Mountain Wheels: Denver Auto Show returns to Colorado Convention Center |

Mountain Wheels: Denver Auto Show returns to Colorado Convention Center

The 2023 Dodge Demon revives an old name for a sporty crossover utility which will feature a higher-performance hybrid system on its R/T model – just one of the displays at the Denver Auto Show.
Courtesy photo

For the first time this decade — try to think what you’ve been doing during that weird pause — the Denver Auto Show has at last returned to its indoor splendor at the Colorado Convention Center, running through Sunday, April 16.

That means a great opportunity to see many of the cars you may have missed in recent years, tried to buy, or just simply aspire to, all in one 70,000-square-foot show floor. There’s more than 20 exhibits and, understandably, a much bigger emphasis on electric vehicles, plus the regular smattering of exotics and show cars. There are also indoor and public test drives and, in keeping with the times, info from law enforcement on how to prevent car theft.

The Rocky Mountain Automotive Press group also used this week’s preview days to get a look at a few of the exhibits, in addition to announcing our own Cars of the Year — most of which have been featured in Mountain Wheels in recent columns.

Our organization dubbed the Nissan Z the Car of the Year, with hopes that Nissan will be able to fast-track production and actually get the exciting and considerably upgraded, now-turbocharged two-seater out to customers. It’s fun and fast, but so far has been a little hard to find in real life. It beat out the new Acura Integra, the Toyota GR86, the Mini Cooper and the Dodge Challenger, with mountain-friendly summertime handling that I absolutely loved.

I also happen to be driving the high-performance variant of our EV of the Year, the new Kia EV6, and will profile it in coming weeks. The GT edition, by the way, makes just south of 600 electronic horsepower. It beat out contenders including the Ford F-150 Lightning, the Genesis GV60, the Mercedes Benz EQS, the Volvo C40 Recharge, the Chevy Bolt EUV, BMW’s iX and the GMC Hummer EV pickup.

Our SUV of the year is the Mazda CX-50, also profiled this year, a slightly toughened-up and pleasant variation of the ever-popular CX-5 crossover. It edged out competitors including the Hyundai Palisade, the Cadillac Escalade, Jeep’s new Grand Cherokee, the Land Rover Defender and the Lexus LX 600.

Finally, our Truck of the Year is the equally elusive Ford Maverick, which I also finally get to drive in two weeks, and will profile here in the near future. Maverick beat out the Ram 1500 and GMC Sierra I wrote about last week, as well the Toyota Tundra and the Chevy Silverado.

In terms of exhibits you can check out this week, new vehicles included the brand-new Dodge Hornet, an old Mopar name that’s now attached to a performance-oriented compact utility vehicle. Dodge is — maybe — in the last throes of its SRT gasoline Hellcat horsepower era, and the new vehicle represents the first attempts to use hybrid tech to replicate that Hemi-powered madness. Hood scoops, a full tail light bar and sport seats, plus optional Brembo brakes help make it a more attitude-laden machine.

The 2023 Hornet GT, available now, starts at just under $30,000, and comes with 268 horsepower. The 2024 R/T model will be a plug-in hybrid with 288 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, the second number pretty close to what the big-engined Durango Hemi puts out. You’ll be able to get about 30 miles of all-electric range. It’ll be priced between $40,000 and $45,000, though Dodge leaseholders can get it for almost $5,000 less, thanks to EV credits.

We also learned more about the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander, Toyota’s all-new, family-oriented SUV that promises actual adult-sized third-row space, plus 21 cubic feet of storage with those seats occupied.

The Grand Highlander will come in three powertrains, including a top-of-the-line Hybrid Max that adapts the hybrid tech found in both Tundra and Sequoia, meaning 362 horsepower and a 5,000-pound towing capacity.

A more generous layout than existing Highlanders produces six extra inches of third-row legroom and infinitely easier access; alternately, it’s big enough to offer almost 98 cubic feet of cargo storage. For more information about the event, visit

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