While the world’s most famous auto shows transform themselves into “mobility exhibitions” where automakers restyle themselves as purveyors of a robotic dystopian future, the newly renamed Texas Auto Show explores what wonderment may be created when gas prices are low and the economy is strong.
Largesse to excess defines Texas for many, and the State Fair of Texas — home to Fernie’s Fried Texas Sheet Cake, the Tamale Donut, a 55-foot-tall mascot named Big Tex and the state’s most-attended auto show — plays to the cliche in a lighthearted celebration of everything larger than life. Automakers are more than happy to pull on their boots and join in celebrating a state where the appetite for premium pickups outstrips the craving for the Funnel Cake Bacon Queso Burger.
Enter the Ford Super Duty Limited, a hyper-plush pickup with luxury appointments that exceed even the exquisite detail found inside today’s King Ranch and Platinum models. Outside, the bright chrome of yesteryear is displaced by matte metal finishes and futuristic LED light signatures, pushed out to the very edges to give the truck broader shoulders than ever before. Step onto the power retracting running board to climb inside, and the environment is more Aston Martin than Hank Hill: elegant swaths of open-pore wood, contrasted by turned metal bezels, transform the traditional work truck office into an executive suite. Only the faintest elements of requisite chrome appear in the air conditioning registers and badging in each seatback, a hard-shaken nod to the truck’s blue-collar roots. Contrast-stitched leather in the door panels and steering wheel hint that the serialized Limited is a special truck for the privileged — and buyers can expect to pay nearly $100,000 for a fully loaded F-450 4×4.
Coolest booth at @TexasAutoShow, hands-down. @ToyotaUSA brought three concept cars, including the FT-4X, a modular off-roader equipped with dry storage, hot and cool boxes, a reinforced roof, removable flashlights and an armrest that converts into a sleeping bag. Toyota seems to give greater power to the pens of their designers these days, and the State Fair offers a great chance for Texans to meet this California-born concept car up close. #hmTexasAutoShow #hmAutoShows #TXAutoShow
TRD, three letters especially dear to the Gran Turismo generation, propelled Rod Millen to the top of Pikes Peak in a famous Toyota Tacoma. From desert racing to NASCAR, Toyota Racing Development often applies their expertise to trucks. Even so, Toyota’s Texas Auto Show booth packs a surprise, as TRD’s physically biggest project ever arrives on Texas soil for the first time. The Toyota Sequoia TRD Sport, a seven-passenger SUV based on the Tundra, weighs in at just under 6,000 pounds. TRD tuned the body-on-frame 4×4 by adding Bilstein shocks, beefier sway bars and blacked-out 20-inch wheels to complement a special shift knob and sill plates inside. Though no global debuts take place in their stand, Toyota offers showgoers a special experience by exhibiting three concept vehicles, including the California-designed FT-4X micro-SUV. As the only bona fide concept cars at the show, Toyota’s futuristic trio gives Texans an inspiring look at what may well fill our roads in the coming decades.
Still, this is an auto show firmly rooted in the here and now, with plenty of encouraging stories on the show floor that prove it’s still cool to be in command of a capable truck. RAM inspires racecar hauler daydreams with its top-of-the-line Laramie Longhorn Southfork, built to haul 30,000 pounds with a bed-mounted fifth-wheel — literally the closest to an eighteen-wheeler you can get without upgrading to a commercial driver’s license. Across the booth, RAM Harvest Edition trucks finished in Case IH Red and New Holland Blue match the hues used on tractors and farm equipment, giving farmers the chance to bring their childhood playsets to life.
Extra-posh Patrol: @NissanUSA debuts the Armada Platinum Reserve, spiffed with smoked chrome and perforated leather. Nissan expects 20% of all Platinum shoppers to select the Reserve trim, for about $3000 more. Cool to see this Mideast desert favorite roving American streets. #TXAutoShow #hmAutoShows #hmTexasAutoShow
Nissan’s Armada, known to overlanders outside North America as the Nissan Patrol, appears in new Platinum Reserve trim for the first time. Black chrome replaces brightwork in the grille, mirror caps, badging and wheels, though the taillamp detail remains reflective. Inside, the Armada Platinum Reserve gives America a taste of the luxury enjoyed by overlanders traversing exotic plains or desert sands abroad. Perforated leather swatches in contrasting colors cover the captain’s chairs, center console and interior panels to create an upscale Nissan off-road experience once reserved for faraway lands.
One of the most unique experiences on hand at the Texas Auto Show comes courtesy of automotive supplier Continental, with a team of engineers welcoming guests to give their honest feedback after experiencing several futuristic technologies on display. Continental sees a completely keyless future, with drivers gaining access to vehicles through wearable electronics or a smartphone. Proximity technology eliminates the need to touch anything: simply keep your phone in your pocket, and connectivity will cool off, unlock or even start the car automatically. One especially interesting technology on display is a “Smart Tailgate”: pressing a key fob button allows the driver to store the keys away, hold a bulky item with both hands, walk up to the truck’s tailgate as it automatically folds down and load the item without fumbling, juggling or kicking. Rarely do end-customers get the chance to relay real-world feedback to the engineers responsible for the technology in our cars, making the Continental booth a must-see stop at the Texas Auto Show.
With 400,000 square feet of auto show and shopping venue space, those who sample Deep Fried Chicken Noodle Soup on a Stick at the State Fair of Texas can easily walk it off at the Texas Auto Show. It’s a three-week-long celebration of bigger, swankier and more powerful trucks — so why not adopt the larger-than-life spirit and indulge?
Admission to the Texas Auto Show and associated test-drive events is included with admission to the State Fair of Texas. The Texas Auto Show runs from September 29 to October 22, 2017 at Fair Park in Dallas. Search online for discount ticket coupons, or visit BigTex.com for more info.