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Auto Show : 2012 Chicago Auto Show

Drive Simulators: Chicago Auto Show

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author photo by Tom Cassady
  • Simulators focus on high-performance driving
  • Hydraulic lifts add third dimension to most simulation experiences

Manufacturers know that providing seat time in cars shows consumers what those cars can do, but that can get expensive quickly. This year at the Chicago Auto Show, manufacturers are providing a very similar experience at a fraction of the cost through driving simulators built with a computer and some racing seats.

Most of these simulators are focused on high-performance driving. Mazda got some mileage out of its sponsorship of Laguna Seca Raceway by replicating a hot lap around the track in a Mazdaspeed 6. The simulator even features hydraulic lifts under the seats, which pitch the riders around the corners and match the car's acceleration and braking. The effect truly comes to life during Laguna Seca's famous Corkscrew corner, which has a 40-foot drop mid-corner.

Ford has an even more engaging simulator, which gives you control of the car through a wheel that gives tactile feedback on the car's virtual front wheels. Additionally, the whole rig is mounted on a rotating platform, which turns with the virtual car and adds to the effect. The experience is further amplified with three surround screens.

If driving fast isn't your thing, there are tamer options as well. Toyota has a simulator that focuses on assisted driving rather than the actual act of driving a d offers a great look into the future of what is possible while driving.

What it means to you: Car manufacturers have found a way to give you the experience of track driving while sitting safely at an auto show through driving simulators.

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Drive Simulators: Chicago Auto Show