New technology, new trucks top 2018 Philadelphia Auto Show sights

A demonstration of the JEEP Wrangler during the manufacturers' preview of the Philadelphia Auto Show.

Harnessing new technology in all its forms and improving creature comforts are two draws to the 2018 Philadelphia Auto Show when it opens to the public at 9 a.m. Saturday.

With smaller but more powerful engines, lighter materials, new safety features, and better infotainment systems, cars of the future will do more with less effort.

Make that: SUVs, crossovers, and trucks of the future will do more. In 2017, Americans bought twice as many light trucks as passenger cars, so automakers have their presentations packed with new trucks.

Amid the clatter of last-minute preparations and Camp Jeep vehicles climbing hills, Lisa Barrow, Fiat Chrysler’s east region communications manager, unveiled the latest from its new-truck lineup, and buyers need look no further than the new 2018 Jeep Wrangler to see how much technology is changing the marketplace.

Wrangler buyers for the first time will be able to order a rear camera, cross-path detection, and tilt and telescoping steering wheel, Barrow said — items available on almost every other vehicle. The Wrangler starts at $26,995.

Jeep is aiming to make the experience better for its owners, down to adding a power soft top and easier-to-remove, lighter doors.

“Have you ever tried to take a soft top off a Wrangler?” Barrow asked the crowd. “Not that easy.”

While power is a selling point, fuel efficiency is not forgotten. The 2019 Jeep Cherokee gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine (starting price, $23,995), while the redesigned Wrangler, 2019 Range Rover Velar, and the Ford F-150 are scheduled for diesel power-plant options.

Pickups, another big seller, are undergoing great changes. Ram and Chevrolet are bringing new full-size pickups to the show, while Ford is bringing the midsize Ranger, last seen in 2011.

The 2019 Ram 1500 (not yet priced) will feature a 12-inch touchscreen that takes a page from the Book of Volvo, while rear-seat passengers will enjoy ventilated seats. A center console offers a ruler and protractor for the hard-working, along with several different ways to be configured.

“This is like origami for center consoles,” Barrow said.

For people looking for something more upscale — to buy or even just to enjoy for the $14.95 entry fee — there’s plenty to choose from.

Camera icon Jessica Griffin
A Range Rover Velar.

The all-new Range Rover Velar is the fourth member of the Range Rover family, this time aimed at mid-size SUV segment buyers.

In addition to three engine choices — gasoline and diesel versions of the 2.0-liter V-4 and a 380-horsepower 3.0-liter six — Range Rover adds the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, with two touchscreens, one integrated into the console and one on top for infotainment and mapping, according to Christophe Parker, product specialist.

Camera icon Jessica Griffin
The touch screen of a Range Rover Velar.

The Velar — base price $49,900 — will feature Land Rover’s new Terrain Response 2. The “off-road cruise control” allows drivers to set a low speed from shifters, no longer just offering engine braking for the downhill parts.

“You set the speed from paddle shifters, and you just steer,” Parker said.

Sister brand Jaguar adds the E Pace small crossover, a pretty unit still featuring such available features as Windsor leather seats and heads-up display, starting around $38,000.

Over at Infiniti, visitors can see the QX50 crossover ($36,550), which features the ProPilot Assist system. This system takes over keeping the vehicle between the lines on a marked highway and running adaptive cruise control not just at highway speeds, but all the way to a complete stop.

The crossover comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine that Infiniti claims has the torque and efficiency of a diesel from gasoline power.

Lincoln brings the new 2019 Nautilus (no price available), a mid-size SUV replacing the MKX. It also features a tiny 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which uses turbocharging to boost the horsepower to 245. An upgrade to a 2.7-liter turbo six means 335 horsepower.

Plenty of other options are on display. More than 700 models are shown on the 700,000-plus square feet of space at the Convention Center. Visitors can drive models from BMW, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, and Toyota outside.

Opening Day Saturday will be the Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia’s nod to the Americans With Disabilities Act. Sign language interpreters will be stationed throughout the show for deaf consumers to learn about the vehicles. The program is sponsored by XFinity with interpreters provided by the Deaf Hearing Communication Centre in Swarthmore.