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Long Beach's Test Drive Expo Goes Beyond Ordinary Car Shows, Adds Driving Excitement For Adults, Passenger Thrills For Kids

by Max and David Pearl*

* The publisher's sons provide team coverage of this event.


(June 16, 2012) -- Long Beach's Test Drive Expo goes beyond an ordinary car show. It has turned the LB Convention Center into a huge showroom filled with luxury cars, sports cars, off-road trucks, high-tech hybrids and electric cars that visitors can not only see and touch but can also drive and experience.

Taking place this Fatherís Day weekend (June 15-17), itís the perfect event for Dads (and Moms) who like cars to take kids who like cars. The photos below show the initial visitors shortly after the doors opened on Friday June 15.

Visitors can test drive 2012 and preview 2013 models from more then a dozen manufactures including Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Fiat, Ford, Ram, Scion, Subaru, Toyota, and Volkswagen.

In addition to horsepower, many of the vehicles have high tech accessories featuring computers, WiFi, music systems, touch screen technology and mini TVís as well as amenities including sun and moon roofs. A 2013 Ford Flex Limited has a mini refrigerator, including a freezer.

After completing some forms, visitors over age 18 receive wristbands letting them test drive many of the cars on a course circling the Convention Center (Shoreline Drive to Pine Ave. and sometimes a bit west, then back to Seaside Way).

A line of people formed early in the afternoon Friday to test drive the Chevy Camaro and the Chevy Volt.

Test driving another GM car is a requirement before earning a test drive in the Camaro or the Volt and we chose the GMC Acadia with the Denali package. It's luxurious, large enough to handle a big family, has tons of technology and extremely quiet and smooth.

For VIDEO, click here.

That put us in line to test drive the Camaro Super Sport convertible and we werenít disappointed. Its V6 engine delivers 320 horsepower, and although our model had an automatic transmission, it can come equipped with a six speed transmission.

For VIDEO, click here.

We also tried a Scion FR-S with a peppy little 4 cylinder engine that produced a loud, powerful engine sound. It looks nice, is very compact and would seem to be good for a small family.

We inspected a 2013 Ford Flex Limited Edition.

The Ford Flex had clean, simple driver's gauges (not "idiot" lights) alongside high tech amenities.

Electric and hybrid vehicles were popular.

Here's how this Ford "plugs in" for its recharge.

This Chevy Volt boasts 94 MPGe in its electrical operation.

Adults did the test driving, but it's a show for the whole family.

An attention-getting Jeep exhibit includes an obstacle course demonstrating stability, shock, traction, torque and braking.

A professional 4x4 driver takes visitors through the course, and we rode in an MW2 limited edition Wrangler. The pros put the Jeep through its paces, first over a pile of logs, then giving us a breathtaking tilt of 30į sideways. Riders then cross jagged, jolting rocks and a special ramp showing the vehicle's ability to stay level even with its axles tilted in different directions.

The high point (literally) comes when driver takes visitors on a slow-speed 17 ft. climb up a steep 35į angle ramp (pointing riders at the ceiling). After cresting the hill, the driver removes her foot from the brake pedal as the vehicle enters a similarly steep 35į downward drop...and the Jeep Wrangler automatically slows itself and makes a smooth descent to the ground.

For VIDEO, click here.

The vehicles we saw had price tags ranging from about $20,000 to $60,000. Some models we didnít see may have been higher or lower but all were free of salespeople. Instead, representatives of the car markers were present to answer questions.

The Test Drive Expo continues at the Long Beach Convention Center on Saturday June 15 (10 a.m. to 8 p.m.) and Sunday/Fatherís Day June 16 (10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) Admission is $10 per person.

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