There are more than a thousand reasons to make tracks to the 2019 Houston Auto Show next week.
Just ask Ram. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ truck division is bringing its re-designed heavy hitter — the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty that can be armed with up to 1,000 lb.-ft. of torque. The auto show opens Wednesday, Jan. 23 at NRG Center for its traditional five-day run.
The brawny pickup will be just one of more than 800 new, classic and special interest cars on display, including some high-profile vehicles just unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit or the fall Los Angeles Auto Show.
In addition to the latest cars and technologies, this year’s show will feature a new charity preview night. Tuesday’s industry VIP gala will benefit Texas Children’s Hospital. If you’d like a sneak peek of the 2019 and 2020 cars, tickets to the benefit run $250 — and part of that is tax deductible.
The Houston Auto Show, produced by the Houston Automobile Dealers Association and presented by the Houston Chronicle, is an annual ritual for consumers like Marvin Sussman.
“I’m there, at a minimum, two days,” said the Richmond retiree, who notes that he’s been taking in the Houston Auto Show for 30 years. “I drool over the cars and I’ll go when it opens and stay til it closes. They almost have to throw me out,” Sussman said, chuckling.
The former manager for Macy’s and Foley’s stores said the show has gotten much better in recent years. Sussman praised the ride-and-drives, which the Houston show helped pioneer, and said he samples every vehicle at the show he can get his eager hands on.
“I love driving the cars and it’s interesting — I can drive (a vehicle) a block and a half and if I don’t like it, I’ll tell them, ‘Let’s go home.’ ”
The self-described car lover said some years he attends the show every day. He adds that you don’t necessarily have to drive a car to uncover valuable details.
“My first thing is style. After that, it’s comfort,” said Sussman, who stands six feet. “The show allows me to sit in the car and find out which ones are comfortable and have enough room.”
To help you make room in your auto show schedule, here are a few of this year’s must-sees: the Jeep Gladiator, a rebooted pickup based on the Wrangler; Jaguar’s all-electric I-PACE and the Range Rover plug-in hybrid (which the automaker said will be included in the ride-and-drives) and Ford’s Mustang Bullitt.
Electric motivation will be on display with vehicles like BMW’s i8 convertible, Audi’s e-tron, Nissan’s LEAF and the upcoming Toyota Corolla hybrid and Prius AWD.
The North American Truck of the Year, the 2019 Ram 1500; the Utility Vehicle of the Year, the Hyundai Kona and Kona EV; and the Car of the Year, the Genesis G70 will also be on hand. (The G70 also drove away with Motor Trend’s Car of the Year honors last fall.)
As for Audi, look for its new Q8 SUV, and the A8 and A6 sedans. Chevy will show off its 2019 Blazer, but you’ll have to erase your recollections of a macho, high-riding two-door SUV. This Blazer’s been reborn as a midsize crossover that slips in between the Equinox and Traverse.
This year, qualified drivers can choose from more than 70 vehicles to test drive without worrying about pressure or hassles, including the BMW X3, X5, M40, X40 as well as 5, 3 and 8 series; Chevrolet Silverado HD, Tahoe; Ford Mustang, Fusion, Explorer, F-150 or Expedition; Subaru Forester, Crosstrek, WRX and BRZ.
Honda, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mazda, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen will also offer sample drives in and around NRG Park.
Jeep and Ram, two of the hottest brands in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ portfolio, will return with their popular Camp Jeep and Ram Test Track demonstration rides.
In November, Jeep unveiled the 2020 Gladiator in Los Angeles. Wyatt Wainwright, president of the Houston dealers association, said Jeep should have debuted the Gladiator here.
“In Houston the truck and SUV market share is staggering. We’re at 75 percent trucks and SUVs in new car sales. It’s not a fad,” Wainwright said. “I talk to older people and young people and they all want an SUV or a truck. If an automaker’s going to introduce a new truck or SUV, do it in Houston. Texas is truck country!”
Of course, acquiring a new vehicle is just a starting point. Some drivers want to personalize their car, truck or SUV with aftermarket items like leather seating, wheels and tires, electronics, winches, racks, lights or myriad other parts and accessories. The Houston Auto Show’s aftermarket expo will feature equipment ranging from luxurious to extreme.
Texans love their trucks and this year the Houston Auto Show’s classics displays will celebrate the Lone Star State’s pickup heritage with classic trucks like a 1929 Ford Model A pickup, 1954 Dodge Power Wagon, 1968 Chevrolet C10 pickup and a 1971 Chevy K20 pickup.
The 2019 Houston Auto Show at NRG Center is open daily, Wednesday, Jan. 23 through Sunday, Jan. 27. Adult tickets are $12 , children six to 12 are $5 when accompanied by an adult, while those 5 or younger are free. For more information, visit www. houstonautoshow.com.