Let car show rev up your weekend

February 10, 2007|By Carolyn Peirce | Carolyn Peirce,Sun Reporter

Neither snow nor ice could keep the world's fastest car from making the two-day journey from California to the Baltimore Convention Center in time for this weekend's 2007 Motor Trend International Auto Show.

"This car can go 258 mph, which is fast enough to invert it in a tunnel. You could actually drive it upside down," said Steve Lineberry, general sales manager at Plaza Saleen in Bel Air, as he wiped a polishing cloth over the hood of the $600,000 canary-yellow Saleen S7.

Just a few feet away sat a fire-engine red Ferrari practically screaming to race and a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, a silver bullet of testosterone that manages to look fast even when sitting still.

These exotic cars share the show's spotlight with mainstream cars, trucks, minivans and sport utility vehicles, as well as concept cars and energy-efficient hybrids.

"We have over 400 of the latest vehicles here with the purpose of getting people excited about what's out there and what's new," said Peter Kitzmiller, president of the show's sponsor, the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association. "Most people that come are planning to buy a car in the next six months, and here they can compare under one roof without having to drive all over the place."

The latest automobile gadgets and trends - from satellite navigation systems to DVD players and even a Lexus that parallel parks itself - are at the show.

But the year's most popular auto amenity is fuel-efficiency, according to Motor Trend Executive Editor Matt Stone. "It is a race to see which manufacturers can get these models on the market the fastest," Stone said in a statement. For those concerned about gasoline prices and the environment, the show offers a glimpse of 2007 hybrid models from Ford, Cadillac, Lexus and others. "There used to only be a couple much smaller models of hybrids, but now they offer SUVs and luxury cars," said Kitzmiller.

The show presents not only cars that exist, but also cars that might be made. Concept cars allow manufacturers to test innovative designs and see what consumers might like to buy. Pushing the limits on practicality, the pre-production Chrysler ME Four-Twelve shows off a body of carbon fiber, which is usually reserved for racecars and space shuttles.

"In the past, concept cars were really outlandish and abstract, but recently if something does well at a show they will build it," said Kitzmiller.

If you're not in the market to buy a car, the auto show offers activities including a virtual racing simulator, airbrushing demonstrations, appearances by comic book super-hero Spider-Man and retired Orioles pitcher Dave Johnson.

"We've got something for everyone," Kitzmiller said, "If you love cars it's a great place to come, and it's a great tradition to start with your family."

carolyn.peirce@baltsun.com

If you go

What: 2007 Motor Trend International Auto Show Where: Baltimore Convention Center, 1 W. Pratt St.

When: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. today, 10 a.m.- 7 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $10 for adults; $4 children ages 7-12; $6 seniors; cash only. Free for children 6 and younger.

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