My Twin Cities Auto Show Experience

twin cities, auto show, cars
Luxury Lane at the Twin Cities Auto Show. Photos by Valerie Turgeon.

With a significant other who spends all his free time on Mustang message boards, and on the road “just driving around,” it went without saying: We were going to the 2016 Twin Cities Auto Show.

I come from the community of car owners who drives a vehicle to get from Point A to Point B, but I had a memorable and rather entertaining experience at the Auto Show. Part of this is due to Steven, my gearhead boyfriend, who was able to narrate stories and facts about many of the cars in the showroom, and the interactive elements also captured my attention.

After attending the Auto Show last year, we developed a more thought-out game plan for this year so we could try to avoid longer lines for some of the more popular displays.

Getting there

We arrived at the Convention Center Saturday morning, just a few minutes after it opened at 10 a.m. (Parking tip: If you’re coming from 94 E and exit onto 11th Street, I recommend parking in the Leamington Ramp. You’ll drive past the long line of cars turning left to the Convention Center, and turn right into the Leamington Ramp’s entrance on 11th Street. Then you’ll just have a couple minute walk through the skyway.)

Ford Simulator

We first headed straight for the Ford area (Steven’s preferred brand) and jumped right in line for the Mustang simulator, which was something we wanted to do last year, but the long line deterred us. With arriving earlier, we waited only half an hour.

Steven, who has been able to drive his Mustang on an actual track, was determined to take advantage of his real-life experience to achieve the highest score for the day, which at the time was set by a middle school-aged boy. Alas, he was 12 seconds behind, but the Ford rep assured us that the simulator does not mimic the exact driving experience. Though you can’t quite feel the acceleration and turning momentum, you do feel the movement of the car. It shook when I got off course into the grass (oops) and jolted forward as I braked. You also turn in the direction that you drive around the corners.

The less driving experience you have, the better, is what the Ford rep told us, to get a good time on the simulator. It may not be an actual track, but if you have a need for speed, you can push the pedal to the floor without breaking any laws and experience more exaggerated movements than a racing game at the arcade. (Plus, even though Ford makes you sign a waiver before jumping in the “driver’s seat,” a crash on the virtual course will not increase your insurance rate.)

twin cities auto show
Driving the Ford simulator

For another simulator experience, Dodge offers a virtual ride in the seat of a Hellcat Challenger, and the car slightly moves as you drive, but there is less movement than on the Ford simulator.

Camp Jeep

If you brought the kids, this is the place to head in Hall B, but there’s an attraction for adults, too. Jeep gives you the chance to ride in one of their vehicles with a professional driver through a road course, which includes a 30-foot incline you can see from the other end of the hall (and yes, this is IN the convention center). After the driver snaps your photo in the Jeep (awkward, but a fun memento you can text to yourself when the ride is done), you take off for a jarring ride across the uneven logs and an uneven hillside—a truly impressive way to demonstrate the car’s capabilities.

twin cities auto show, jeep

Luxury Lane (sponsored by Minnesota Monthly)

Part of the fun of the Auto Show is imagining yourself living an extravagant lifestyle. Even if you’ve already got one of the new vehicles sitting in a nearby parking ramp, the Show gives you a chance to dream of having it all. Here you stroll among more than a million dollar’s worth of the most extravagant vehicles in the industry including Aston Martin, Bentley, Maserati, Mercedes, Porsche, and more.

The highlight for my boyfriend was the Alfa Romeo 4C, which is made with the structure of all carbon fiber (a more expensive, high-tech structure than the standard steel), with the performance near that of a racecar. It’s one of the first cars from Alfa in the U.S. since the mid ’90s.

twin cities auto show, alfa romeo
Alfa Romeo 4C

The Main Showroom

Here is where you can open the car doors, take a seat, inspect underneath the hood, and inquire about vehicles you may intend on purchasing. It’s a quick way to browse features you care about and determine which car best fits your needs if you’re in the market (and no salesman to follow you around).

Ford featured a pre-production model of the 2017 F-150 Raptor:

twin cities auto show, ford, raptor

Despite my boyfriend’s loyalty to Mustangs, I can’t help but favor the look of a Dodge Challenger, especially in that color.

twin cities auto show, challenger

The Classic Cars

New to the Auto Show this year, much to Steven’s delight, was the Classic Car Walk on the second floor. It’s easy to miss, so I’m glad a coworker told me about it beforehand. We were both impressed with the variety—more than 20 rare cars dating back to 1905.

1956 Buick convertible:

twin cities auto show, classic car

1965 Ford Mustang:

twin cities auto show, classic car

Our last stop was in one of the vendor rooms outside of the main hall where we visited with representatives of Sports Car Club of America (SCAA) and Brainerd International Raceway to talk about future events and racing days so Steven can operate his Mustang to its full potential (a.k.a go fast).

Afterward, we walked along Second Avenue to Pizza Luce for lunch and spotted a new Maserati “in the wild.” (A $350,000 Maserati was the most expensive car at the Show this year.)

We finished our Auto Show experience by taking Steven’s Mustang for a drive. Winters feel even longer for those with “fun” cars, so we were thankful for a day of nice weather to cruise with the windows down. Cars aren’t just for getting from Point A to Point B, after all.

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