GRAND RAPIDS, MI – More than 300 new cars will be on the floor of the DeVos Place Convention Center by Wednesday Jan. 27, when the 18th Annual Michigan International Auto Show opens with the gala fundraiser for the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation.
But on Monday, Jan. 25, there were only the first of the most expensive cars that will be parked the Million Dollar Motorway, a special exhibit of today’s most exotic vehicles. Actually, the 19 super cars will have a combined sticker price of more than $4 million.
To make it fun (and generate publicity), the show’s sponsors invite members of the media to drive these cars into the convention center. I got a black BMW i8, a sleek black coupe that lists for just under $150,000.
This car, which features “scissor’ doors that go up rather than out when you enter, has a 131-horsepower electric engine under the hood in front and a 228-horsepower gasoline engine in the trunk behind the back seat.
With all that power plant, fore and aft, there’s no room for golf clubs, or even a picnic cooler. The back seat isn’t realistic for a full-sized adult, either.
With a curb weight of less than 3,500 pounds, the i8’s body and frame are made of lightweight carbon fiber and aluminum. Although it never went over 10 mph during my drive across the show floor, I’m told it will go up to 160 mph when both motors are at full song.
The i8 is crammed full of the latest sensors, cameras and warning systems to keep drivers from getting into tight situations. I know because they all went off when I folded back the side mirrors and drove through the narrow double doors leading into the Million Dollar Motorway.
George Sharpe, general manager of Sharpe BMW, said they sold two of these sleek i8s last year. They appeal to buyers who want to be ahead of the latest trends, he said.
Because the Grand Rapids show begins only four days after the North American International Auto Show ended in Detroit on Sunday, Show Manager Dawn Baker said some of the cars in the Million Dollar Motorway were arriving by truck on Tuesday instead of Monday.
Other cars that are due to arrive at the Million Dollar Motorway include a Aston Martin DB9 GT Bond Edition vehicle — one of only 150 manufactured — a couple of McLarens, a Ferrari F-488 GTB, a Bentley, and a Rolls Royce.
Other early arrivals on Monday included 10 1960s-era cars from the Gilmore Car Museum, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in nearby Hickory Corners.
The Gilmore stable included a yellow 1967 Ferrari that was once owned by Nicholas Cage and valued at $4 million, a set of land yacht convertibles, some muscle cars and a rare 1963 Studebaker Avanti.
The Auto Show kicks off with the Charity Spectacular on Wednesday, January 27 from 6 p.m. to 9:30p.m. The cocktail-attire evening will include a fashion show and a strolling dinner catered by the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
More than 1,500 guests are expected to attend the $150-a-person event, making it the largest annual charity event in Grand Rapids, according to the show’s sponsors.
During the four-day show, more than 35 car manufacturers will be on hand to display more than 300 new vehicles, including sedans, vans, SUVs, trucks, hybrids and sports cars. Dealer reps will be on hand to answer questions.
“The vehicles we see here today have everything a consumer could want,” said Grand Rapids New Car Dealers Association President Tom Makarewicz of K & M Northfield Dodge. They handle well, they’re beautiful, fuel efficient and comfortable.
“Consumers today also have many choices of power trains, and the technology is always improving. What makes it even more exciting is that an increasing amount of technology inside many of these vehicles comes right here from innovative West Michigan companies.”