011 Washington Auto Show: Driven with ambition

Thursday, January 27, 2011; 2:36 PM

Ambition, that unmistakable desire for progress and achievement, is as all-American as any of our nation's historical facts and pacesetters. Americans are born into ambition, and it is what also brings people from all over the globe to our shores, knowing that there are no artificial boundaries to what they can accomplish here.

Ambition grows in every corner of our country. However, there is one truth about America's grandest ambitions. They all become centered on one city: Washington, D.C.

National ambition puts the 2011 Washington Auto Show in a very unique position among all automotive extravaganzas in the land. For years, our annual new car show has been enticing visitors to come in out of the cold and see how America's love affair with the automobile is adapting to the realities of shrinking supplies of traditional fossil fuels. No auto show in the land has placed a larger emphasis on "driving green" than in D.C. For 2011, the Washington Auto Show redoubles this signature ambition.

The ultra-modern Walter E. Washington Convention Center is again the show's venue, with more than nine acres of exhibits on two toasty warm floors, featuring over seven hundred new cars, utilities and trucks.

Produced by the Washington Area New Automobile Dealer's Association (WANADA), the 2011 Washington Auto Show grows to 10 days of consumer and policymaker events, with a record seven public show days from Friday, Jan. 28 through Sunday, Feb. 6. All of the details on auto show hours and admission fees are available online at washingtonautoshow.com.

Advanced Technology SuperHighway

Fostering the intelligent use of energy for cars and trucks it this show's main ambition. For a second year, the convention center's 65,000 square-foot first flow pavilion will be branded as "The Advanced Technology SuperHighway." This enlightened exhibit allows everyone to investigate first hand the latest in electric cars and trucks, gasoline-electric hybrids, plug-in hybrids and models powered by a wide variety of alternative fuels.

From the all-electric, five-passenger Nissan Leaf, to the two-place Tesla Roadster, to the all-electric Ford Transit Connect van, zero tailpipe emission daily personal and business transportation is clearly here to stay. Worried about running out of juice a long way from home? Well, that is where the breakthrough Chevrolet Volt plugs in. This four-seat family car can manage about 40 miles of normal driving on battery power alone, and over three hundred additional miles of travel from an on-board gasoline generator.

Family Sedans are Back

The 2011 Washington Auto show is the must-attend event for everyone that is contemplating the purchase or lease of any new car or truck over the next year. In many ways it is an automotive buyer's guide in the flesh, and a golden opportunity to compare all of your prospects side-by-side.

With future fuel prices continuing as a top concern for buyers, the stalwart, four-door sedan has made a big comeback. In many cases they are also available with the four-season confidence of all-wheel drive. While inclement weather all-wheel drive (AWD) is standard on the mid-size Subaru Legacy sedan, it is also available on cars as diverse as the Ford Fusion, Buick LaCrosse and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Audi has long championed AWD and brings two new, maximum-traction four-doors to D.C.: the A6 and ultra-plus A8. Indeed, from the sporty new Dodge Charger, to the new Saab 9-5, to bargain Suzuki Kizashi, to the redesigned Chrysler 300, it is almost easier to point out the new sedans that do not offer all-wheel drive than the ones that do. Increasingly, car brands like BMW and Acura are also marketing AWD as an advantage for dry road handling. Indeed, the all-new Volvo S60 sports sedan debuted with standard all-wheel drive.

Even the most affordable new sedans that do not offer AWD, like a string of all-new compacts including the Hyundai Elantra, Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Fusion, Volkswagen Jetta, and the luxurious Buick Verano, augment their still-capable, front-wheel drive powertrains with standard electronic traction and stability control. Combined, they provide an impressive defense against unpredictable road conditions.

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