AutoMatters & More: Orange County International Auto Show


The new auto show season is in full swing and the coverage begins right here, right now.

The Orange County International Auto Show is held each year at the Anaheim Convention Center, just a few blocks from Disneyland. This year’s show featured new cars, concepts, exotic cars, opportunities to test drive vehicles and, of particular note, a wide variety of over 50 work trucks and vans – really an auto show within an auto show. That was billed as the SOCAL Work Truck & Van Show.

A good strategy for visiting an auto show is to get there early and head straight over to where they are offering test drives, before that area gets crowded. In the case of the Orange County International Auto Show, where over 100 vehicles were available for visitors to the show to test drive, this was especially easy and convenient because much of the staging area is within the auto show building itself, located right next to some of the vehicles on display.

Here – as was the case with Mazda – show-goers can relax in the automaker’s comfortable lounge, get a snack while they wait their turn to drive, be escorted to the vehicle of their choice and then go for a test drive outside the convention center building, on a pre-determined route along the streets of Anaheim. Afterwards Mazda even provided test drivers with a gift – a Starbucks gift card – as a thank you for their interest. Mazda often does this at auto shows. Check it out at an auto show near you.

Another fun and useful opportunity to see what the vehicles can do was provided at Camp Jeep. There, in a series of simulated off-road challenges, professional drivers took passengers off-roading: up and back down a steep, tall trail; across large, bumpy obstacles and more. That also provided great opportunities to take action photos of the vehicles’ suspensions stretched to the extreme – all within the comfort of the air conditioned Anaheim Convention Center.

New or soon to be available automobiles included the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt, the sporty Fiat 124 Spider and the brute force Dodge Charger Hellcat.

Mazda showed its stunning, soon-to-be-released MX-5 RF power-retractable hardtop model, which offers both the benefits of a convertible and also a stylish hardtop. It looks beautiful with its top up or down. Its fastback styling would be perfect for the practicality of a hatchback version, along the lines of the original Datsun 240-Z. Are you listening Mazda?

Also on display were the all-new Hyundai IONIQ and Toyota Prius Prime, coming soon to dealers near you. The IONIQ will be available in Hybrid, Electric and Plug-in Hybrid models.

The Prius Prime was available for test drives. It has changed quite a bit from the previous Prius plug-in hybrid, offering somewhat greater all-electric range – although not nearly as much as the Chevy Volt – one of its direct competitors. Another improvement over the previous Prius plug-in is its ability to be driven at freeway speeds in all-electric mode. The old model was limited to a frustrating 62 mph. Some may, however, not like the reduction in passenger capacity. The back seat now only seats two people and the cargo area floor of this battery-laden model seemed to be noticeably higher than that of the regular Prius.

No auto show would be complete without concept vehicles, and the Orange County International Auto Show had these, too. The Kia Telluride is a large, luxurious SUV that could see production – albeit without some of its ‘out there,’ tantalizing features like Light Emitted Rejuvenation. According to Kia, “after processing passenger vitals through smart sensors in the seats, the LER system utilizes a massive, wing-shaped LED panel mounted beneath the oversized sunroof that emits a pattern of therapeutic light to treat desynchronosis (jetlag) and improve the passengers’ energy levels.”

As always there was a generous vendor area. I was drawn to the bright orange truck of the Burning Rubber Toy Company. They offer an incredible variety of diecast, scale model cars and trucks for kids and adult collectors alike.

On the automotive horizon are autonomous, self-driving vehicles. Perhaps we’ll get a chance to experience them at the LA International Auto Show, coming up on November 18 - 27 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. For more information about this show and advance tickets, visit

As always, please join in the conversation. Send your comments and suggestions to

Copyright © 2016 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #462