The 2012 Houston Auto Show proved to be worth the crowds as more than 30 auto manufacturers showed their newest rides and concept cars. The show also featured a very popular ride and drive event where several of the manufacturers offered their cars up for a test drive right in the parking lot of the event. I’ll recap a few of the highlights of the show below: 2012 Jaguar XKR-S: Jaguar’s 550-horsepower monster was displayed. The $132,000 coupe shone brightly in the lights of the show with the special “French Racing Blue” paint job. I also spotted an identical XKR-S in the parking lot with paper plates, so keep an eye out for one around Houston. 2012 Kia Optima: In a day of rapidly inflating price tags, the new Optima was a breath of fresh air. The Kia booth was next to the Audi, BMW and Infiniti booths and that really helped build the Optima’s case. There were two Optima EX Turbos there ($25,100) that were stealing some of the imports thunder with some serious value luxury. Scion FR-S Concept: This car drew the most crowd of any car I saw that day and was clearly the “it” car at the show. Unfortunately, Scion only brought the concept car while the production version premiered in Detroit two weeks before. Could this car be the Toyota family’s big redemption into making cars that are fun again? Time will tell when the FR-S is released later this year. 2013 Cadillac ATS: Gold star for Cadillac! The all-new ATS premiered in Detroit just two weeks before the Houston Auto Show, but they still got it to Houston. The ATS is Cadillac’s BMW 3 series competitor and offers V6 power and rear wheel drive. Think of it as a smaller Cadillac CTS. The car looked great with the new Cadillac front-end design cues. 2013 Ford Fusion: A gold star for Ford, as this was another new Detroit premiered car. The dashing good looks of Ford’s new 2013 Fusion got a big display in the middle of the Ford booth and overshadowed everything around it. Mustangs may be cool, but the new Fusion was drawing the attention from the crowd. Ford has put a very bold, European-feeling front end on the Fusion. The car looks great and it looks to have no problem continuing the success of the current Fusion. Entire SRT booth: Dodge has split its ‘Street and Racing Technology (SRT)’ off into an independent brand, and it was well represented at the show. A large crowd spent their time ooohing and aaahing and enormous amounts of horsepower on offer. All of the current SRT models, which include the Charger, Challenger and Grand Cherokee are powered by a 470hp 6.4 liter Hemi V8. It’s a shame that the cars can’t be started at the shows because I would have spent a good amount of time just listening to the cars in the SRT booth. 2013 Dodge Dart: Gold star for Dodge! The new Dart premiered in Detroit recently just like the ATS and Fusion. The Dart is Dodge’s new entry-level sedan is based upon an Alfa Romeo design and technology and it’s been fused with the dashing good looks found on the new Dodge lineup (the tail lights for instance are a dead ringer for the new Charger taillights). The Dart goes on sale in just a few months, so get ready to see them on the road. The Houston Auto Show continues to be a successful marketing tool for the manufacturers, so look for it to continue to improve. We may never be as important as the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, but Houston is proving itself to be important by pulling cars down from Detroit in such a short time frame after their show ends. 2012 looks to be a great year for the auto industry and for the great selection that consumers will get to choose from to fit their automotive needs.

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