‘Green’ autos among those on display at auto shows

Lisa Neff, Staff writer

I learned the fundamentals of driving at the 1973 Chicago Auto Show. I was 9 years old and seated behind the wheel of an American Motors Hornet. The two-door hatchback featured in the show was the Levi’s edition, with an interior nylon fabric that looked like blue jeans, gold stitching and copper rivets.

In the driver’s seat of that Super Seventies car, going “vroom, vroom, vroom” and turning the wheel like Richard Petty, I got hooked — on Hornets, blue jeans and auto shows.

Later this month, the automakers will buff up their latest models and cruise downtown for the Greater Milwaukee Auto Show. The event takes place Feb. 20–28 at the Wisconsin Center.

Show attendees won’t see a new AMC Hornet — the model ran its course at the end of the 1970s and the automaker went defunct in 1988.

But some lucky kids can climb behind the wheels of the current cool cars at the Kids Test Drive station and go “vroom, vroom.”

And some lucky adults can test the latest from Subaru, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, Fiat, Toyota, Mazda, Kia and Chevrolet and learn about the newest innovations, including smart cars and green autos.

The Milwaukee show follows major industry events in Chicago, Detroit and Washington, D.C., where capital car enthusiasts celebrated “public policy day” with the naming of the “green” autos of the year.

The eco-achievements, bestowed by Green Car Journal, went to:

• Volvo’s new XC90 T8 as the Luxury Green Car of the Year.

• Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid as the Green Connected Car of the Year.

• Honda HR-V as the Green SUV of the Year.

“These are standout vehicles in an increasingly sophisticated and appealing field of green cars,” said Green Car Journal publisher Ron Cogan. “To make the cut as a finalist is a real achievement in itself, considering the considerable competition in the market today.”

Volvo’s XC90 T8 is the industry’s first seven-passenger plug-in hybrid SUV. The vehicle uses a 2.0-liter, super-charged and turbo-charged Drive E engine with a rear-axle electric motor powered by lithium-ion batteries. Finalists in the luxury field include the BMW X5 xDrive40e, Lexus RX 450h, Mercedes-Benz C350e and Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid.

“Volvo is committed to a vehicle electrification strategy that will make powerful and efficient plug-in hybrid powertrains available in more models,” pledged Lex Kerssemakers, president and CEO of Volvo Car USA. 

The Honda HR-V compact crossover is a sporty vehicle that gets up to 35 mpg on the highway with a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine. Finalists in the SUV category include BMW X1 xDrive28i, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-3 and Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.

Chevrolet’s all-new Malibu Hybrid features an efficient hybrid powertrain — derived from the Chevy Volt — that delivers an estimated 47 combined mpg. The car is packed with technology — Apple CarPlay, Android Auto capabilities, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, forward collision alert and a safety-focused feature for young drivers.

Finalists in the connected category include the Audi A3 e-tron, BMW 330e, Volvo XC90 T8 and the Prius by Toyota, which made the first vehicle I ever drove on the road. It was a gold Corolla and I was 12, but that’s another story.

At a glance

WHAT: The Greater Milwaukee Auto Show, with more than 30 manufacturers.

WHERE: The Wisconsin Center, 400 W. Wisconsin Ave.

WHEN: Feb. 20–28

HOW MUCH: $12 for 13 and older, $9 for seniors, $6 for kids.

FOR MORE: autoshowmilwaukee.com.