vw beetle

Want to test drive a car? Just ask

People who go to the auto show in Orange County, Calif., through the end of this weekend will be able to test drive dozens of 2012 cars, trucks and vans -- everything from the new Volkswagen Beetle to the Fiat 500 and Chevrolet Sonic.

It's a relatively new marketing technique being used by American automakers at auto shows to expose product to potential buyers.

In this report, we break down the options you have if you go to the show, car company by car company.

Camp Jeep Anaheim

The Jeep Test Track is an interactive adventure zone in which professional 4x4 drivers allow riders to experience a Jeep's on- and off-road capabilities. The Jeep test track includes logs, stumps, an angled drive-over and other Jeep Trail Rated terrains. It also features a "can't miss" hill climb in which passengers experience the Jeep's traction capabilities while climbing the 18-foot high, 35 degree Jeep Mountain-the icon of the ride. Riders are more than 20 feet off the ground when they sit on top of Jeep Mountain. Similar to a roller coaster experience, many riders run back in line to take the Jeep through its paces, again, after experiencing the multiple capabilities of the Jeep lineup.

Available vehicles are the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The Chrysler Drive

Test drive the hottest sellers from Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram and Fiat at The Chrysler Drive to discover the fine qualities of the Chrysler 200, Jeep Compass, Dodge Charger, Ram 1500 and FIAT 500. Chrysler promises there will be no hassle, no pressure and no additional charge. Here is what's available:

Chrysler: 200, 300 and Town & Country.
Jeep: Compass, Grand Cherokee and Wrangler.
Dodge: Challenger, Charger, Durango and Journey.
Ram: 1500.
Fiat: 500.

Chevrolet, Buick, GMC — Experience the Drive

Auto show attendees will have a chance to sit behind the wheel and get a real feel for the performance and handling of several vehicles from Chevrolet, Buick and GMC. Drivers must be at least 21 and show a valid driver's license and passengers must be at least 8 years old. Registration closes 30 to 60 minutes before the end of the event to ensure all who register can drive. Here's what's available:

Chevrolet: Camaro, Cruze, Equinox, Malibu, Silverado, Traverse, Volt and Sonic.
Buick: Regal, LaCrosse and Enclave.
GMC: Terrain, Acadia, Yukon Denali Hybrid and Sierra.

Ford Drive One Experience

Auto show attendees will have a chance to drive these vehicles: 2012 Ford Focus, Fiesta, Explorer, F-150, Fusion Hybrid, Edge, Flex and Mustang.

The Toyota Drive Center

Vehicles available are the Toyota Camry, Prius, Prius v, RAV4, Corolla and Tundra.

Hyundai Drive Experience

Get behind the wheel of several new Hyundai vehicles, ncluding the Sonata, Elantra and Veloster. Also available for test drives are the Equus, Genesis and Tucson.

Volkswagen 2012 Beetle & Passat Test Drive Experience

You can be one of the first to drive the all-new 2012 Volkswagen Beetle (pictured). Also available for a road test is the new 2012 Volkswagen Passat.

Hawke Fracassa covers the auto beat for TN. Reach him at [email protected] Or follow him on Twitter @HawkeFracassa.

Image source: Volkswagen

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That sounds like a lot of fun. I never knew that auto shows are so interactive these days; letting consumers drive and test out cars and such. Back in the days it was people just walking and admiring cars. I think this new hands on approach is very cool and probably has something to do with the prevalence of social media sites; consumers want to "interact".